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Yegor Bugayenko
12 January 2016

Good Programmers Don't Work for Equity

“You’re a good programmer. I’m a great entrepreneur. This is a breakthrough idea. Help me build it. I don’t have cash, but I will give you equity. Deal?” I hear this at least once a month, and I always say no. Not because I don’t like your idea. Indeed, it is really interesting. And not because I’m too busy. I would definitely find time for a good idea. It’s not that. I say no because I don’t think you’re a good entrepreneur.

So you want a good programmer to build your product. Or maybe a group of good programmers. And you are ready to give me some equity in exchange. That’s reasonable.

But what is your part of the deal?

How much are you putting on the table?

You say that you’re a good entrepreneur, right? How come you don’t have money, then? How come you can’t find someone to pay for the work of a good programmer?

I will create a product for you, but you will most certainly fail. You already failed. You failed to find initial investment to cover the startup expenses of the business. Why do you think you will succeed after the product is ready?

The point is that a good programmer will never work for equity. Not because a good programmer is greedy, or doesn’t want to risk, or doesn’t believe in new ideas. Not at all.

A good programmer wants to work with a good entrepreneur. And a good entrepreneur knows how to find money. That’s the definition of a decent entrepreneur.