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So I'm literally just starting a start-up in the Education Industry. A very broad summary that leaves out the vast majority of the idea is that it's a true education management system, one that doesn't just act as a fancy (and very expensive) agenda but helps them along the way. And one that works with school, rather than instead of it.

But my question is where could I find developers who will work for shares of the company, regardless of my age (I'm 15)?

I've begun some very minimal work on the idea itself, designed some of the Teacher Client and part of the database I can't do a whole lot very quickly, and this needs to get going fast because I'm sure there's already people out there doing something very similar. I'm aware of current solutions such as Blackboard or WebAssign and it's very different from those, however for reasons I cannot say without the other party signing a NDA

edit: Holy shit I was not expecting this many replies, after posting this question and asking around a few more places the general consensus seems to be that I should do it myself, because at this point I'm in the same boat as those business-types who have good ideas but they just need programmers, however I don't think I have the knowledge to go as far as I want with it by myself, especially in the beginning. What I was really hoping for was finding people who have some free time alongside their primary job who would want to work on an idea on the side but those kinds of people seem to be scarce. I can do this by myself but just not really quite as well as I want

On a sort-of-unrelated note to this question, could I also get some help finding some decent Software Design guides? I really don't have a structured plan at all and it's sort of been start programming and design as I go

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closed as off topic by gnat, Walter, Ryathal, Jim G., Yannis Aug 4 '12 at 13:48

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With so little capital of your own, if you find anybody willing to invest at such a significant level (time or money), you'll quickly find yourself with very little share of the company. –  NickC Dec 21 '10 at 6:27
Also, try answers.onstartups.com (StackExchange site) for better advice than programmers.SE. Very nearly if not actually off topic here. –  NickC Dec 21 '10 at 6:28
@Indebi Also, speaking on OnStartups.com you ought to read about why an NDA might not be a great idea (and could help answer to this very question) - onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/189/… –  NickC Dec 21 '10 at 6:36
If you do not even have money to pay your developers, how do you plan to pay for advertising, marketing etc.? In my eyes, you are by far too optimistic. Good luck, you'll need it. –  user281377 Dec 21 '10 at 8:40
I think the life lesson most of the answers are trying to get at is "Seriously awesome ideas are actually cheap. We all have them, all the time. Time is not. I'm not going to spend my limited time executing your ideas instead of mine". See this article: techdirt.com/articles/20100202/0325368007.shtml including Jeff's take: codinghorror.com/blog/2010/01/cultivate-teams-not-ideas.html –  MGOwen Dec 23 '10 at 4:52

15 Answers 15

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Like many others have said: nowhere.

But it doesn't end there.

If you really want to make it work, then there are steps you can take:

1. Build A Prototype

Something that shows what your system is capable of. Doesn't have to be pretty.

2. Make A Business Plan

Figure out how you're going to market the product, who you're going to market it to, and how much you can feasibly charge for it considering your target market. Lots of banks have business plan builders on their websites for you.

3. Seek Venture Capital

Think banks and, investment firms (like ycombinator). Note that nearly every investment company will require a very detailed business plan to even let you walk in the door - and the still might not read it.

I'm fortunate to be friends with a number of successful entrepreneurs (3, two of which became multi-millionaires, and the other isn't that rich, but wants for nothing). All of them went through the process of writing their business plans whether or not they were seeking funding. It can take a year or more to write a detailed business plan.

4. Pay Programmers With Your VC Funding

That's really the best way to go about it. The benefit is that, through making your business plan you will be forced to take a good strong look at what your idea really is.

Then, if you do get VC funding, you're off to the races. Most VCs will also have people that will help with parts of running a company (and usually take a higher share of the company).

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I appreciate your help –  Display Name Dec 24 '10 at 18:49
main problem is almost always the prototype stage for most people. Cause it's like a promise without any backup. It doesn't hurt if you have some things you have already done or accomplished something...even doing masters in area that is relevant counts. Also if you have friends who have complimentary skills that is great too. Otherwise, you need to really push yourself....find people who compliment skills. Risk lots of money. And Look very dedicated and professional. Also Have above average social skills, if not already than develop them. –  Muhammad Umer Dec 30 '13 at 19:03

The correct answer to this question is: nowhere

Nowhere will you find anyone investing hunderds of hours without ever seeing a single penny back. Sure stock is nice, but why make yourself dependent to anyone else, when you can just ask payment.

Consider this: do you offer the same stock options to buy your chair and desk to work at? Or when buying pens for that matter?

Why insist on treating programmers worse than when you are buying a pen? Its pretty insulting to us all!

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Well not nowhere. If this was true there would be no open source projects. People tend to spend their time on interesting things. Interesting to them. And who said they won't get any money. Stock is not nothing. Think of Microsoft at the beginning. If somebody offered you stock back then you'd be a millionaire by now. But since you're narrow minded, you wouldn't accept something as stupid as stock... ;) No offence. I was just exaggerating to point out that he's not completely doomed. –  Robert Koritnik Dec 21 '10 at 15:30
That's nice, but you are forgetting a few things: Microsoft offered you a paycheck back then as well, and open source projects don't get payed from the get go, so there won't be any expectations. My opinion is that stock should be a bonus, and never be the sole payments of your efforts. –  Arcturus Dec 21 '10 at 16:11
@Robert Koritnik: Open source projects are (generally) worked on by people who already have jobs, and are seeking self actualization (a la Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), not people living off bread and jam - which you will be if you're offered stock in Joe Schmoe's startup. –  Steve Evers Dec 23 '10 at 3:56

The real answer is: in the mirror. Figure it out yourself - even if the business doesn't pan out, you'll have learned how to write software for your own business, and you'll be able to use that skill for the rest of your life.

I'm a programmer and software entrepreneur, and you're about the age I was when I started programming.

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+1 - Yep, you'll learn more about your product, more about what you're dealing with and develop useful skills. –  Jon Hopkins Dec 21 '10 at 15:17
+1: And you'll learn a lot more about your customers. –  Steve Evers Dec 23 '10 at 4:01
+1: You need to do a substantial part of the work yourself to convince anybody that this is not just hot air, and they have to do all the work. –  user1249 Jan 28 '11 at 9:21

This isn't really on topic, but here goes....

Why would anybody work on your project for equity? Clearly, they'd have to expect that equity to be worth something on the average. This means they need some reason to expect to get some money, and possibly strike it rich. (Most good developers can get a comfortable living getting paid in money, so about the only thing a startup could offer is a chance of making millions of dollars in a reasonably short time.)

What do you have to offer as assurance? It isn't business experience or capitalization, obviously. Your idea is doubtless worth less than you think it is (ideas aren't valuable without execution), and if you're unwilling to share it except under an NDA you're not recruiting anybody with it. (NDAs aren't free, by the way, and competent people won't sign one without a good reason. Nobody wants to sign one to hear a silly idea - and before signing they won't know if it's good - and open themselves up to later lawsuits.)

The only thing you've got to offer is you. Look for people you already know who have a good opinion of you. Your age is a problem for at least two reasons. First, most 15-year-olds aren't very mature, and nobody wants an immature business partner. You may well be an exception, but only people who know you will know that. Second, you probably can't legally sign valid contracts and run a business yet, so you'll have to have a parent or guardian firmly on board. Another possible one is that you likely don't have the experience to know if this is really a good idea or whether it's salable (and those are two separate questions).

You've been doing some work on it, and that's good. That shows some commitment, and if it's good work it should show some of the possibilities. You can continue working on it in your spare time. Another thing you could do is a little market research: find out exactly who to sell to, and how likely they are to buy. Unfortunately for you, educational institutions can be very conservative about their software. If you can show a working bare-bones system and some market research, you're in a much better position.

Finally, remember that startups fail most of the time. Don't let the project interfere with graduating from high school or anything else vital. You really don't want to wind up with a failed startup and no high school diploma. Once you're out of high school, you can probably afford to fail, so if you still think it worthwhile you can concentrate on it more fully.

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I sort of agree, but I also feel as though I need to put a LOT of time and effort into it if I want it to even remotely have a chance of succeeding, the kind of I've put it into is some code here and there, I've designed the more important parts of the Teacher Client's UI (It's in Silverlight) and had it parse XML for things like Assignments, Units, Tests, Courses, and Students, but I get sort of frustrated I guess with the amount of time this is taking and with how difficult web development is in comparison to something as simple as WinForms (and this is all in C# by the way) –  Display Name Dec 23 '10 at 1:58
+1. And on the point of failure: The success stories of young people doing great things and dropping out of school are fantastic stories, but the stories you don't hear are the ones about businesses that failed miserably and now that person is less a job, money and an education. The latter are infinitely higher in quantity. –  Steve Evers Dec 23 '10 at 4:05

Guys like you might be interested. Young kids with lots of time and development enthusiasm. But I suggest you consult some real-life project manager to manage your project.

But even: Even serious professional developers may be interested if the project is promising. But since they're more experienced they may get majority of the product.

Knowing my ideas when I was young it was great to do stuff with friends. But only those with clear objectives got finished. Like a research project at school. Because we had to finish it. We decided what to do, teachers decided whether it's good enough and sort of managed the ongoing effort. But most of the ideas we had were either looking so promising and great to us, but would not have so much market impact as we may've thought.

One of the main things is also that having a one of a kind, super duper product isn't destined for success. Nowadays other things are more relevant with success than just a great product.

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The problem is I don't know other people like me –  Display Name Dec 23 '10 at 1:51
@Indebi: Sure you do... There's always a few geeks on every school. –  Robert Koritnik Dec 23 '10 at 7:58
  1. Invent a time machine.

  2. Travel back to 1999 and the dotcom boom when developers were willing to accept shares of stock in lieu of pay. (Ask them how that worked out, by the way).

  3. Get a fake ID so that your employees will think they are working for someone old enough to own a company with shares of stock.

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1) is already invented. You need a Star Gate and a suitable solar flare. It will take you back in time. –  user8685 Dec 21 '10 at 15:14
@Developer Art: So the only thing the OP has to do now is get into the air force and be awesome. –  Steve Evers Dec 23 '10 at 4:07
@SnOrfus: Pretty much so. Or go dig out another gate from the Antarctic. –  user8685 Dec 23 '10 at 12:44

Find a hobbyist!

A hobbyist will do this for free and consider stock options a bonus. A hobbyist will dedicate their life to a project and sustain a completely unrelated paying job like working mcdonalds to feed themselves. I hobbyist will turn down direct payment but might accept gifts.

A hobbyist will preach "It's not all about the money", and although programming can be fun, it is in fact about the money. A hobbyist will spew the most useless garbage and theory based on no real world experience, but their 2 or 3 applications which output "hello world" in 45 different colors.

My point is, if somebody DOES agree to do work for free for what requires an extended comitted effort on their part, they're not worth it - even for free.

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Are you serious? Once money is involved, its no longer a hobby, and things will turn out very ugly very soon. A hobbist cannot be bothered for bugs, support and such things, since his McDonalds manager will not allow him to call with customers when flipping burgers.. –  Arcturus Dec 21 '10 at 9:49
No, I'm not serious. Imagine that! An answer which isn't validated by university professors! Some people here need to loosen their knickers. –  Damien Roche Dec 21 '10 at 10:12
Ah ok.. well if you read your post in a serious voice, it sounds very convincing :) –  Arcturus Dec 21 '10 at 11:57

You're only 15. You should learn more about the world first. When you turn 16, go work in retail involving technology and develop a sense of what technology users love and hate. This will be invaluable for a startup.

And for crying out loud, enjoy your adolescence and ask out as many girls as possible.

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You should look into Techcofounder.com and startupfly.com

Also post it in craigslist forums for software development

Your passion for beginning a start up is very commendable, but please understand that the programming folks will be investing a lot of of their time and energy into it. If you think paying by stocks is worth it, you need to think this through and through.

Have a business plan ready and by that I mean a good old fashioned one where you have technical and financial milestones in place, who heads sales and how do you differ from competition, how do you intend to go about funding, diluting plans, exit strategies etc.

Do not approach people if you have not thought through this far.

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What you are asking is not that unreasonable. I would also suggest that if you have some more questions about startups you could check Stack Exchange's very own startups site. They have a great community there and are all about building relationships and help each other to information and getting connected.

You should check out these questions on that site. If you read some of the answers it provides links to sites that are exactly what you are after.

Don't be put off by most of the answers here saying you won't find people willing to work for stock or whatever. If you are passionate and believe in yourself and be prepared to learn some lessons then you can find people who want to do the same thing as you if you can convince them to believe in what you are trying to build.

If you have something very worthwhile you might want to get your parents to help you with legal advice before signing anything. If you can find people that will work for a future share in your business they won't want to do it without the paperwork.

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Nobody is going to consider working for just shares. Find an investor to sell shares to and then you can pay your programmers with money.

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Have you tried any of the nearby universities ? When i was going to one, there were many offers for internships and jobs at the local startups. You might get lucky enough to stumble across a few candidates that are in it for the pure interest and experience. Sure, you might not get the quality workforce of the veteran developers, but beggars can't be choosers.

The idea is complemented by a fact, that you're actually building an education management system.

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Even with Stock options most Startup do pay good enough. It is the hard work and Job insecurity that they want to compensate with the Stocks. Why dont you consider hiring people as free lancers to get some work done ELSE friends might help in work/money.

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Most programmers will not work for stock option. You know it's the little things like paying the bills that prevent us to.

Additionally, at age of 15 you are legally not able to act as an NDA signatory without parental consent anywhere in the world.

So I'd say you either better be that new someone who is going to be admitted to a Ph.D. program at an Ivy League university at the age of 19 ( like one of the Google founders ), or get a bit of a reality check.

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If its shares of a different company (already trading on an exchange), they'll probably work :).. But thats just equivalent to cash anyways.

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