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How do I find the Woz to my (ahem) Jobs?
May 31, 2011 9:07 AM   Subscribe

I would like to find a developer with whom to build simple, fun web apps. The catch is that while I am prepared to invest some cash, I would prefer to find someone who will work in an entrepreneurial way and end up with some ownership of what is created. Where do I find a potential collaborator?

My first idea is for an app that sits on top of Twitter. My research suggests that there are no similar apps of their type. It's a really simple concept and doesn't need to be implemented in a particularly baroque or detailed fashion.

I am based in the UK, though I am happy to work with people anywhere in the world as long as their skills are appropriate. I have employed developers offshore before, usually through eLance. I don't mind putting money into it but I would prefer for both parties to be working towards creating something worthwhile (for fun or profit) rather than just seeing it as a one-off job that gets finished and forgotten.

This is why I'm not sure whether StackOverflow (mentioned in another Metafilter thread I found when searching) would be the appropriate place. If anyone can advise on whether that's a good place to look I'd be grateful.

Of course I'm prepared to put in my share of the non-coding labour, plus I have a massive online network/opt-in mailing list and access to media/press that could be a useful starting point for spreading the word about any finished product. But where to find a collaborator?
posted by skylar to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you'll want to look at Hacker News, where lots of VCs and startup-minded developers lurk.
posted by schmod at 9:09 AM on May 31, 2011


OnStartups is a good place to start. It's run by StackExchange, so it's got more geek cred than most places.

Obligatory cautions:

skylar: "while I am prepared to invest some cash, I would prefer to find someone who will work in an entrepreneurial way and end up with some ownership of what is created"

Any developers worth their salt will see their relationship the other way around, where you end up with "some" ownership of what they create. The "idea" of a startup is typically the least valuable part of it.

skylar: "My first idea is for an app that sits on top of Twitter. My research suggests that there are no similar apps of their type. It's a really simple concept and doesn't need to be implemented in a particularly baroque or detailed fashion."

I guarantee you, someone has thought of this app. Probably several people, independently. It's probably either (a) much harder than you think to implement, (b) not possible due to some Twitter data usage policy, or (c) not monetizable.

"How do I set up equity distribution?" and "How do I get my great idea built?" are two questions that have been asked often here. Take a look through the archives, though be warned that the answers you find may not be the ones you're hoping for.
posted by mkultra at 9:20 AM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would read this thread and similar ones on Hacker News: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=941610

Ideas are easy, development is the hard part. You have to have a pretty convincing plan for a developer to do without cash payment. They also have ideas and usually would rather work on those.

If you can create a basic, working version yourself, you'll have an easier time finding someone to make it ready for the real world.
posted by dripdripdrop at 10:32 AM on May 31, 2011


Developers who will work purely for equity in an unmonetized startup can be roughly broken down into one of three types, in what I hereby dub 'The NIT Principle.'
  1. Naive - Haven't been in industry long enough to realize that it's a horribly risky proposition to work solely for equity, and/or haven't been around long enough to have been burned by one of the vast majority of startup endeavors that fail
  2. Idealistic - Mostly young guys (or the occasional older developer without a family), who are fiercely motivated and will either work on side projects outside of a 9-5, or will dive headfirst into your startup for 100 hours a week. Strongly correlated with (1). These are the types who burn with the fire of a thousand suns—for exactly as long as they maintain their passion for what they're doing, or until their attention is grabbed by something shinier.
  3. Terrible - Are so bad at what they do that they can't hold down 9-5 employment with anyone who will pay them a salary, and are getting desperate enough to work for equity
Which of these three sound like they would make a good business partner? Did you answer (2)? Because that's the only one I would even consider working with. Do you think you can keep his attention when it comes time to perform maintenance on an app that you yourself have described as simple?
posted by Mayor West at 10:43 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not really involved with the start-up scene, but the local business school runs some kind of start-up panel discussion every year (this year's was focused on mobile apps) and your question is asked every year I've attended. The answer is always that you don't need a developer, you need a "technical co-founder," and I quote the exact phrasing because it's important to emphasize that this person must be your equal.

By the way, I wouldn't mention that you're used to hiring people off eLance, because co-founding a start-up is a very different proposition and frankly every developer I know, in the scene or not, is very wary of doing business with people who are going to treat him like an interchangeable FTE.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:45 AM on May 31, 2011


You might try a posting at technicalcofounder.com, which is targeted towards what you're looking for.

I definitely concur with the rest of the thread in being wary of anyone willing to work for pure equity. Also, beware of describing your idea as "simple" because that's generally code for one of two things:

1) The idea doesn't have much potential for success
2) You don't really understand how complex it really will be to implement.
posted by ndfine at 11:07 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


ndfine probably means techcofounder.com.
posted by nicwolff at 11:21 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a really simple concept and doesn't need to be implemented in a particularly baroque or detailed fashion.

So it doesn't need to scale? ツ
posted by nicwolff at 11:22 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see ads looking for an equity developer for a GREAT IDEA every single day. I've also gotten a few personal requests through friends of friends.

First, 99% of these ideas suck. Not saying your idea sucks, but you've got to convince people that yours isn't in the 99%.

Second, there's a lot more to success than just having an good idea. I take it you're a nontechnical person (which is fine), but do you have a marketing plan, a user study, a financial analysis showing that you can make your money back at least, etc.? Because if all you're bringing to the table is an idea, your developer will rightly wonder why they're putting in hundreds of hours of sweat equity while you're sitting around doing nothing.

Remember that a halfway decent web developer is making significant money working for other people. If a developer is putting in 200 hours and normally earns 50 an hour, they'll want at least 10000 in equity and some sort of business plan that will make that possible. Most of the equity offers I've seen are way, way too small (here, take 15% for developing my entire product for me).

Ideas are easy. Everyone, including us developers, has tons of ideas.
posted by miyabo at 10:17 AM on June 1, 2011


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