Contributor: Mike Lee, Co-Founder, EdShelf
Are you an educator with a great idea? Need a developer to help you build our your idea?
You are unfortunately part of a large sea of people with great ideas. The startup world is littered with more idea people than implementation people. Being an educator, you probably aren’t exposed to many developers, like the business people of technology startups are. But don’t worry, there are still ways you can find developers.
- Look through your own network
- Start with people you know. You may already have a developer or two as a 2nd or 3rd degree connection. The closer the connection, the better. This person doesn’t need to be an experienced developer with a Computer Science degree; someone who is willing to learn can be just as good. Building out your idea could be a great way for them to grow their skills.
- Partner with technical students
- If you are a K-12 educator, your school may have a computer class or workshop with budding technical geniuses. Some of the best developers in the industry started out programming at a young age. The chance to make a web or mobile app could be very enticing. However, be careful not to take advantage of a young student’s eagerness. As an authority figure, they will listen to you, perhaps even at the detriment of their homework and studies. Some may need some technical guidance as well. Though it’s not easy, try to find an edtech developer who is willing to mentor your student.If you are in higher education, your university may have programming classes. College students make better partners than high school students, since they have more life experience, need relatively less guidance, and may even geniunely be interested in starting a company with you. Their project with you could be bundled as a class assignment as well, and they have the added benefit of potentially bringing other students into the team.
- Work for an edtech company
- This isn’t a viable option for everyone. A colleague with whom you’ve worked is always better than a smart stranger. The only way to have technical colleagues is by having worked at a company with them, of course. This method means a long journey, however, as you can’t just work at an edtech company, than leave in a few months with their developers. It’s a small industry and you could lose a lot of goodwill that way. If you can spend at least a year at an edtech company, you may be able to create meaningful relationships with technical colleagues that may join you.
- Go to a Startup Weekend EDU
- Startup Weekend EDU is a weekend-long “hack-a-thon,” where various people come together to build a website or mobile app in that timeframe. It’s an intense adrenalin- and caffiene-fueled event. The audience includes idea people, marketers, designers, and developers. The first day starts off with all the idea people pitching their ideas to the whole room. Then everyone is free to walk around to learn more about each idea. The best ideas eventually attract teams of others – which hopefully includes developers too. It’s not easy to attract developers, but it is possible if you know how to appeal to them.
- Go to edtech meetups
- Meetups are formal or informal gatherings of people facilitated by the site Meetup.com. Some cities, though not many, have a large enough edtech community to host edtech-specific meetups. Silicon Valley has one, but not many others do. These meetups tend to attract more entrepreneurs than educators, including some developers. Ed-Tech Meetup is the most popular one in San Francisco.
- Be an inspirational champion for an cause
- Build up your personal brand both offline and online. Get involved in relevant organizations & volunteer groups. Become a recognized leader. I know of one charismatic individual who’s done this on Quora, Twitter, and guest blog posts. He doesn’t have a technical background, but you can just feel an aura of eventual success around him. This isn’t a guarantee of finding developers, but it can make it easier to convince one to join you.
These tips can also help you find a technical cofounder, though knowing whether or not someone will make a good cofounder is an entirely different topic. At the very least, these can help you find developers to help build a MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and get your edtech startup off the ground.