How To Recruit A Technical Co-Founder With Lean Content



Note: This post has been updated with comment from founder Daniel Vitiello.

A provocative advertisement popped up on my Facebook feed yesterday. Unlike most ads that beg for my digital affection, this one asked a simple question: “Will you be my co-founder?” Unusual. Definitely worth a click.

Cofounder Ad Screenshot

The clickthrough rerouted me to a full-page YouTube video where I was greeted by Daniel Vitiello, who explained that what I was watching was pin-pointed to me based on specific information in my Facebook profile. Through Facebook’s fine-grained ad targeting platform he knows I’m in San Francisco, and that I’m into tech startups. He’s right, of course. And I am very impressed.

Daniel is looking for someone with a background similar to mine to be the co-founder of Yota, a marketplace for personal shopping data.

People who use Yota upload photos of their shopping receipts and can sell the data directly to data brokers and advertisers.

Harvesting and selling consumer data is a multi-billion dollar industry, Vitiello says in the video. Right now major players like Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon are reaping huge profits in an unregulated industry. Yota would serve as a platform to give consumers more control over their data, as well as earn some of the money their data is worth.

Beyond the precision of his message, it’s clear Vitellio is a customer development pro. He “got out of the building,” and surveyed hundreds of people before building anything. He was able to identify the problem, build a persona of his ideal user, and form revenue-generating partnerships with a quasi-functional prototype. Now all he needs is the technical talent to get the platform to scale. Hence the very clever and genuine ads on Facebook.

Daniel Vitiello Yota

As you can see from the YouTube screenshot more than 700 people have watched the video. While it’s no Harlem Shake, it’s still a spectacular feat.

The privacy settings on the YouTube clip prevent accidental discovery by people who just happened to be watching related content. Only those people with the exact URL can watch, and that the exact audience for whom the message was intended.

My background is non-technical, but on Facebook I have liked myriad publications and brands that label me as a die-hard tech geek. Good use of breadcrumbs, my friend.

Vitellio has also perfectly demonstrated “lean content,” in action. You don’t need to speak to thousands of people anymore to get your message to the critical few who need it. Think small and win big.

Using the same technique as Vitiello it is now possible for any brand or startup willing to invest the time upfront to create lean content that speaks powerfully and intentionally to a microniche audience.

Better still, because Vitiello targeted his ideal co-founder so precisely, he’s not wasting any money on ad impressions or clickthroughs from poor quality matches (unless you count non-technical geeks like me). Lean content cuts through the noise and the ROI is trackable and immediate.

There’s a lean content meetup in San Francicso next week, and I’m even more thrilled to be going.

So how did the lean content recruiting work? I wanted to know. Below are my questions along with Daniel’s responses.
CC: What prompted you to buy a targeted Facebook ad?

DV: I recently heard about software that can scrape Facebook user ID’s from groups and pages. When I learned that you could upload the list of ID’s into Facebook’s ad platform I was excited by the opportunities this presented. I imagined the different ways you could apply this to be hyper relevant and personal in ad campaigns. This let to my first experiment of buying ads to target developers living in san francisco.

CC: What characteristics were you searching for?

DV: I tried to find pages and interests to scrape IDs from that only a developer would like. This included pages like Hacker News and Github which only provided a few thousand results each. I was able to find a much bigger audience when looking at general interests of “computer software” and “programming language.” I then further narrowed it down by targeting an audience living in san francisco aged 20-30.

CC: How many people match your search criteria?

DV: In the initial ad campaign I had a potential reach of 4,460 people. After split testing several different titles and pictures for the ads to optimize the conversion rate, I expand the potential reach to 19,800 by adding additional interests that still fit within the scope of being mainly developers.

CC: How many developers have contacted you?

DV: I have had over 20 people contact me after seeing the video so far. Most of them are developers but a couple are biz dev guys who are interested in the idea and potentially working together have reached out as well. I was surprised when a girl emailed me saying she had seen my video on the art of ass kicking blog when after a quick google I found this:

CC: What other methods have you tried to find a co-founder?

DV: I have gone to dozens of different cofounder networking events on meetup, pitched to developers at pitch events, and looked at the find a cofounder sites online. I find that in person at one of those events it is difficult to get your entire idea across and really attract that interest. Especially when you want to create something that has never been done before.

CC: What are some unconventional technical recruiting methods that inspired you? 

I really admire the automation that Noah Kagan sets up when he is recruiting for a new position. He showed me how to set up autoresponders and email filters to make the process of wading through applicants exponentially faster. However with my method nearly every lead that has come in has been someone that I want to continue a conversation with. Since I positioned my advertising and video to only attract quality leads I haven’t needed to set up a filtering process yet.

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