The Intern CEO
Posted by: Jesse Podell
If you're non-technical and "doing a startup", I have a pretty new idea that I'd like to float your way. If you're paying an external firm for development services, why not consider spending an extra few bucks and hire (for money) a newly minted web or mobile developer to work as a liaison between yourself and them? In this blog, I'm going to lay out what role he or she may add value, help spare you some mental anguish, and they never have to lay a line of code.
Most likely, unless you come from within the startup community and have had some early success you're not going to get a primo developer to drop everything they're doing to become a full time employee for your awesome idea. Even for all that equity. They're just in too high of demand. Now, if you're lucky enough to have secured funding in the hundreds of thousands before having a product, congratulations, there's a chance you'll be able to convince a developer to follow you to the gates of hell if- you start paying them a competitive salary immediately. So for most people, the search begins with the shotgun emails to their personal network to find a suitable firm to build.
Some Founder/CEO's have great familiarity with code. Some have even gone through an immersive themselves but know they couldn't possibly build the beautiful and functional version of their application that the world deserves. On the other side of the spectrum, there are founders that are ready to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars being while completely agnostic to which language framework they want the application to be built upon. Don't know what GitHub is. Don't really know what to do with the codebase is once the engagement is complete. There are many of these people, who are currently in very unsatisfying relationships with domestic and overseas development firms.
After working with dozens founder/CEO's as a founder of a Ruby on Rails development shop that at one point had 20 in staff, and my own experience years ago as a solo founder/entrepreneur, I would have benefitted from having someone on my side who had a clue, but also a person with whom there is no ambiguity in terms of their role, compensation, as well as none of the awkwardness about negotiating his/her equity split, options and 32 pieces of paper and two lawyers.
This individual would be paid, in actual money, just like the firm you're paying, but a whole lot less, to do the following for a certain number of hours per week:
Call him/her your code sherpa, your observer of the git, or your intern CTO. Good for his/her resume, makes your organization look more beefy than just you, and should only be about 10% more on top of what you're spending on those fancy developers you're using.
Where will you find these cheap and eager developers? The code schools of course! Usually these folks are not quite strong enough to work on a commercial project yet and need some hands on experience, so they'll jump at the opportunity to help you on the cheap!
Here's a list of the people you can talk to here in NYC alone that have eager, pre-vetted, talented individuals who are ravenous to learn more.