Cofounder wanted!

Some tips of Massimo Chieruzzi, CEO of AdEspresso, to survive without a technical co-founder


What if you have a brilliant business idea but don’t know a developer who wants to become a part of the project in the capacity of co-founder?

Understand the value behind your idea

The first thing to do in order to determine the correct line of action is to understand the true value behind your future startup.

Does your value lie in marketing, market strategy or product design? In this case the website, no matter how important, is merely a tool not the true value behind your business. If this is the case you may proceed without a technical co-founder.

If, however, the value lies in the technology: user experience. platform scalability, collar hardware planning and so on; although it is not impossible to proceed, it is strongly advisable to have the necessary technical competences within the business.

How to develop a product without an internal team

If you have decided that it is not fundamental to have the know-how for the business’ technical part, two solutions are possible: use an agency or create an outsourced team.

The Agency

This is probably the easiest and safest solution but it is also the most expensive one.

You will incur in high initial costs during the initial stages of project development and then for the relevant updates

Choose the suitable Web Agency by following this advice:

  • Check the agency’s references and past work experience;
  • Avoid agencies that are either too big or too small;
  • Make sure that they will carry out the work using a standard platform. This will allow you to change your supplier with ease;
  • Make sure that the Graphic and Project Code Ownership are transferred to your business;
  • Set the deadline, changes that can be made during the development stage and relevant costs for their implementation at the beginning;
  • The human factor is important: search for an agency you feel good with and whose staff you enjoy working with.


Outsourcing in India or in Eastern European countries is another option. It is riskier but definitely less expensive. I have to say that based on my experience there are far fewer success stories than tales of horror. This need not always be the case, as this could be a good option when considering an initial MVP.

As far as the design and html are concerned you are on the safe side. 99Design is a great platform to design the logo and the website, while psd2html can convert your designs in html that can be used on pc and mobile browsers for a relatively small cost. The main concern is the development of the code that enables the correct operation of your website/application. In this regard you can use websites such as Elance or Odesk where you will be able to find freelancers from all over the world. Sadly assessing their effective skills and reliability is extremely difficult.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Select freelancers that have significant work experience accompanied with high ratings;
  • Describe the project’s specifications in as much detail as possible;
  • Before choosing someone make sure he has fully read and understood the specifications, quite often they fail to do so!
  • Keep time zones in mind. Eastern Europe is more expensive but preferable to India or the U.S. as they have an 8-hour time difference;
  • If, and this is often the case, your freelancer should ask for more money to increase his motivation let him go immediately and find someone else;
  • Don’t pay upfront. Before paying ask to see the code that has been developed, even if it is incomplete;
  • Be prepared to change your freelancer at least a couple of times;
  • Find a friend technician who can occasionally help you to assess the freelancer’s work.

If you are not in the position to give up a technical co-founder

If technology is the value behind your project, as it is for us at AdEspresso, your only option is to search for a technical co-founder. This will not be an easy task, the best places to network are startup events such as Startuppami, Facebook discussion groups such as the Italian Startup Scene or developer’s events such as the Php Day or the EuroPython. Do not underestimate your friends as almost everyone knows a developer, ask around for help. I have found most good developers I work with through my friends.

Here is some more useful advice:

  • In addition to being good, he/she must be someone you enjoy spending your time with!
  • Verify his experience and the work he has carried out;
  • Make sure he believes in the project and that he will be by your side during the difficult periods;
  • Successfully sell your idea to him, since a good developer will be more interested in the technical issues than the business side.

Good luck with your search and if you should require any further assistance don’t hesitate to contact me!