I read a question on Quora once that went something like "How do I get a developer to work for me for free" and someone replied saying "Have you heard about slavery?". I laughed out loud, not in the way someone types "LOL" but is not really laughing, I was almost rolling on the floor with tears in my eyes laughing. This was funny to read but it is not a funny topic. As a Software Consultant, I see a world getting eaten by software. Everyone wants and app, everyone wants a website, sometimes I talk my clients off the ledge because the solution they need is not in an app, but might be in the pen and paper they have right in front of them or selling their product in a different way and getting an app won't solve that... but I digress.
The demand for software is high but the supply is very low. I see people with good ideas not finding any help because software is a sellers market for now and developers are only flocking to ideas that seem the most interesting to them, so I decided to put a little list on how to pitch an idea to a developer to get him/her interested in partnering on a project or being your tech lead.
1. Have your shit together
Say you want to build Uber for Italian food, that's awesome and all. When talking to a potential partner about becoming a potential partner, layout your current plan of attack clearly and as simply as possible. Do not start brainstorming parts of the plan with them when you are trying to convince them on your project. It is ok if part of your current plan is broken and the developer points them out to you, but don't start asking for advice in a pitch meeting. Look at it this way. Imagine your job is to sell me a smartphone and while you are telling me about the features and what it can do you start asking me "Do you think this iPhone screen is nicer than the Samsung screen? Do you think 128GB in the iPhone is enough for you, do you think you need external storage?" You have killed your sell, your questions make you look very unsure about the viability of what you are selling.
2.Buy them a beer for their time
Show that you value their time. I have met people who treat and talk about developers like they are a resource, trench diggers that they can be called upon at any moment to run them a quick errand at any time. Technically they are correct, developers are a resource that provides a service, but they are a scarce resource and people who have money are paying insane amounts to keep their developers or steal good ones from others. These are resources that have choices. Treat them accordingly.
3. Show them the path to the Gallardo
Many years ago my friend Uzo joked that his reason for being a developer was so he could buy a Gallardo. Ever since then it has been our internal joke, we use the Gallardo to symbolize our ultimate goals in life. A lot of people get disappointed when someone does not buy into this or that awesome idea that has a multi-billion dollar potential. Any good developer knows a good idea does not guarantee success. So while it would be fun to create a cool idea, find out what's important to them, where they want to go in life and show them how this project can get them closer to their goals.
4. Show them traction
I was talking to someone the other day and they were pitching an idea they need a developer to work on. Offline they have already been running experiments on the viability of the idea, they had already been running a small manual prototype of the idea they hooked up themselves and had hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. That was so refreshing to see. It is good to know that joining such a project is less of a gamble and that they are also very serious about the idea they are pitching and showed initiative. Show the developer your proof the idea is viable.
5. Show them you hustle
Similarly to showing traction, showing that you are ready to get dirty and not just trying to be their boss giving directions and waiting for things to happen will go a long way. No one likes a colleague that does not seem to be working as hard as they are.
6. Do not be cheap
I have an idea for a flying car, I do not know how to make cars, much less a flying car. When I find someone who can build me a flying car. I do not just become a majority shareholder of the company because I thought about a flying car. Equity and payment should be shared according to the amount of risk you both are taking and resources you both are putting in. You might still be working and the developer had to give up paying jobs to work on the idea, compensate them accordingly (They have to eat too). You may be bringing all the money, selling the product and paying all other supporting employees, that counts for something so you should be compensated for your investments too. In this kind of endeavor, people are making sacrifices, weigh the risks that everyone is bearing and bring an offer to the table that acknowledges them.