Need a technical co-founder? Start by creating a prototype.

A business-oriented founder has an idea and realizes that in order to attract a team and capital he needs at least a prototype built. He tries to find a cofounder and is discouraged when he can't find a competent technologist who's willing to pour his time into building someone else's idea.

Now what?

One way to attract a technical team and as a bonus, start getting feedback on your idea, is to create a prototype. Build something that people can use. It helps put something tangible in the hands of people, giving them a better understanding of what you're trying to create. And perhaps more importantly, it can help a technologist become more interested in working with you.

Just as having a working product with real customers makes you more attractive to investors by reducing risk, having a working prototype makes you more attractive to a developer. Suddenly you're not just a guy with an idea who wants her to build it for you for free. You're a guy who has an idea and the drive to make it happen. She can see that you're not likely to sit back and wait for her to do all the work; you were willing and able to get a start without her.

Creating a prototype if you have no technical skills comes down to either outsourcing the development or learning enough about coding to create it yourself.

Creating prototype-quality code yourself is probably easier than you think. You don't need robust error handling, great security, or the ability to scale to a million (or even a dozen) users. You just need to be able to click on the button and have your magic happen. Most web technology businesses don't require very specific deep technical knowledge, and you can probably get something together with some books, web sites, and open source tools. Web sites like Code School and Codecademy provide online, self-paced classrooms for learning to code. Books like Learn to Program or Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners can help you understand programming concepts and help you write working code. And tools like Ruby on Rails and Drupal provide powerful platforms that can reduce the amount of code you need to write and have great local communities to help answer questions. Visiting either the Sacramento Ruby Meetup or the Sac Drupal User Group can connect you with technologists that can help and might even be interested in joining your team.

If you're unable to learn, or don't have the time, it might be time to try outsourcing. I'm not a fan of hiring a contractor or a development firm to create your product for you. I've never met a successful technology startup that had someone else build their technology. To create a successful technology product, you need to build it yourself. But for getting a prototype together that you can shop to investors and inspire people to join your team, or just validating your idea with early customers, hiring an outside developer might be the way to go. The key to hiring a developer is to have a concrete idea of what they should build. The more detailed you get, the happier you will be with the finished result and the impact on your wallet. It's not a bad idea to try sketching every single page on the site, complete with notes about what form fields exist, what happens after you click on every button or link, and how the data gets used elsewhere on the site.

Being a non-technical founder of a technology startup is a little like trying to open a restaurant when you don't know how to cook. A top chef isn't going to jump at the chance to join your restaurant. If you want to attract them to your idea instead of starting their own, you're going to have to give them some great reasons to trust you. You're going to have to learn, hire, and you'll probably struggle a fair amount along the way. Prepare to throw a lot away before you get to the finished product.

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