Ideas Are Cheap

wealthymattersFollowing is an excellent answer from Quora, to a person’s question of how he can get on board developers cheap for his start up. In a sense this answer applies to all workers you want to join your start-up. The following logic is something I find many inexperienced, would-be entrepreneurs refuse to see.

“I am sure that you are sincere, well-meaning, and smart. But this is about the eight-millionth time I’ve heard from somebody who thinks that having an idea makes you somehow so interesting to professional developers that they will swoon for you. The first million times that was perfectly fine, but at this point the question just makes me stabby.

A good software developer is one of the most in-demand skill sets on the planet right now. And note that what you need isn’t talent, which any 12-year-old can have. What you need is skill, which is what you get when you start with talent and add years of hard work.

Anybody who has put in those years of work can do basically what they want. They could:

  • Take an interesting, pleasant, high-paying job at a place like Google with great toys, great chefs, and great job security;
  • Find a cushy telecommuting gig, where they do something undemanding from the comfort of their home office;
  • Find some interesting job that takes them to any country they want to visit;
  • Take a high-pressure job in finance to make stupid sums of money;
  • Join an existing startup that has funding and a nice office and a foosball table; or
  • Found their own start-up.

So ask yourself: Why would a developer who can do anything choose to work with you? I don’t mean that snottily, by the way. Just consider it calmly and sincerely. What can you offer that’s better than one of those things?

Offering them 30% of nothing is, frankly, not so appealing. Anybody good who wants to work for free probably has ideas of their own they’d like to work on, for which they get 100%.

Do you have $5m in investor money? Do you have a proven track record as a designer and startup CEO? Do you have deep domain knowledge in an exciting field (e.g., computational biology, big data, hardware engineering)? Do you have a prototype of a product that is so obviously awesome that they will sign up on the spot? Did you play a key role at a now-famous startup? Do you have a incredible rolodex of partners or client lined up to buy the product? Are you worshiped in your field as a god?

I can name startups for every one of those, and the ones I have insight into are still having trouble recruiting.

If your honest answer to the question is “nothing”, then change it to “nothing yet”. Go join an existing startup so you can build experience, a track record, and connections. Go talk the 3 Fs into giving you enough money that you can hire some contractors to build a prototype that you can put into the field. Or buckle down and spend 2000-5000 hours learning to code well.

Given the startup bubble, I’m sure it feels like you have to start achieving right now, but I promise that there will still be awesome businesses to found in 5 years.”


About Keerthika Singaravel

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