Have you ever had guys hit on you? I have. But not in the normal sense. Go to any startup event, let people know you’re a developer — you’ll soon find yourself speaking to some wannabe CEO who “just needs a technical co-founder” to realise their world-changing vision. Let’s swap numbers. Are you free this weekend? Sorry for the crude analogy, but the hidden desperation in their voice makes them sound exactly like guys trying to get laid on a Friday night.
You know that scene in the social network where Zuckerberg meets the Winklevoss twins and they try and persuade him to join their project? Back in university, I found myself in that exact situation approximately once a week. Then there’s the endless Facebook messages: “I noticed you were a developer” (translation: “Hey, your profile picture looked hot”), or “helpful” introductions: “my friend is looking for a developer” (“my friend is single”).
Are you willing to pay? Do you have any sales/marketing/design experience? (“Do you have a car? Are you hot?”). “Well, no, but I’ll give you equity!” (“Well, no, but I’m a really nice guy!”). Sorry, not interested. “Aw, that’s so unfair! Just gimme a chance! I’m sure we’ll be amazing together!” Hmm, pardon me, but I’m going to question the value you claim to bring to our potential relationship when you’re so desperate to co-found/hookup with someone you just met.
There’s more. Compare articles on “how to find a tech co-founder” with articles on “how to get laid”. Coder friends have told me they wish there were developer events (“just for us girls”) without horny management consultants trying to recruit them. eLance is an online dating site. Hackathons are orgies.
The analogy works on a deeper level. It’s a marketplace. Both sides benefit from forming partnerships — the human race depends on it — but their incentives are not perfectly aligned. Techies need biz guys just as badly as biz guys need techies. But business guys, like males in general, are redundant. Teams of one business guy/multiple coders are far more common than multiple biz guys/one coder. Polygyny (having multiple wives) is observed in many cultures, whereas polyandry (multiple husbands) is almost unknown.
I think it’s this dynamic which explains the similarities between sex and startups: one side’s contribution is larger than the other. One side commits nine months of pregnancy (or 10,000 hours learning to code); the other side is only required to donate an idea (or a sperm cell). Yet, paradoxically, this makes the greatest members of the lesser side much more valued.
In a world full of deadbeat business guys that just want to get their shitty app idea coded and then disappear, most technical co-founders are looking for a big, strong salesman to take care of them and provide for their family (translation: find customers for their startup). Biz guys, on the other hand, while they prefer to score with perfect 10s (or 10x engineers), are really looking for quantity over quality; the more coders the better. So the best biz guys get all the coders (Tim Cook has a harem), whereas those at the bottom of the pile are left roaming conferences and hitting on random developers.
So, what’s a lonely business guy to do? First, lose the mindset that you deserve a coder — that you’d be the next Steve Jobs if only you could persuade some first year CS student to work for free. That mix of entitlement and desperation isn’t attractive. Instead, focus on what you can actually bring to a co-founder relationship. Learn how to hustle: can you pound the pavements, work the phones, or master the dark arts of online marketing?
Work on some non-technical projects that generate cash: the knack for making money is always sexy. And in the same way that girls show more interest in guys that already have girlfriends, coders are more interested in business guys that don’t need a coder. Find a cheap guy on oDesk to write your MVP, or bash it together yourself out of WordPress plugins and copy-pasted code (it worked for Groupon).
And when you do meet someone you want to work with, don’t just randomly message them asking them to start a startup with you. That’s like proposing marriage to someone you’ve just met. Date them first. Take them out for coffee, get to know them. Try a few romantic weekend projects together. Only then should you start thinking about tying the knot.
Whatever you do, stay protected: always, always use a condom/limited liability company.