For the past 6 years, I have been successful running tech companies not knowing a single-line of code. I built my previous venture to a respectable valuation and recently have been successful in my role as the CSO for Cinema Intelligence, a subsidiary of the Vista Group (NZE:VGL) despite my lack of technical expertise.
While recruiting, managing, and leading technical talent has become easier over the years thanks to my experience and the resources that have come with the progress of my career, there was a time when I had to recruit technical co-founders with no funding, branding, MVP (Minimum Viable Product), cash compensation, or any knowledge about programming.
If you have all of the above, or at least some, life is a lot easier. Anybody can recruit, if given the right resources. But if you have nothing to offer but vision, this is where to start to recruit top-notch programming talent:
Look for underserved markets.
In 2014, in hopes of enjoying soccer in the world's most soccer fanatic country and meeting beautiful Latin women, my friends and I travelled to Brazil for the World Cup. Little did we know we were not the only ones who had the same objective.
On the first night, when my friends and I went to a local Brazilian bar after a soccer match, we were overwhelmed with a sea of testosterone jam packed wall to wall from every country imaginable.
By the time I counted 200 men, I only counted three women. I thought in my head, if my sole objective were to meet Latin women, I should have gone to Argentina since most of the Argentinian men were now in Brazil.
Similarly, too often we follow the herd and look for talent in places where everyone else does. Silicon Valley is littered with entrepreneurs attempting to snatch programmers from companies such as Facebook and Google.
The same coders are pitched over and over again on the latest tech idea. When you finally get a chance to pitch, they will tune you out, and rightfully so because your offer might be a joke given how competitive the market is.
In 2011 when launching my startup, understanding this dilemma, I walked around campuses such as USC and Caltech, which were schools known for their highly regarded computer programming degrees but were situated in a tech market that lacked the same firepower Silicon Valley had to offer.
A big backpack and big glasses were sometimes the dead giveaways of a coder. I talked to everyone who looked the part. Within two weeks I recruited my first technical co-founder. In my book, l provide further details on this approach in which I was able to use multiple times to recruit a technical founder in merely a few weeks.
Think like a coder.
Take a step back and imagine for a moment that you are a rock star programmer and are extremely passionate about what you do. What would you like to do during your free time? You got it - build more code. Nothing is more of a telltale sign than someone who loves to attend Hackathon events.
In any major city, there are always a few Hackathons a month. You do not have to attend the entire event since most Hackathons last multiple days. Not only attending one will give you a sense of how well someone codes but from what I've seen, there are only a handful of potential entrepreneurs that attend these events looking for programmers.
Those types are too busy going to the next cliche networking event which are overcrowded with other entrepreneurs who are looking for the same talent. Don't waste too much time pitching to the ones who won the Hackathon. Let them bask in glory. Swoop in as the knight in shining armor and pitch to the teams that just missed winning a grand prize. You will have their full attention and often times there is very little difference in talent between winners and losers.
Honesty is the best policy.
Superstar coders are always looking for superstar businessmen. It makes sense. What good is a product if no one knows about it. Therefore, distinguish yourself as a 'Ceaser' opposed to the swarm of 'Ciceros' luring coders with quick verbal tap dances and overpromises. In my book I had a chance to discuss the importance
It is tempting to exaggerate your level of funding, technical talent, or the amount of traction your business gaining, however, do not fall for this trap. Sooner or later, he will think you're just another wantrepreneur. Bringing in a cofounder is like a marriage. It takes time and trust. The best talent takes a long time to win over. They have many different options and you are not the only play in town.