Brad Hargreaves | Building Things

Brad Hargreaves on entrepreneurship, community and life

Finding Developers and Women

with 5 comments

I’ve been stewing over this post for a while. It gets a little bit closer to being written every time I meet with an “idea guy” who is looking to find a hacker to build his or her (but typically his) dream site. Interestingly, a lot of these guys spend a decent amount of their spare time at an analogous task: picking up women.

I’ve always wondered why they don’t see the natural parallels. For some reason, the principles that apply to meeting women are a lot easier for people to intuitively grasp than the same principles applied to meeting developers. Unfortunately, most of these guys happen to live in NYC, where there are way more available women than available technical cofounders. But the same ideas apply:

Go into their world. If you’re looking for single women, you probably need to venture outside of sports bars. Go to a more female-friendly club or volunteer for a cause. Go anywhere single women congregate. Similarly, I meet way too many “business guys” who only hang out with people like themselves — other business guys — and stick around events and meetups that are dominated by folks who think pointers are the handheld lasers you use to give Powerpoint presentations. If you want to meet the technical co-founder of your dreams, you need to find the places they hang out — technology-specific meetups and user groups, Hackers and Founders, et cetera.

Understand their motivations. Or alternatively, “Don’t assume their motivations are the same as yours.” In the dating scene, this is obvious — not everyone wants the same thing from the evening’s encounter. And as many of us know, variations in motivation and interests can lead to some pretty awkward situations. Similarly, developers often have very different motivations than non-technical entrepreneurs. First of all, many (most) developers aren’t entrepreneurs. Given that entrepreneurship can be a bizarre and irrational pathology, this can make for a pretty big delta in motivations, perspectives and interests. Money, for instance, may or may not be a big motivator to an engineer — in fact, I’d say a plurality of engineers I’ve met would say that making a lot of money would be “nice, but definitely not necessary.”

This is a generalization, and above everything it’s important to understand the motivations and interests of the individuals you’re talking to, not the generalized category “developer”.

Show your value. Unemployed, balding 40-somethings have a much harder time picking up women than rich, balding 40-somethings. Truly smart, well-connected business co-founders aren’t easy to find. Be that person and demonstrate it early and often.

Speak their language. The number of “idea guys” who don’t even attempt to understand the basics of web development is hugely frustrating, both to me and most startup developers. Even if you can’t code, take some time and learn the basics. But don’t take learning the basics to mean that you actually know anything about making high-level development decisions — it just shows that you care. And like women in bars, technical co-founders appreciate it when you care.

Don’t try to fuck on the first date. Pretty self-explanatory. Get to know someone first, then seek a deeper relationship.

We need more hackers building startups and fewer writing black boxes for hedge funds, so I’m being honest when I say I hope more non-technical folks can use the skills they have to recruit talented developers into the startup world.

Written by Brad Hargreaves

October 10th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

  • Jameson Detweiler

    Brad, I think you absolutely hit the nail on the head here. I’m a “business guy” but this is how I’ve always gone about things. It boggles my mind how some other “business guys” go around trying to convince developers to join as co-founders (or even to work for free). I found my business partner at my company by showing that I had some skin in the game, cared about what I was building and wasn’t an idiot. I certainly did not find him at the places I normally hang out, and I didn’t “put the moves on” on the “first date.” I always draw this analogy when I explain it to people, but you’ve summed it up better than I ever could. I’ll definitely be sharing this post with others.

  • Ray

    Wow, I was completely taken off guard when I read, “Don’t try to f**k on the first date.” lol. Great analogy. Point well taken.

  • Keith Fitzgerald

    one other thing to add … i think biz folks read “speak their language” as “spend a few nights hacking on [insert language/framework du jour here]”. there’s nothing more offensive to a dev then spending a few nights/weekends hacking/googling/etc and act like you “know the codez”. most developers started on this journey in their early teens so you’ve got a lot of ground to cover if you want to be seen as someone who can dev. nngood developers see their work as their craft, great developers see it as art. nnthe best thing you can do if you’re coming at if from the business side is to understand the software development lifecycle, sprint planning and estimation, *user experience!!!*, and, ultimately, that software is made by humans and never perfect.

  • Scott Arneill

    Awesome post. In the tech startup world, non-technical “idea guys” are valued very little, and that’s probably fair, because without a technical cofounder to build your idea (or min. viable product to test and validate), it’s like running a race with one of those parachute training things attached to your back. But it can be done…nnBizarre analogy, I know. But I’ve….”been there”.nnNicely said Brad.

  • annmariastat

    I’m always amazed by the number of people who spend all day on twitter, blogs, Facebook going on about their business model while I am sitting at my desk coding. I wonder what exactly these people aim to sell? Yes, they are totally different groups. nn1,000 points for you for mentioning that the big motivator for technical people is not always a lot of money. I’ve had discussions at business events and I can see the blinders go on when the discussion of money comes up and I say, “Well, I’m pretty happy with my life,” to be met with a condescending, “Oh, so maybe you’ll always be satisfied making under seven figures. “nnThere are plenty of times I work half-way through the night, but it is because I am really fascinated by the work I’m doing, not because I need to buy more stuff to impress anyone.nnAs for finding women, 16 years ago when Internet access was primarily used by university researchers, my husband (who is a developer), wrote a program to make fractals, and on Valentine’s Day, attached a pink fractal to an email to me at the school where I was a new young professor and asked for a date. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, while my friends rolled their eyes in disbelief. I guess for both developers and women, value can be in the eye of the beholder.