Hunting for Developers: For Startups and Other Purposes
Everybody wants to find developers to work on their latest startup idea/project, but they don't know where to start. Here's how to find them and how to convince them to work with you
Humans have a grand history of hunting. We have hunted great beasts, small creatures for their furs, and sometimes we’ve even just sought out to capture species purely for natural scientific discovery. In the modern age however, there is a grand new hunt for the most valuable species of our time: the software developer.
The software developer is a rather elusive creature. While the species varies in behaviour, they tend to find immense satisfaction in their homes; having all of their needs provided by delivery services and work from home office jobs. You can find them predominately online, frequenting sites such as Hacker News, Twitter, and YouTube learning about the latest tech stack, new programming language, or simply chastising the technical decisions of other developers. Right now, at least one of them is tinkering with the idea of starting a blog as a thinly veiled excuse to radically over-engineer a website.
Hunting for developers is tough game. Despite boasting a population of 28.6 million, they are sought after with greater verve than ever before.
They are constantly getting bagged by the biggest companies of our time. These companies are willing to spend tremendous resources to attract them, capture, then render them into a servile state so they can milk them for all of their technical abilities.
Having said that, there are some developers that wish for more; they’re not content to just be docile herbivores taking tickets mindlessly from the job queues of product managers. Some wish for glory! They wish to transform the world and build something that is a testament to their superior knowledge and abilities.
These developers with souls of conquerors are out there, but they’re not simple to find. One of the most frequent questions asked among first-time founders is “where can I found a technical cofounder?” (a.k.a software developer). I will provide my playbook on how to get these magnificent people to join forces with you.
When at all possible, you should be continuously building a network of technical ambitious people. I understand this isn’t very helpful if you’re starting from square one and want to find a dev right this second, but you know what they say: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
If you work at a company or attend university, you’re in luck. There’s plenty of ambitious developers that are waiting to partner with people on their next great project. Attending hackathons is a great way to find devs who are interested in going above and beyond. If you’re working in a company, get to know the developers. Find the high performers and build relationships with them. Learn about their dreams and aspirations, see if they’re building anything themselves in their own time, and learn about what problems they’re interested in solving.
If you are not in a company with devs or in university, don’t fear. There are ways to find developers online. You can go to site like Indiehackers that have plenty of solo devs that are interested or already working on projects. You can embed yourself in tech/builder communities on Twitter. You can also find prominent tech YouTubers that encourage entrepreneurship (think channels like Ben Awad). They will often have Discord servers filled with a community of people centred around learning more about software development. Join their Discords and become active members in their communities. Find people who impress you, check out their GitHubs to see what they’re building, then initiate conversations with them to see if they might be interested in partnering.
Once you found the right devs, then comes the hard part: getting them to work with you. Demand for tech talent is through the roof. Developers have their pick of the litter. If they’re good at what they do, they have the ability to only work on anything that they want to. So, naturally, the project or idea that you have should be pretty good or at least pretty interesting. If it’s not, it won’t attract the right talent to get it off the ground.
Having a good idea is not the only prerequisite. Devs also need to be able to trust you (it’s probably a good idea you trust them too) and see value in you. Say you have a call with them and you present your great idea: what’s stopping them from Zuckerberging you and leaving you in the dust? What do they need you for once they have the idea?
You need to prove that you’re capable of doing the work that developers don’t want to do. This set of work is abundant and important. An example: developers notoriously hate anything to do with sales or marketing, which both are crucial skills for getting any project traction and into the hands of users. Demonstrate that you are capable of doing this work and doing it successfully, and the devs will want to work with you.
If you’re able to follow these tips and find yourself a developer: congratulations! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the really hard part is still in front of you. Now you get to go out and build that damn thing in your head and try to make it live in the real world. I wish you nothing but success in your endeavours, but until then: happy hunting!