Based on the number of posts and Quora threads on the subject, it’s no secret that elusive technical co-founder is hard to find. As with every business guy working on building a new startup, there’s nothing I’d love more than to have a developer with 10+ years experience spearheading the entire technology, without compensation for at least 6-9 months and throwing his own money into the project. But I’m not willing to sacrifice on quality to bring that person onboard sooner rather than later — as I know for a fact building the right team is how you succeed in business. And that starts at the top.

What qualities does the perfect technical co-founder have?

  • 5-10 years experience building extremely scaleable web applications (for millions of users, not thousands)
  • Enough of his/her own money to survive for 6-12 months without getting paid
  • Drive and ambition to build an amazing product/company
  • A network of other developers from which they can recruit team members from
  • Motivated by something more than money
  • Passionate about the particular vertical you’re targeting
  • Trustful
  • Excellent communication skills

Here are some learnings from my own co-founder recruitment process over the past few months:

  • It’s damn hard. Anyone that’s gone through the technical co-founder recruitment process knows finding the right technical co-founder is really freaking hard. I recently talked to an entrepreneur who has been looking for over a year — and still hasn’t found the right partner. It’s not impossible. But really damn hard.
  • Time consuming – don’t underestimate the time it’s going to take to talk to all the right people, and follow the trail many layers beyond your own network. One phone call leads to another phone call leads to another phone call.
  • Share your full vision. You will never recruit a good co-founder without them totally bought into the 5-10 year plan.
  • Timing has to be right. Even among the great developers who would make great co-founders, not every one is in the market to be a co-founder of a company right this second. Accept that, and move on.
  • Not every great developer has both the desire and people skills necessary to build a technology team. Some are just great developers. Don’t force them into something they’re not.
  • The working dynamic has to be good. And that does’t just happen. It takes a considerable amount of time. You’d never marry someone without spending a considerable amount of time around them. Don’t do that with a business partner either.
  • There is no perfect developer. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Find a great developer with as many of the traits as possible — communication and passion being the most important from my perspective.

Part of my challenge (I still haven’t found the right person for Oh Hey World) is likely the fact that I’m really freaking picky when it comes to business partners. Sure, it’s frustrating in the short term. Long term, it’s absolutely not worth bringing on the wrong partner to lead the tech side of the equation. At the end of the day, there is no benefit to “settling” for someone less than great when choosing your most important team member.

Good luck on your search.