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“But I don’t have a technical co-founder!” – So What!!!!

You hear this a few times a day down at the Communitech Hub.  A young, hungry entrepreneur comes in with a great idea… and the great excuse, “I can’t start my business until I find technical talent,” or “I don’t have someone to build my mobile app!”

Shocked Computer NerdDon’t get us wrong, having a founding team member who brings technical skills to the table can be essential to making it happen, but you don’t need a coder to prove a problem/solution fit.  In fact, you shouldn’t be writing a single line of code prior to proving a problem/solution fit. If you want to build a successful business you have to nail this.

If you were in the shoes of a developer would you rather join a team with an idea, or an idea with a proven opportunity?

If you are the visionary and entrepreneur behind an idea, chances are that you are service-oriented, you love solving problems, and you don’t just have one business idea.

First things first, you need to turn your business idea into a working business model.  A great tool to do this is the Business Model Canvas – you can create an awesome electronic copy through Canvanizer.  You’ll notice that this is a really simple and easy-to-use tool, and not a 50-page business plan – for good reason! Using a simple tool like the business model canvas enables you to quickly iterate and pivot your business as you meet with potential customers, gather feedback, and learn whether or not your idea is solving a real problem.

Once you’ve identified your target customer, it is time to leave your basement and start conducting customer development interviews.  No, this isn’t an interview with a friend to sell them on your idea or the product you don’t have!!!  These meetings are strictly to discover the top problems your target customers are experiencing and whether or not they believe your proposed solutions would alleviate their pains.  To get the best results try to meet with people you don’t interact with on a regular basis.

Again, first things first, you’ll want to start specifically with problem interviews.  A problem interview is as simple as it sounds; verify pain points exist in reality and in what priority.  How long do you do this for?  Conduct these interviews until you stop learning.  Once you can predict what your potential customers are going to say, it’s time to move on.  Until then, keep discovering!

Wondering how to structure such an interview?  Send us a note and we’d be happy to share a sample script to get started!

After clearly identifying the top 3 problems, circle back and conduct a second interview to test your proposed solutions and whether or not your market will pay for it!

Once you’ve nailed a problem/solution fit it’s far easier to develop a unique value proposition, and attract technical talent for that matter.  Good thing you used the Business Model Canvas, because we’re sure a few things have changed from your initial conception.  Now things are getting exciting!

Next week, we’ll discuss how to start manually testing your business model with a minimal viable product.

The idea here is to trim the fat off of your idea before recruiting a technical co-founder.  It doesn’t make sense to waste energy doing this if you haven’t come to a problem/solution fit.   In research done across 650 startups of all types, this stage can take 5-7 months on average to complete.


Take time to find technical talent that fits your culture.

Your founding team is your business.  One bad apple and the entire bunch can rot.  When you are recruiting technical talent to join your team it shouldn’t be rushed.

“But, how do I know if a developer is a good fit?  I don’t even know developers…”

Great question.

The best way to know if a developer fits in your business is to meet a lot of them.  Kitchener-Waterloo is widely recognized as a community with a deep pool of technical talent, so you’re in the right place.  Every month there are iOS and Android developer MeetUps, or gatherings such as the Vidyard recruiting events.

Get engaged with these communities early on while you are conducting problem/solution interviews. Keep it stress-free and go with the intention to meet interesting people and gain an understanding of how the developer community works.  Who knows… if you start this early you might find that shiny apple just as you finish your discovery stage.


Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 12.06.10 AMDave Inglis

Entrepreneurship Community Coordinator