Every Friday, we’re answering your questions about business, startups, customer success and more.
This week’s question comes from Vaibhav, who asks:
This is a challenge faced by people on both sides of the aisle.
It’s not uncommon for technical people to have a product, and have no idea how to sell it.
And it’s not uncommon for marketers and business folks to have an idea for a product and a great plan for selling it, but no ability to build it.
Both are tough challenges, but both have been solved many times before.
Money—finding an investor—is one way to approach the problem. And it’s not necessarily a bad one. But there are a number of other options to consider first:
1) Validate Your Idea Without Building It
To me, this is a no-brainer to do before you even consider taking on a co-founder.
I’ve written in another Friday Q&A about how a non-technical founder can validate a startup idea. You can check out the post here, but this is the key point:
For a non-technical founder like me (especially), the easiest way to validate your idea is simply to go talk to your potential customers first.
And the way that you do that ultimately depends on where you can find your target audience:
Are they on reddit or some other specialized online community? Are they at specific conferences or meetups? Are they reading particular blogs or newsletters?
Wherever your audience congregates, go there and establish yourself as someone worth talking and listening to.
And in a little while, it will become easy to find people who are happy to talk to you about the problems you’re trying to solve, and who ultimately could become your very first users.
2) Hire Someone to Build a Cheap Prototype
Can you distill your idea into a single, small functional app that will at least validate or disprove your hypothesis?
Use a service like Upwork to find a developer who will help you build that crude prototype, and then get it into the hands of your potential customers.
No, it won’t do justice to your final vision. And no, it won’t be a life-saving app for your customers.
But it will tell you whether people are interested in your approach to solving whatever problem you’re solving, and that interest and early traction is what will land you ahead of 99% of people when looking for a co-founder or investor.
3) Find a Technical Co-Founder
In full disclosure, I failed at finding a technical co-founder to help me launch Groove.
It’s a really hard thing to do, especially for a first-time founder without any street cred. Great developers always have great opportunities available to them, so you had better be an incredible salesperson if you want to get them to put money aside—in a very generous marketplace—and come work on your dream.
But if you follow steps one and two above, you’ll have more validation than most, and your case will be made a bit easier. Beyond that, you simply need to hustle. Don’t post to Craigslist, go out, network, try to connect with as many people as possible (more on that below), and when you’ve earned their trust enough to ask them for a favor, ask for connections to your potential co-founder.
Though, if you follow steps one and two, you may be able to kickstart your business enough that you don’t need that co-founder.
4) Find an Investor
My approach for connecting with great investors is no different from my approach to connecting with influencers.
I go into great detail on the system in this post.
And I recommend that you do this throughout the entire process (starting with validation), so that potential investors are aware of your hustle, progress and strategic approach. Then, by the time you decide to ask them for money, the ask will be a warm one rather than a pitch from a random.