However settling for a less than perfect fit for a cofounder can actually decrease your chances of success over going solo. Once you're out of school a few years the best candidates have careers, wives and houses and just won't take the chance no matter how great the potential payoff.
"I had my father's colleague's son build a prototype for us. It does almost everything the final product needs to do. It took a couple of months and only cost us $4000. But he (the son) is now going out on tour with his band, and we need someone to get us to launch."
This is almost inevitably a set-up for disappointment for all parties. Non-technical founders have no idea what software development costs and how long it takes. They will be shocked at reality and blame it on you, the tech co-founder.
Potential tech co-founders will waste a lot of breath explaining things to the non-tech co-founders that they (the non-techs) will struggle to understand.
Eventually, everyone will be mad at everyone else.
Problem is, much of this also applies to hiring free-lancers. They are going to cost far more than the non-tech founder predicts. The only difference is that the free-lancer will get paid for (some of) his/her work.
Though I'm no huge fan of the VC/start-up model, it's no wonder that it evolved to its current state, where potential ventures are judged largely on their teams' proven ability to deliver.
Wrote a blog post on 5 creative ways to find a technical co-founder - http://bit.ly/rQdvpK
 Take a good look at what needs to be accomplished to build and scale your business
 Identify critical missing pieces you do not have expertise with or do not want to do
 Estimate how hard/easy it would be for you to manage these pieces yourself, with some hired help
 Weigh pros/cons of possible dilution / distraction / misfit vs. likelihood of acceleration / risk reduction / strength in numbers
 Make up your mind on what is the right way to go and GO FOR IT!
IMHO, saying "you always need a co-founder" is a cargo-cult-like mindset. There are plenty of successes and failures doing it with or without one.
The only thing that ACTUALLY matters is whether you can put together something that will make money. Whether or not you had any co-founders along the way is about as casually related as whether building an airstrip attracts cargo planes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult)
Just determine what you actually need and do not get distracted by people trying to mold you into their perception of the "ideal".
However, having made progress on something is a good way to attract a cofounder for something else later.
Seriously? Customizing a WordPress Theme costs between $1,000 and $2,500. Building (Design+Front End Programming+Back End Programming) a fully-fledged WordPress magazine theme can cost between $15,000 and $20,000.
If you are not a software developer, and your start-up core product is software: just don't do it. Don't take OP advice. This might work out if your product is physical and you are using the web to deliver. (Also there are cloud services that will help you and are cheap).
Anything that involve software requires co-founders to be technical. Web Development is as expensive as hell. Small features requires lots of time and Freelancers bill hourly. I'm telling that because I just finished some custom slider for a client costing him more than $1k. Yes, just an image slider.
Freelancers aren't that expensive when you look at the grand scheme of things. A single freelancer can maintain an app serving thousands of users - provided you know exactly what you need.
Don't hire freelancers unless you:
1. Have done your customer development
2. Know which features you need
3. Know how much these features are worth to you
4. Already have something
So, freelancers might not be the best option for building your first prototype, but they are very good at polishing up your first prototype into a MVP.
If the task could've been solved by configuring any of the 9000 free image sliders out there (I've opened sourced a dojo-powered one too), then $1k is really expensive.
- Writing the right HTML structure.
- Doing CSS work
- Solving some math. equations (fun time)
- Cross-Browser issues (IE8+) (not so fun)
- Integrating with the client back-end
- Communication (charge for that too)
This is the second time I've created a site with freelancers and it's not easy - I've made plenty of mistakes.
But it is very doable.
Anyone who's interested in what I'm up to (making news sites better for readers and publishers) or how we operate, check out my profile.
Tough at first not having someone to bounce ideas off but after the first hire it's fine :-)
What I am trying to say is that, I think looking for a cofounder depends on what you are trying to build. If you are trying to build a long-term sustainable company, then the fact that you can influence and motivate someone to join your vision is very powerful. Therefore, getting a cofounder to join your cause is a huge testament to how well you can succeed, something that should not be discounted.
That being said, its also important to evaluate the skillsets you need to have a successful company and to slowly enlist a cofounder based on those needs. I hung out at every tech event, spoke to as many people about what I was doing and slowly started to see that there was an ecosystem of people that started believing in my story.
So, its doable, thats all :)
I think the implication is that if you can't afford to hire someone to code for you, you aren't going to succeed at running a startup.
Why? Because you should be good, really good, at something, whether that's your current day job, being able to sell your plan to others - friends, family, acquaintances, bank managers... - or having the self-belief and determination to fund the entire venture on credit cards.
Although that last one might be... risky ;)
If you can't afford that amount, then either learn to code yourself, or pick a different idea that is actually within your reach.
If the MVP for your idea would cost $100k to build, and you don't have $100k, pick a different idea.
There are so many ideas out there, you need to pick ideas you can actually implement with the means at your disposal.
Going rates aside, one thing many people (including freelancers!) do not realize is that paying somebody $30/hr gross for a 2-month contract is not even remotely equivalent to a permanent salaried position that works out to $30/hr. Contracts frequently include billable hours and there's tons of negotiation for jobs that fall through. There's generally less security and there are fewer benefits. I've also noticed that there tends to be more time pressure on a lot of the little contracts.
I think it's reasonable to multiply hourly rates by a factor of 2 or so for contract jobs. This is why you have a market with $90,000 salaries and $100-150/hr contract rates. If you try to get somebody for $3000-4000 per month you'll either be lucky and get a student or something or you will get the sort of person who couldn't find anything else. If you do get lucky, your freelancer will not stick around very long because they will find much better opportunities.
MVP does not means cheap.
MVP means "Minimum Viable Product". It is very hard to make viable part on cheap using only contractors. You might end up with "Minimum Crappy Product".
Building of MVP requires a lot of interaction with early adopters and evangelists and that is where contractors really cannot help you. Unfortunately, they require the exact guidance.
Some might say that MVP for some SocialNetwork ver. 245 might be cheap to make - but I think MVP in that space if does not have something very unique it needs to have very very nice interface which you cannot get for couple of thousand dollars.
I am not at liberty to disclose who those companies are, however. Some, I've signed NDAs with, and others I haven't asked them if I could disclose that they used subcontractors.
Worth adding that I was the first to be surprised that they managed it. I don't believe in outsourcing your core business processes. However, whether or not I believe it, they did it.
I'm not actually advocating this as a standard model, btw. I think if you're not technical, you should start a business that doesn't require lots of technical knowledge. There are plenty of those opportunities out there.
Groupon is an example of a huge technology business that didn't require all that much technical skill to get off the ground.
Engaging a freelancer might help you get to that proto-prototype that will get you real engagement.
My only question is: What's a "swombat"?!
I have no idea how it has worked out for these people.
It wasn't linked from the OP, so I had to trawl for it on Twitter, where it is sure to get lost within a few days.
I want the title to be linked to the destination article so they get any link-juice I may have to give associated with the article. The little star thing next to it is the permalink.
And speaking at least for myself, I've found that I'm just as capable of underestimating the difficulty of marketing as non-tech folks are capable of underestimating the difficulty of software development.
Once you're in the "real world" with an income etc. You have more options as to how you approach things.
For example I happen to work inside of a old media industry that my company is going to bring into this century. I have access a support network, industry contacts and advice from people who will be my future users and supporters.
I can't express enough how valuable it can be to sit down and speak with people who have been working in the field for 20, 30 or 40 years over a cup of coffee. it gives you a different perspective and it helps to get paid while getting the experience that will be helpful in growing your business.
Everyone has a different path to get to where they want to be I think the most important thing is that you commit yourself to the journey.