3 Simple Steps to Find Programmers for Your Startup

by / ⠀Startup Advice / December 6, 2012

Even just a quick cruise of top startup blogs makes one thing pretty clear; if you’re a non-programmer, a “non-technical co-founder”  if you will, then you are gonna have to move mountains to convince some programmer that your paltry, embryonic-stage startup is worthy of any more than 2 seconds of their time.

In other words, they doubt you and probably don’t like you.  If you’re not a fellow coder, you’re sure as hell not going to get them on board your startup.

So, I’m going to help you out.

Odds are your current method of finding a programmer is just to beg a bunch of random people—via cold e-mail or otherwise—to be your cofounder.

I was able to find a team of 5 programmers to work with my startup because I played the game smarter.  I’ve met tons of other willing coders doing the techniques I’ve mentioned here.  Try these recommendations for a change, and watch your results turn for the better:

#1. It’s all relationship-based, you dolt.

Would you trust someone who randomly e-mailed you out of the blue and asked you to devote a large amount of your time to helping them? Of course not.

So why do you think a programmer would?

Why not go build relationships with programmers instead?

It’s just as easy as going to places that programmers hang out.  Go to Meetup.com and look for programming groups and other startup groups in your area.  Go introduce yourself, learn a little about programming, don’t try to pressure sale that you’re looking for a co-founder!, and, *gasp*, go more than once!

Give it a few months, and you’ll have friends that you can ask to be co-founders.

This sounds pathetically obvious I know, but of all the people looking for programming co-founders, I guarantee you only 10% of people are doing what I just said.

And it’s that 10% who brings home the big prize at the end of the day.

#2. Find ways to display your value to programmers.

They know they can code, but they have no idea what the hell you’re good at.

If there’s one thing that authoritative start-up literature (like The Lean Startup by Eric Reis) has made clear, it’s that just being able to code something is practically worthless.  Rather, what’s important is figuring out 1.) what people want to buy, and 2.) figuring out how to sell it to them.  These 2 tasks much easier said that done.

So find a way to prove to a programmer that you can do these things.

For example, validate your concept beforehand (see #3 below).  Attend a StartupWeekend and work 1 on 1 with programmers for a weekend.  Show proof of successful ventures you’ve had in the past, or try to start a non-programming venture first.

Don’t let programmers assume you’re another guy with a random idea and no skills to back it up.  Show them that you can actually be a worthy partner, and people will look at you in a positive light.

See my Non-Tech Toolkit for some thoughts on working out those lean, bulging persuasion muscles.

#3. Validate your startup concept beforehand.

Would you rather be a part of a startup that “seemed like a cool idea,” or part of one that already had 3 customers, 5 potential customers, and a slew of experts who signed off on the idea?

A programmer will react the exact same way.

If you’re smart, you’re already realized that you gain the most insight by talking to customers first, and let their feedback direct your development.  As you do that, you gain a slew of people who are interested in what you’re doing.

The great thing is this can all be done without any coding.

Action is the ultimate influence.  What got done speaks louder than what you say you’ll do.  Don’t use not having a programmer as a crutch.  Go out there and validate your concept (and pivot as necessary) before finding a programmer.


There’s no one way to get ninja programmers and everyone who is successful is successful because of their individual circumstances.

However, there is a best practice for finding programmers and following the steps here will help make your search a helluvalot easier.

PS- Want to start a company but think you can’t do it?  Crush your excuses here, and start starting today!

R.C. Thornton teaches would-be entrepreneurs how to go from excuses to launch at his blog, Decoding Startups.  He is currently working on 2 startups; one for academic research, and the other developing a smart phone accessory.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.