Programmer For A Startup. How To Find?

How to find a programmer for a startup or your project? Many programmers for startup are shy of customers, they drink a lot of coke and they have a strange sense of humor. Sooner or later, you’ll probably come to a point in your business where you need to find a programmer for a startup. Maybe your project has grown (you had success: congratulations!) Or your idea exceeds your technical abilities. Now you have two options: learning by yourself or find a programmer. So, how to find a programmer?

Requirements and project planning

First, you need to know that there are differently specialized programmers for each type of project. So you have to find out what you need and what it needs. This, of course, depends on your project and the resulting requirements.

This is similar to a craftsman: A plumber is usually not the best choice to lay your floor.

programmer for a startup
programmer for a startup

First: Each programmer speaks only a certain number of programming languages. For example, if you want to implement a web project (say, a web page with an XY function), PHP would be a common language. However, PHP alone would not be enough to implement a project. This should still require skills in MySQL, JavaScript and HTML / CSS. You can do the same thing with PHP, but also with .NET, Perl, Ruby or Node.js.

This is similar to an editor: If you want to run a Spanish website, then an editor who speaks fluent Finnish probably will not bring you that much.

When it comes to assessing which programming languages or skills your programmer needs to be able to provide, perhaps friends can help you formulate the technical requirements. If necessary, you can also ask a programmer-friendly for his assessment.

Types of programmers

There are different types of programmers for a startup: the software architect, the application developer, the “frontend” and the all-rounder.

The software architect develops the architecture of complex systems and lays the technical foundation. You need him for large complex projects. If you ever get to the point where you have several thousand users and you reach your capacity limits, then you should have at least one good software architect. Often, software architects also find themselves in the role of project manager. Most of the time, they only program a little, or rather evaluate requirements and create basic frameworks.

The frontendler puts simply your layout around. It creates graphical user interfaces and makes sure that your (web) project looks like your layout and makes the whole project pretty. A good Frontendler usually has a graphics background, so it can deal with graphics programs and even graphics create yourself. Often frontend artists are graphic designers who have taught themselves HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This is also referred to as the web designer (although that sometimes only describes a graphic designer who creates layouts for the web).

The application developer (sometimes referred to in the US as Code Monkey) is hardworking beeing at projects. He brings the project to life, creates forms, reads values from the database, and provides daily support. Often, front-end and application programmers for a startup are close to each other or take over the same areas.

The all-rounder is a mixture of all mentioned areas. Many freelancers are all-rounders, simply because the customer demands it. Similar to a caretaker who takes care of the heating, repair the door and even paints walls. It is in the nature of things that not all areas can be covered in the same quality. For many web projects that works surprisingly well.

The preparation

First, there are two cases: You have a budget or you have no budget. Of course, budgeting makes it easier, because many people prefer to work for money.

Without a budget, you have to convince the programmer for a startup. Please understand that not every programmer can stand everything for your idea. Most developers are overwhelmed during their working lives with inquiries from small startups or people with great ideas on how to do the next Google or Facebook (look for “clients from hell”). Exaggerated, it’s a bit of a love affair. You have to advertise the programmer for a startup and present your idea to him. This is the same situation as every pitch for your project: you have to show why your project is so cool.

Personally, I am afraid of any phrases or overly general statements. Highlight the advantages and unique selling points of your idea. Maybe you show a small presentation or a video of your idea.

Then you should also clearly state what you are willing to give. For example, one way would be to offer a service to you. In my opinion, this is better than advertising directly with company participation (unless your idea is already successful and has proven that it works). If you live in a cool place (or have a vacation rental there) you might as well exchange a stay for programming. I once had the offer to travel to Africa for 4 weeks, to live in an apartment on the beach and to surf with the customer, against the creation of a Typo3 Extension.

You should also communicate your time ideas and ask if they are feasible. Especially for projects without a budget, the programmer for a startup has to do the work in his free time and earn some money for his living. Programming is an exhausting brain work and most developers are pretty drained from their normal day job.

Whether budget or no budget, above all, your planning in advance is important. Programmer for a startup does not take away the design of the application. It’s best to use Powerpoint or a similar tool to create a so-called wireframe of your application. This is a kind of sketch from the different views of your application. There are also free online editors. Search for “Create Wireframe Online” on google. For each wireframe, there are a few more explanatory sentences for each view.

The closer you work here, the better the developer can estimate the work and the time required to complete it. In addition, you shorten the later realization time, because you clarified so early on conceptual issues.

Should you plan to develop your application abroad, then this preparation is even more important, because there is still a language barrier to it.

Ideally, you will supplement your wireframes with graphical layouts. So views as the whole after really should look like. Depending on the size of your project, it may make sense to lay out the whole view directly.

In a shop, for example, it makes no sense to outline all views as wireframes before, since most shops here are very similar.

programmer for a startup
programmer for a startup

The pitch – “How to find a programmer for a startup ?”

Now that you have prepared your documents, formulated your offer and reviewed your sentences, now it’s up to you to hunt.

A good place, of course, is events like the startup games. In any case, the programmers present here have already demonstrated a degree of open-mindedness through their participation and are also interested in new projects. Here you may also get valuable feedback from the developer’s perspective.

You can also do a detailed search at Xing. Here you have to be a premium member to start the corresponding search jobs and to write people. Keep a nice picture in your profile and keep your cover letter personalized and personalized. Please take a look at the profile of the respective developer. If necessary, there are already things that he does not want (such as an offer for a permanent position).

When searching, you should set your region as a filter and search for the technical terms that your project requires. For a WordPress project, you should search for “WordPress”, for a Typo3 project for “Typo3 Developer” etc.

Personally, I prefer customers who come straight to the point and do not first make a contact request without obligation. In your request should be your concern, a rough outline of the project and the question of whether there is interest. Please mention directly if you have a budget or not. Maybe the developer has no time but is ready to give you an estimate or recommend a colleague.

As further contact options offer programmers forums or outsourcing platforms. Forums sometimes have a mixed quality. Here you need time to find a forum with good developers or friendly developers.

The last option is the classic recommendation. I got to know a big part of my customers buy recommendation. Here there is often a direct confidence because you have a mutual acquaintance.

At Xing, for example, you can specifically search for contacts in my contacts and ask them to make contact.

Assessment of performance

It is often difficult for an outsider non-programmer to estimate the quality of a programmer. Nevertheless, there are some criteria in which you can see in my view, whether a programmer understands something of his work or not.

First of all, do not look at degrees. The fact is: In the study (no matter if college or university) you do not learn programming. It’s far from enough of the curriculum. The people who have studied computer science (to finish) may forgive me here. Although it is certainly not different in other professions here. One of the best programmers I know has undergone a normal education as a computer scientist.

Ask for references and take a look at a few projects created by the programmer for a startup of your choice. Ask for and let you tell about the project, of any problems or if he still works with the then client. The more similar the reference projects are to your project, the better.

In my view, long-term business relationships with agencies or other programmers are also a good sign. Apparently, in the past, the delivered quality and performance was right.

What counts in the end: Do you feel understood and can explain your technical subjects such that you understand them? Does he develop an understanding of your project in the conversation and, if necessary, propose other solutions to avoid problem areas?

Programmers for a startup is in high demand. A criterion could also be its available time. Although I also know enough excellent programmers who market themselves lousy and therefore always have little to do.

The implementation

Before the implementation, you should have clarified the expenses. If you have a budget, it’s best to have an offer made about the project realization. In the offer, you should “find” your project again. The offer should be based on your wireframes.

Important are the materials that have to be delivered by you and the realization period.

It should be clear that project changes can involve budget changes. For this purpose, the costs for work outside of the offer should be defined.

You should define small project sub-steps and take them along with the programmer to get a feel for the progress.

It is best to define realization periods together, where a task is completed.

In project communication, using a project management system will help you. I can recommend Active Collab or a system like Basecamp. It allows you to collect, assign and edit tasks without losing track, even in a team of multiple developers.

I can only recommend that you do most of the communication in written form. So important information or agreements are not lost. Nothing is worse than later discussion, whether something was discussed during a telephone conversation or not.

The testing

Sometimes you do not see the forest for the trees. This also applies to the programmer for a startup. After completing or achieving partial steps, you should test the things well. This includes all functions as well as the deliberate false filling of masks.

Each project still has bugs. The developer is often blinded by the implementation here. Therefore, large companies also employ their own test departments.

Common mistakes

Here I list the common mistakes that communication developers face. A customer can arise. These are of course purely subjective from my personal experience and that of colleagues. How to find a programmer for a startup?

  • Projects should not be planned too narrowly and should allow for a test phase!
  • You should clearly define and visualize what you want. Ideas or assumptions that “always doing something” as you imagine it is dangerous!
  • The larger the project, the less likely it will be for a programmer to finish it without a budget. Subdivide your project therefore into working subprojects with manageable effort. Nevertheless, communicate what you want to achieve with the project at some point so that the developer can consider it in the choice of its structure!
  • The more trouble you give to the preparation, the better for your project. Everything else acts as if you are lazy and you want to shift the work!
  • Be careful with guilty formulations. Rather, try to understand the problems that occur and how to solve them. You should have a basic understanding of the technical side of your project!
  • Accept competence limits. If you want to discuss the meaning of HTML validity with your developer, for example, then do it only if you understand the subject matter!


Hi. My name is Daria Maksimenko. I am a content specialist at outsourcing company IT Craft.