Oct 19 2007 by Brad

Places to Find Developers in Exchange for Sweat Equity

Question: I am in the process of getting my startup venture off the ground and have run into a slight road block.  I have developed the business case, and fleshed out the product requirements, but need a strong developer to the product.  Problem is, I have not gotten any funding yet, therefore cannot pay someone to build it.  Any suggestions on places to look for developers who are willing to put in sweat equity in return for ownership in the business?

A (Brad): While finding a developer to work for sweat equity is an option, I’d assert that you’d be better served by hunting for a technical co-founder that is passionate about creating the company you envision.  In my experience, it’s naive to think you can just “get developers to build the product” although it does sometimes work. Most of the great software startups that I’ve been involved in have at least one technical co-founder (and many have more than one.)

Regardless of the path you go down, you want to recruit quality.  If you have no cash to offer someone, be prepared to give up a meaningful amount of equity.  There’s no easy formula that translates between hourly work and equity ownership, especially in a raw startup, but be ready to have a thoughtful discussion with whomever you recruit.

If you aren’t willing to go the technical co-founder route, the best place to search is at your nearest college with a strong computer science department, especially if it is a school with a culture of entrepreneurship.