Finding a Technical Co-Founder: Talk About Your Idea

In our last post on finding a technical co-founder we talked about joining your local startup community. It’s a process and it takes some work. It’s going to take time to build those relationships.

To review, here are some ideas:

  • Join the startup community

  • Talk about your idea (this post!)

  • Show your idea has legs

  • Talk to people

  • Try before you buy

  • Be respectful of people’s time

  • Learn a technical thing

So let’s talk about talking about your idea!

Talk About Your Idea

While what you’re working on may be super secret, if you can’t talk about it at some level, it will be hard to generate any interest in what you’re building — from customers (hello, those people who give you money), potential co-founders, employees, partners, and investors.

We see two main reasons why people don’t talk about their idea with others:

  1. They’re afraid people won’t like the idea, or

  2. They’re afraid people will steal the idea.

If you’re afraid people won’t like your idea, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening when it happens. It is inevitable. It will happen. Get used to it. There will always be that one person (or many if you get really good at this) that doesn’t like what you’re doing. And if you can’t concisely articulate what your customers need and the value you offer, how will you know if it’s an idea worth pursuing? How will you know you’re building the right thing?

How will you know if it’s an idea worth pursuing?

Let’s face it. Your idea being “stolen” and replicated exactly as it sits in your brain AND being successful is extremely rare. "Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.” You shouldn’t feel the need to have people sign an NDA the first time you talk with them. You should be well into the relationship building process, having built up your trust with them (and them with you) before this step. Figure out how to talk about the problem space and your ideas for addressing it.

How and Where to Talk About Your Idea

Find ways to get exposure by attending networking events, demoing at Minnedemo, pitching at 1 Million Cups, attend a Hackers and Founders meetup. Sift through your LinkedIn connections, your alumni databases, your contacts list and then pitch or ask for introductions. Remember that one person you worked with five years ago? Their kid’s best friend would be interested in what you’re building. They’d even like to join your team!

Consider entering a business plan competition like the Minnesota Cup where you’ll not only get tons of practice talking about it, but you’ll get mentorship, access to media, tools and resources, and access to seed money.

By doing all this, you’re building trust with people. You’re building your reputation (especially if you can deliver more than just talk, like a prototype or an MVP). You’re getting them on-board with the problem space you’re trying to address and the idea you have so that when you ask for an introduction to their kid’s best friend, they’ll be more likely to make the connection.

Keep in mind that the co-founder, the employee, or the employer you’re looking for might be a few layers away from you. Likely they are! Meet with people who might know the people you want to meet or work with. If you haven’t been able to build that trust and your reputation with that first layer, it’s going to be difficult to get past that and even harder if no one knows what you’re pitching.

In the next post, we’ll learn ways to show your idea has legs.