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I am 30 years old and just getting my feet wet as a software developer. I have some great ideas but am frustrated with how much time it takes to get a prototype running. Being late to the game, I could get things done much faster if I had experienced, seasoned developers to give me advice or help me collaborate. I fear if too many more years go by, It will just be too late for me to accomplish much.

I was told by a good friend to start putting projects up on Bit Bucket and invite him to do code reviews and guide me in good directions. Sounds good, but is this a good way to build a team fast?

How can I grow a big team of developers on a project with little to no money?

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Always put yourself in the position of the other person. Why should a programmer work for free to develop your idea? There must be some incentive, e.g. money or a shared vision. – dirkk Aug 22 '14 at 18:08
You're asking the classic greed question: "How can I get everything I want, now, with no cost to me?" The answer is always, "Quick, Good, Cheap: Pick two." – JS. Aug 22 '14 at 19:14
You can try to outsource, grab a willing friend or trade inexperience for enthusiasm, but I'd say that you are fighting a losing battle and the end result is likely to reflect what @JS says. – Michael Lai Aug 28 '14 at 6:49
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Well, there is one quick, honest, and real answer I can give to your question "how to build a team of developers with little to no money."

You don't.

99% of the time, it doesn't matter what your idea is. Most people can come up with good ideas, but it's execution that makes an idea stand out. I've once read an article that talks about success, but basically it's a 80/20 relationship between execution and the idea itself.

That being said, you had stated your goal was to use little or no money to get software developers. Reminder here - programmers -- especially good ones, understand opportunity cost well, and it's nearly impossible to sway a good programmer (the one you'll need) to work for you on equity alone. In his or her mind, they would just ask "why not just do this myself?"

You have to bring something stellar to the table.

Hate to burst your bubble, but here is what I consider stellar.

  • Amazing financial packages.

  • Promise of future success and reward

  • An incredibly good work environment that goes with either of the above bullets.

That's just the reality of building a team.

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A few ways this answer can be improved - "promises" is weak; anyone can promise, so just say he needs to have solve a company for $millions before. "amazing" financial packages, just come out and say it's probably six figures plus in an urban hub. "good work environment" might be like google's, where it's a hive of geniuses and all meals are covered. – djechlin Aug 23 '14 at 6:13
I'm afraid the OP would think he's in range of these things if left up to the imagination. OP is very wrong about his situation; he thinks he's off by 20% but he's really wrong by 4000%. So your answer shouldn't leave anything to the imagination. – djechlin Aug 23 '14 at 6:15
@djechlin you raise a very valid point, I'm necroing my own answer here, but I agree completely. The only way a 4000x developer would join the team for free is basically if the other founder was a 5000x developer he looked up to, or someone he for whatever reason immensely respected, given he had no financial needs and was capable of financing himself. – jdero Aug 25 '15 at 21:14

Can you eat with no money? No. The same way you cannot accomplish much with no money. That is a sad fact of life.

The only solution I see in your case is to form a team (2-4 persons) of developers with profit share who are willing to work for free on your idea and who believe that they can get some money or glory from the project.

Another way would be to apply to Google or similar service who fund non-profit projects which benefit society. This way you will be paid for the project you develop. Your experience will grow in time. You cannot escape from that.

And don't be afraid cause you're 30. In 10 years you will be 40 with a lot of experience and you can then start your own company with younger coders who have energy for coding. It's never too late.

Or as we say here, Jesus was baptized when he was 30. Am I a better Christian because I was baptized at birth?! :)

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Here are a few specific things you can do

  1. Do your customer research as your initial contribution and "sweat equity."

    This is actually surprisingly hard to do well (accurately) and the reason (in my experience) why successful companies are started by people with Problem-domain knowledge rather than technical (solution domain) experience. And the fact that it's hard it what gives it value. It's very true that Ideas have no value. They are a dime a dozen. But good market research is extremely valuable. You'll know you've done your research well if it leads to potential contacts (first customers, beta testers, etc.), which are also something more of value to offer a partner.

    Quantify the need for the solution. There are lots of ways to do this ( well-crafted surveys, customer interviews, adwords "test campaigns". This shows your are more serious than the majority of "Wantraprenuers" and validates your idea (potentially saving you from a really bad idea)

  2. Go to meetups (as @Erstwhilel sugested) to meet developers.
  3. Consider online outsourcers (
  4. Be willing to spend a little bit of money to find out if they can get the job done , and to demonstrate you are serious, and find out if you make a good team. Consider this dating before marriage. You'll need to pick up the tab :)
  5. If you find someone good you could offer them equity in the company and use your research from #1 to demonstrate how good the idea is. (Yes, you risk them "stealing" your idea, but that' part of the reason for vetting them in #4) and don't give them all the marketing research. Just answer enough questions to demonstrate it's a good idea. (If they are interested enough to ask good probing questions that's a good sign. And hopefully, addressing even half their questions with actual numbers, and the rest with "the numbers are above X, I can give you more info if you sign an NDA). BTW, giving up Equity always bothers me as an owner b/c this person might contribute some small amount to the company and then own 30% of a Million dollar company (unlikely I know). So one alternative is to give some equity but put a cap on the value of that. Again, try to view it from their perspective. They are taking a big risk contributing their time to something you own. If you think they'll be a good partner, treat them as such.
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Its tough. I know this issue quite well with my own venture. If you do not have money to pay people then you need to sell them on your vision. With that you will need to take what help you can get with what time people are able to provide to you.

As for your age I would not worry about it. Yes sometimes its a bit harder to seek venture capital, but in the end its nothing compared to the problems you have seen, and know how to solve.

With that I would say push yourself to get a working prototype as soon as possible. Then figure out how you can open it up to people who like the idea and will be able to "own" a part of the project. A few people to help with development, marketing, press, e.g. in exchange for public accolades.

Once you are able to get a few people owning different parts of the project will you then have your team. Keep in mind with no capital to back you it will be a far longer process, but thats not a bad thing because you learn how to organically scale.

Best of luck!

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You can find people to work with that will add funds to your idea if it really makes good bsuness sense or find programmers who work for "sweat equity" meaning that they will own part of the company in exchange for their work. Check out CoFoundersLabb and you might be able to meet people in your area and help fine tune your ideas even if you do not work with them.

As for your age, you need to understand that being part of a startup will require constant learning for the rest of your life. If you feel it is overwhelming, then you need to find a partner who can assist with the parts that are too much for you right now. It's very helpful to have a positive mindset that no matter the age, you will always have a lot to learn, and there are great people out there who can assist. Be open and meet some people!

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You would be better off finding "MEETUPs" in your area that bring together like minded folk ... and folks who have already had some success. The software programming aspects are just one (albeit necessary) element if you are looking to make some money. You will also need to understand whether your "great idea" matches some need in the marketplace, how to get your "minimum viable product" available and into the hands of your target market, and how to grow.

With the world filling with billions of "computer users" (i.e. folks with computers -- smartphones / wearables / ...) and a much smaller number of "software creators", we need to remember that our "software creator mindset" may NOT match that of the intended users.

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