"But I'm Not an Engineer!?"

This post is a semi-continuation of my “I Wish I Had an Idea” post from last month, and it covers a problem with which I don’t have any practical experience. I SCcartoonstarted out as a scientist/engineer, and then morphed into a business person, which I think is the easier progression.  Going from non-technical business person to engineer and technology expert is, in my opinion, the more difficult path.

That’s not to say it’s impossible – quite the contrary – it just takes more work.  Say you’ve come up with an excellent solution to a specific problem that affects millions of people or businesses. Or, you’ve found a licenseable technology on TechWhiteboard.com and you think you could bring it to market and make millions upon millions.  Your next step is usually a tricky one and you’ve generally got two options.  You can find a technical co-founder or you need to hire a technical expert.

Getting a technical co-founder is the more common path for one main reason: money.  If they’re a co-founder, you don’t have to pay them.  The down side is that you have to find someone you trust and that you know you can work with.  They’re getting part of the company, so you’re going to have to stick it out with them.  You also have to find them.

The other option, paying a consultant, in addition to the obvious problem (the money) also has the same problem – finding a reliable expert.  In exchange for you keeping the equity, you’ve got to pay up-front.  That might be more risk that its worth, but that’s ultimately your decision.

The big hurdle for both options is the same: finding engineering and technical talent.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in Albuquerque or Silicon Valley – they’re in huge demand everywhere.  And to find them, you’ve got to get to work. They’re not going to show up at your doorstep – engineers and scientists tend to be introverts, so you’ll have to reach out to them.  Here’s a few ideas to get you started on your search:

  1. LinkedIn – check related topic groups for technical experience
  2. ResearchGate – like LinkedIn, but specifically for scientists
  3. Tech Transfer Offices – if you’re going to license a technology, they’ll have ideas for contacting specific scientists and engineers. This includes places like TVC.
  4. Twitter – when people are passionate about a topic, they’ll tweet about it.
  5. Startup Weekend – Pitch your idea as part of a Startup Weekend event. You may get technical people to join you. Or, you may join them!
  6. Patent/USPTO – find inventors of related patents. They may already have related jobs, but they might have thoughts on locating others.
  7. Local user/tech Clubs – local groups usually have monthly meetings.
  8. CoFoundersLab.com – social site for entrepreneurs.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention outsourcing or finding college interns. Nor did I suggest you become the expert.  Those choices have some serious implications that you’ll need to completely understand before committing.

Finding the technical side to your business is important and should be done carefully and consciously. But with the right co-founder that complements your knowledge and experience, your business can be a great success.

Steve Cook