Hackers currently rule the world. But in reality, really good product people should. Here’s how to become one.
Overview: Recruit a killer technical co-founder once you have a front-end demo. Establish yourself as the product leader / business person with this demo, then recruit. Here’s how to do this:
- Get your version 1 and 2 from back of the napkin to .psd phase (work with an outsourced designer for this, you provide the detailed draft mock-up drafts and the inspiration for the stylesheet). Print designers or designers fresh out of school are surprisingly good for this step. Outside of raw design ability, curiousity / desire to learn is next trait you want. Use something like Pivotal Tracker to manage the iterative process. Use Skype to communicate longer details. Pay hourly, ~$20.
- Find a technical advisor, someone that can help you with hiring, specifically. Ofter them ~1%. Quora or StackOverflow is a good place to look for this person. Show them your designs, give them your escalator pitch, let them know you need a founding advisor. FYI this person could be a board member down the road. Always wise to have technical leadership on your early BOD.
- Write interaction stories for your designs. So when I click on this button, it does this, etc. Think about how various features behave as a user interacts with your service. You want to details as many of these stories as possible. You want to own the user-experience.
- Have your frontend designer build a working demo of version 1 and version 2 of your product using these interaction stories. Ask your technical advisor to review final quality of code before acceptance and pay. It’s “done” when it feels right to you–when you’re ready to sell your product vision to the world.
- Reach out to engineers in all forums. Tell them you have a killer demo for a world-changing service you’d like to show them. Get them to NDA (use an e-sign service like EchoSign for this). Let them know you’re looking for a co-founder to build out the backend, while you focus on the frontend user-experience and business logic.
Offer them vested 20%-30% to build out your vision. Make sure you give yourself Founder shares (fully-vested) at incorporation of the idea though. Your co-founder gets a combination of fully-vested shares and stock options shares. Especially since you put up the initial time and capital to get to Frontend demo state.
If for whatever reason your co-founder bails, then have confidence that by being a product-focused founder and owning the UX, design, interaction, business logic, etc. you can recruit technical co-founders and eventually lead engineers with this process. Then put their unvested shares back into the stock option pool.
You can get pretty far with this process but to scale you’ll need a technical co-founder to help with architecture, data modeling, API-stuff, etc. All stuff you want to understand, but don’t want to do. You never want to be in the weeds with technical. Do the heavy lifting to understand it–so you can compensate and manage it accordingly.
Conclusion: Have confidence technical people want to work with product-people that understand frontend, UX, and business logic execution. The farther you get with this process, the easier it gets to recruit a technical co-founder, angel financing, or just a lead engineer (employee).
Again, hackers currently rule the world. In reality, really good product and business focused people should. This entire early product development process can be managed–if you have a vision that technical folks can play with.
- Art and Design schools are good places to source talent, too. Can find these folks on Craigslist but best bet is to contact the hiring office at these schools to get on their mailing list
- The “back of the napkin” mock-up process is critical. Use Keynotopia, Balsamiq, or basic desktop soft like Publisher or an Adobe product. Key is to communicate user-experience (features) you’re delivering to the marketplace.
- Think of everything as a user-experience. Yes there is code beneath it and interaction design on top, but you as the product owner need to truly own the user-experience.
- You’re the editor to the entire product creation process. As you scale, creation is overtaken by curation of the best ideas and processes from your team.
- This approach is controversial in the hacker-driven world we currently live in. I realize that, am willing to go to bat for this advice. My general belief-system is building scalable products on the web with exceptional user-experiences should follow same process as building real estate (buildings, etc.) in real-life: It should be predictable, should have a definition of “done”, and should be able to be led by a non-developer–or a really good product person that understands technical and can manage the creation of the frontend user-experience from back of the napkin to frontend interaction. A technical co-founder (if you’re under capitalized) or a lead engineer (if you’re capitalized) can lead the backend execution, architecture, and scale.