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149 points by bloatedcarpel 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments



Here's why I advise extreme caution when partnering up if you're a programmer:

If you have a co-founder or co-hacker that goes postal, off on their own, acting shady, behaving badly, for whatever reason, you're lost at sea. If you don't have a safety net or savings in place to catch you, you're going to be living on the street. Thanks to someone else.

You can't control other people. Your co-whatever could become a saboteur. The reasons why and how don't matter, it's about the ramification on your life and how deeply it reverberates.

If that's the only thing you have going - your life is wrecked. You're humiliated by being kicked out of what you created. You have to start over, with an added penalty to all your family you can't support, your networking in tatters, and so on. Make no mistake - have a co-founder - you're one person away from having collateral damage done to your life.

And they'll probably make the company tank afterwards. The main reason a co-founder was there was to keep each other's ideas/egos/visions/whatever in-check. Without that personality mechanism in place, the business is rudderless.

So consider me a skeptic to this whole idea of sharing when I coded everything without safeguards in place for myself. That's the exact opposite reason I run my own thing. This is the one thing where I get control.

If you got cash stashed away somehow, or other cash flow sources, you're in a safer spot to take your chances with a co-founder and bounce back should stuff hit the fan.


This comment makes it seems like it's a foregone conclusion your business will be a success.

Yet, the odds of success are _very_ small... If you have a co-founder... or if you don't have a co-founder.

In other words, it will probably be nothing to do with your co-founder that you end up on the street!

And, while I'm on that subject. DON'T leave your day job when you start your side project. Just keep your day job until you're making enough money with your side project before you leave!


> This comment makes it seems like it's a foregone conclusion your business will be a success.

Startups are a game of optimism. The mindset is: in it to win it.

It's totally OK to be visualizing the finish line and your equity turning into a Tesla, house, or yacht. And you're all sharing the success. It's a huge motivator.

> And, while I'm on that subject. DON'T leave your day job when you start your side project. Just keep your day job until you're making enough money with your side project before you leave!

You can't survive in this field on a 4 hour work week.

Let's be a bit more generous and assume we've built a savings with full time job first. What is the other founder bringing to the table while the programmer produces tangibles?

Billing code, dashboard, homepage, getting users, retaining users, design/ux, debugging, customer service/support. This takes months of grueling work.

You have to go all-in. And a co-founder that's less than 100% is a serious red flag. Why would I want to share ownership with someone who saw this as a side project, when I view it as center of my life?

Get what I mean?


Don't get me wrong I think having a co-founder is often a bad idea. I just don't like any of the reasons you mentioned.

Hmm. Let's see.

1) It’s very hard to convince a cofounder to join an unproven business. And that is going to waste a lot of your time looking for someone. When you could be building your business instead.

2) You likely won’t need to build anything to validate your product if you use duct-taping, wizard of oz, lean startup. And after it's validated, well, just go ahead and build the mvp using the minimal toolset.

3) You can hire someone from a site like Upwork and in many cases they will be a lot cheaper than you are and still pretty good.

4) With frameworks like rails, laravel, bootstrap and a mountain of plugins it's pretty easy to build products that can make money in your spare time (10h week).

> Billing code, dashboard, homepage, getting users, retaining users, design/ux, debugging, customer service/support. This takes months of grueling work.

If any of those things are grueling for you:

a) Are you sure this is the right game for ya? ;)

b) Are you sure someone didn't already make a lib for that?

c) Outsource them!

Edit: If the main reason you want a co-founder is because you don't want to go it alone then you could fix that by joining a site like indi-hackers and talking to other founders as you work on your stuff. Maybe join a mastermind group. Etc.


I think this illustrates a mentality of undervaluing programmers. I think it underestimates how hard and intensive the job is. I think prospective co-founders do this exact thing to programmers.

Why would someone go the extra mile, to work late into the night, for someone who just viewed them as commodities at the lowest bidder? Were any successful startups you can think of built on Upwork? (I think Digg's MVP was on oDesk.)

Creating a sense of authenticity, [1] mindfulness of the product, aesthetic, value is hard to outsource. Unless you have someone sink their teeth in it.

It's just not the trend I've seen at startups.

> b) Are you sure someone didn't already make a lib for that?

As for the the library part. Just billing code alone is consuming my life right now. Sure, there's the stripe-python wrapper over the API, and djstripe. Which even goes all the way to create a database parity with Stripe's resources.

Can djstripe handle multiple subscriptions for a customer? Will it automatically propagate plans configured locally so they exist on Stripe's end? Can djstripe recover from inconsistencies between the customer ID in local storage and stripe's remote (a custom intervention would be required). Does it have a flow for handling stripe elements (the widget that accepts billing info), creating a user (if logged out) and accepting the source? I can list more.

Am I to expect an outsourced programmer is going to consider all these cases? Or do I have to wait for customers to drop off?

There are superb libraries, permissively licensed ones. But no one-size-fits-all to give a workflow that looks top notch. A great deal of the skill when programming isn't just data-in/data-out, but gluing and synthesizing the parts cohesively. In this sense, there's a great differentiation from a programmer with less skill, or giving less effort, and someone taking the time to make it fit in.

User's have an expectation of quality, typically based off the "craftsmanship" of other sites they visited. There are competitors, and having stuff like a good UX, somebody in your timezone, immediately accessible, "in the zone" on where your product is / its philosophy, that speaks english to debug things, all help.

[1] It doesn't have to be a household name.


I think we're violently agreeing and also we have somewhat similar side projects (i.e. helping other devs) ;)


I'll say this: it's incredibly hard to have a full-time job and also build out a successful side project. It sounds really nice and rational when you write it out here, but it requires an insane amount of focus and basically shutting out any leftover time. Most people can't do this.

I would suggest surrounding yourself with wealthy people and keeping them updated. When you have enough progress to get them excited about it, ask if they'd come in as an angel investor. Once you get a few of these lined up, you can get enough runway to justify quitting.

The base advice is good: don't quit your job if you don't have 6-12 months of runway first. But also, your job is holding you back from the execution that will be required to build your project and get customers, so try to find a way to bridge your exit.


> it's incredibly hard to have a full-time job and also build out a successful side project

I'm not trying to brag but I've done that twice and I have a 3 year old!

> your job is holding you back from the execution that will be required to build your project and get customers

It's true if the fixation is on really complex projects but if you can do a few very important things then anything is possible.

1) Just like creating a tiny abstract function reign in your idea and give it the least amount of surface area possible:

- https://blog.nugget.one/upstart/dont-start-big-start-a-littl...

2) Your enthusiasm half life needs to be long for what you do. That's why it's so much better to focus on something you care about.

- https://blog.nugget.one/upstart/productfounder-fit-your-most...

The third important thing is daily momentum. Never don't do "something" even if it's tiny. You just have to do something every day.

Man I just grab 30 mins or 1 hour and knock out a task any time I can!


To me your comment seems to highlight how important it is to have good safeguards in place when founding (any) company. I’ve seen (and experienced first hand) things go south even when people knew and trusted each other for years/decades for an infinite amount of reasons: people change, you may not know them as well as you think, success/failure puts immense pressure and makes people irrational, etc. etc.

Have basic safeguards in place like backups, paper trials, make sure you have good contracts that cover what happens if one of you leaves, can’t work, doesn’t perform, etc. make sure you have an independent board member further along, etc.


And yet, so many successful companies were started by more than one person.

Caution is advisable, but simply working by yourself isn't for most people. It's quite possible to start working with someone tentatively, and get to know them and trust them as time goes on, as well as to protect yourself and your project legally once it gets further along.


Why is this specific to being a programmer? This applies equally to every start up entrepreneur, from artists to inventor.

And if you only waited until you have a firm financial backing behind you and you alone with nobody to split risk with, we wouldn't have very many start ups.


> And if you only waited until you have a firm financial backing behind you and you alone with nobody to split risk with, we wouldn't have very many start ups.

A programmer doesn't have to wait.

Try to take it from a programmer's perspective:

We already have ideas. There's a huge supply of programmers. One's that'd be happy to write an MVP for that inventor/artist/etc in exchange for 20k. But I guarantee you there's zero programmers waiting around, saying to themselves, "If only I had a visionary come along to give me an idea"

Programmer's get used to it. But at least once per year many of us hear something like, "I have a vision", "I got this idea, psst", because you can guarantee 99% of the time, they're not willing to put any cash into it themselves. What I get is a person bossing me around, while I don't get paid, and I absorb all the risk of their idea.

> This applies equally to every start up entrepreneur, from artists to inventor.

If I take on a co-founder, co-hacker, inventor, what do I get?

What role do they play? The "ideas guy". My above post was based on the assumption they have a 50% split. But since they view themselves as the unique, creative force behind everything, they want 51%. Maybe more.

Now, this co-founder thing would make sense if we laid transparent ground rules up front: while all this comes into formation, am I getting paid while I'm crafting this "vision"?

Programmers are in a unique position when it comes to tech startups. They can bootstrap by themselves. The burden lies on the prospective co-founder to balance that contribution through something more than dictating and having ideas. That usually is them going out and raising a seed or self-funding.


"But I guarantee you there's zero programmers waiting around, saying to themselves, 'If only I had a visionary come along to give me an idea'"

My co-founder and I are both technical. For the first year of our company - as we built and sold things - we were constantly thinking "damn, life would sure be a lot easier if we had a killer idea. We would pay millions for an idea that we could execute on."

It's super important. Everyone has ideas, but most ideas are frankly not that great. Our ideas certainly weren't.

Then we found a better idea, got some traction, etc. Life's good. But if great ideas truly were a dime a dozen, we would've had much more fun in 2016 :)

Furthermore, if you take on a co-founder, here's what you get: one founder can focus on building the product, while the other founder focuses on figuring out what variation of the product is most needed by the outside world. It is very difficult for one person to do both. These require two fairly different skillsets, and both benefit from having technical experience - the former for obvious reasons; the latter because it's much easier to know what's buildable if you've built stuff before.


"Great" ideas are a dime a dozen, at least on paper. No one can do anything about the standards you and your co-founder set for yourself, but there is an abundance of opportunity out there. Almost any source of annoyance can be parlayed into a useful product.

I say "on paper" because no idea is worth anything until it is at least partially implemented, and no concept remains static throughout the implementation process.

And let me further clarify that you don't even need an original idea. Most successful companies are entirely non-groundbreaking, perhaps even blase. Breaking ground is expensive, financially and psychologically. Let someone else break ground and not only will the path already be blazed, but you'll have the record of their experience to inform your choices, and you'll know the pain points that people have with them. (The upside is, any given project is probably far less groundbreaking than it imagines, especially in the kool-aid drenched environs of Silicon Valley).

Think early search engines, many of which leverage or improve upon phonebook-style directories, and Google -- Google came later, and as such, knew that they needed something better than AltaVista et al could offer. Early social networks and Facebook, etc. The list goes on.


There is so much truth to this.

Just because someone is a good programmer doesn’t mean they will be a good partner in a venture.


Sorry bloatedcarpel, but I've always thought this is a terrible idea...

I've been a solo-founder for 15 years, and I'll admit a co-founder would be awesome. But starting a company is not a walk in the park.. things are going to go wrong. It's not going to go as planned, you're going to feel like quitting at some point... And you have to trust this person you just met to handle that, resolve differences of opinion on the company, etc all while barely knowing how this person behaves under pressure, with their livelihood on the line (or their unrealistic dreams of riches).

It would be some kind of miracle if it actually works out with a random person. I would never do it.


> I've been a solo-founder for 15 years

> I would never do it.

So, it sounds more like you would never have a cofounder anyways. This idea probably isn't aimed at somebody who after 15 years still can't find someone available that they can trust.

(P.s. dear hn, fix your formatting ability to bee able to have a line break without a paragraph break, or maybe block quote actually be useable)


I don't get why this guy gets downvoted. He's right. Who in the right mind would take advice from a solo-founder? That's like taking marriage advice from a monk. Of course you can do it yourself and it could work, but that's not the point. Even if this project will fail at helping people to find a co-founder, it's still a better exercise than just dismissing the idea.


While I understand this angle, I do think this can be helpful to people with smaller side projects.


thanks for the clarification, and removing "co-founder" from the hn title. For side projects it could be useful.


Sure thing.


I started and sold a company with a random person. He now runs an even more successful startup.

At the time I had followed all advice of starting companies with friends, only to get screwed by very close friends. So I gave up on this whole business with friends thing and tried matching with people from Facebook.

The trick is not to get married on the first date, but use these platforms to just meet like minded people.


I think your points make sense, but at the same time I would also hesitate to risk destroying a relationship with a friend. So maybe I'd prefer a stranger.


You might not destroy a relationship with a friend, but you are potentially letting a stranger destroy your personal resources (time, money, energy, etc).


I would prefer someone I have a good working relationship with over a friend. My best friends are not in my field, but I have people in my life who I love working with, because we just click and are able to get stuff done. I wouldn’t say they were super close friends though as we don’t necessarily bond over anything other than work.


This is a very stripped down version of a platform I'm currently creating with a friend. I love the idea, obviously. And I like the implementation. Simple (no registration too!) and understandable.

And unlike many others here I think something like this is very much missing and could, in fact, bring a lot of interesting projects to life. Yes, like everyone else mentioned, there are a ton of problems with finding a co-founder like this. But not every project needs to be a company and not every project needs to make money. Especially on the web.

Which is why the platform I'm building tries to focus on non-profit projects. Or rather, projects you want to build/help build because you want the project to exist, rather than to make money off of it.

An example project that I wanted to make some time ago: I want(ed) to create a platform with all hip-hop artists, where anyone could write an opinionated, subjective, hopefully positive introduction to an artist they admire. The idea behind it is that there's plenty of artists that get bad reviews/critics but have a huge fanbase - so the fans could write what they like about the artist so much, rather than just seeing the "industry-respected" reviews and critics. Basically, get introduced to a new artist through someone who loves him already, rather than from someone who mainly critics him.

Now I'm very confident in my web development (and hip-hop) knowledge. But I have no eye for design whatsoever. I couldn't make a beautiful interface to save my life. And the project is not start-up material since there's no business model around it and it's hard to get someone you know interested who can design and is interested in hip hop (or at least my project idea). In my circle that left me with 0 people. But I think a platform like poster's, if popular enough, could bring projects like these to life.


I can't agree more. I understand the Silicon Valley bias against solo founders given that most celebrated founders are very young and in your twenties you don't yet have a well developed support system. Building a company is hard but it's really not that much harder than other things that are truly worth doing and haven't been done yet. Virtually everything worth doing is about failing repeatedly as you try for the few bits of success that you build on and turn into something truly worthwhile and this repeated failure is going to hurt your self-esteem badly unless you have a strong support system. If you already have a support system, you may be better off without a co-founder unless there is someone you almost have to have. I've had success building companies more than once as a solo-founder. Having tried it now with a co-founder, I would be very, very wary of doing it that way again, and I didn't try it with a "random" person.


Mandatory post: Finding a Co-Founder (https://medium.com/p/259bb428377f)

The best co-founder is someone you’ve already worked with.


That article conflates "least risky" with "best".


I noticed very few of the projects list skills that the poster has. This is a big turnoff for any potential collaborator. One would want to know what the poster brings to the table skill-wise, too.

Then I tried submitting a project and realized why: I can’t find a field that lets me add the skills I think I already have. Is it the optional “Specific Skills Needed” field? If so, it’s unclear that it becomes the “Skills I Already Have” section once rendered.


Thanks! Fixed now.


Seems like a really great idea for small projects to help grow your skills. Also seems like a great place to spawn some open source projects.

As an aside, I think it would be neat to sort open source projects by technical skills needed.


Thanks! Added Open Source as an option.


The biggest challenge I've seen so far to find a co-founder is that you need good reasons to spend time with the person before you screw anything because you actually dont "match" with the person. The process is awkward socially.

Therefore, meeting someone for the reason of wanting to co-found a company is probably not the best way to find a cofounder. Going back to university or going to hackatons works probably better.

Though, maybe what would work as an app for example would be to collaborate on fake projects because that way you sure you wont screw anything.


I agree with this sentiment with regards to more formal businesses. Like you say, you don't want to screw those up. But for smaller, side projects, I think this is usefull.

I also believe in the "shotgun" method of pushing out an MVP, guaging the response, and seeing what sticks. This could be the perfect thing for finding someone to build "shotgun" kinds of projects with.


And if the MVP is successful.. then what? Aren't you back to the 'formal business' problem?


Yes, and individuals should be cautious about the terms they agree to when people are interested in pairing up.

I used the term "co-hackers" on the site specifically, meaning people can pair up to work on projects together, not necessarily as co-founders.


I like co-hackers. Sounds exciting without being to formal.


I've seen idea boards and similar projects to these in the past. What inevitably happens is the board gets flooded with lousy ideas, which are hard to filter out or sift through. Credibility weakens, leading to a bias toward people who don't see that as a red flag, and therefore a bias toward more bad ideas.

I think that with a novel and effective solution, it may be possible to turn the tables and bias toward the best ideas being most accessible.

Assuming you have to try something, how would you attempt to improve that situation?

And finally, if someone claimed to have some promising ideas on how to improve it, would you be open to pursuing joining forces with them as a co-founder? If not, what do you think might be a different strategy to take to have this project stand out?


I'm trying to implement voting, so valuable ideas needing co-hackers show first (just need to find a way to integrate with airtable).

To your second question, I'd definitely be interested in hearing you out.


Does anyone else get this error?

"An error occurred during a connection to projectboard.xyz. SSL received a record that exceeded the maximum permissible length. Error code: SSL_ERROR_RX_RECORD_TOO_LONG"


I have a reasonably large computer screen but when I select a project, the dialog is significantly taller than the screen and I have to scroll up to read it top-to-bottom. As I read I scroll down (of course) and then have to scroll back to the top to hit the close button. I suspect the portrait orientation works better on a phone/tablet but this process means that I've lost my place in the main list manipulating the dialog.


Yes, I'm not too happy with Airtable's layout. Will be building this out as a stand-alone web app.


I made something similar, didn't take off: https://pushboard.net/


Any thoughts as to why that you can share? Thanks :-)


A lot of people are in need of a partner / cofounder including myself. However just like dating, this is a hard problem to solve. I hope this helps!


As someone who started 5 companies with different cofounders in last 10 years. I've lost 50K with in first startup, 200K in second startup, 300K in third startup, 500K in 4th startup and 5th startup is ongoing. Co-founders ripped me out of this much money in all cases! All startups were making loss and I sold each one of them for 10-20x the of my personal loss.


If anyone wants this in an easier to read format and without the double scrollbars (and with far fewer trackers loaded) it's also available directly at

https://airtable.com/shrbKl9sxaFJqtjAN/tblzm60W80AwbPLJj?bac...


I think this is a great idea. As someone who has worked with (and been screwed over by) lots of people, my main advice to those using this is to just trust your instincts. Your instincts are part of your decades of experience knowing people. Most of the time, you'll know if someone is a shady type.


"Specific Skills Needed" has no option of supplying user-provided skills. I would like to insert Common Lisp there, but the most suitable option is "other", which is not specific at all.


I included Common Lisp as an option. I don't think airtable allows for users to input custom values. I'll need to think of a workaround.


It makes me happy to see one of these populated by people motivated to do a project. There were endless student projects like this in college to find a ___.


I find the airtable kind of cluttery. All the content is on the far left, why not use the full width of the page?

Then it opens the description in this tiny little window...


I agree. I'm open to using another service, but Airtable seems to be the best fit for now.


Great project, hope it works as advertised. I had asked for support in hackernews for supporters and co founders who can contribute and grow a product !


Great idea hope I remember this link when I'm in need of a partner.


It would be cool if you could search by language.


Coding our country language? You can filter the view by coding language.


McAfee Web Advisor has labeled your web site as not to be trusted. I was so looking forward to seeing what you built. Perhaps your site has been compromised in some way?


Even John McAfee recommends you uninstall the McAfee security software.


Could just be the .xyz domain -- I've been getting emails filtered just by including a .xyz link in the body from a personal account (i.e. not automated).

A lot of web filters seem to just block all of .xyz by default. I have started only using that domain for development work - the domains are like 0.99 each so it works pretty well for that.


Who cares what a McAfee product says?


I am sorry, but this might be the solution to your problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKgf5PaBzyg


Hmm. Looking into this now.




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