How to Build a Great Team of Developers for Your Tech Startup

People and entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to me every single day. When they do, one thing is consistent: They don’t know how to code. I watch them spend months trying to find developers to join their team for equity, without success more often than not. Every entrepreneur has “the next big thing”, and they think it will be extremely easy to market their product once it’s built. People don’t give enough value to programmers, when they should. Because being in a technology company means that without technology, you don’t have anything. Just an idea on paper.

So the advice I give to every person who comes to me with an idea, whether they want to listen or not, is that they should learn how to code. I typically recommend that they start with front end design. This is typically known as UI/UX or User Interface / User Experience. The reason being, the best way to visualize your idea is to design it and show other programmers or team members what your idea will look like and how it will function. This doesn’t mean you have to become the best programmer ever, and it doesn’t even mean you need to be an expert at database development. It simply means that you should be able to take your idea or design, and make some sort of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or Prototype.

The face people make when I tell him this advice is always a roll of the eyes, a big sigh of frustration, and then a statement similar to, “I don’t want to program, I don’t have time to learn this, and I’m just going to find programmers to build this for me.” Months later, I ask them how their product is going. They say it’s “going great”, and that they are still seeking developers. So I ask myself, how is it going great if they have yet to build anything?

Then I say, “You could’ve built this yourself in the past few months while you’ve been looking for developers.” And they say, “I know, I guess I should have learned to code, but now it’s too late.” That is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Nothing in life is too late, ever. Especially when it comes to learning a new skill, a new language, a new instrument, a new recipe, how to code, anything really.

The reason why everyone should learn how to code if they decide to start a new software platform is the same reason I learned to code. Even though I went to college when the Internet was invented back in the 90s, I never really learned how to be a developer until the mid-2000’s. I found myself in the same situation as most of these entrepreneurs, seeking developers to help me build my next big idea. Fortunately, I did have design skills, and rudimentary front end development skills enough to build some kind of clickable prototype, but nothing worth releasing to the public. Just a simple clickable demo to show other people what my plans were.

The challenge of getting developers to join your team, is that there is a shortage of them (at least good ones), and their salaries are very high. So to convince one to join your team for equity (stock options) or very little money, is one of the hardest things to do unless they share a passion in your idea, which is rare. Now if you spend just a handful of months learning how to code, not only will you understand the fundamentals of programming and how to speak to programmers, but you will also be able to build some sort of MVP to show them what your idea is. Then they will be more likely to respect you and more prone to join your team, because you did some of the legwork already.

Especially now with the amount of learning platforms out there such as Codecademy, Coursera, Lynda, Khan Academy, Team Treehouse, and countless others, you can truthfully learn how to code on a basic level enough to get your idea across in just a few months for free or very little money. So what are you waiting for? Take your idea to the next level, and show the world that you are willing to learn something new in order to achieve a goal!



Jason Sherman

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