Finding a technical co-founder for a new startup is notoriously hard. After struggling with it for a while, I decided to figure out exactly how hard it is.

To do that I simply estimated how many needles there are in the co-founder haystack. The answer is discouraging but intuitively accurate: **there are only about two thousand potential co-founders in the entire United States.**

### How hard? Let’s use Fermi Estimation

In Fermi estimation, we wave our hands and spin *minimal knowledge* into *approximate truth*. The goal is to quicky get an estimate that’s close enough to correct for our purposes. For a link-bait blog post, “close enough” is not very close at all. And that’s close enoughÂ®.

We do Fermi estimation by breaking down our final quantity (number of viable co-founders) into a chain of constituent quantities. I model the problem like this:

Viable co-founders =

(% of programmers who are 2 standard deviations above the mean)

* (total number of programmers in the world)

* (% of world population living in the USA)

* (% of Americans in a startup approriate age-range)

* (% of programmers who know a given technology)

Now we basically just guess each of those quantities (with a Google sense check if possible)

% of programmers who are 2 standard deviations above the mean = 2.5% (by math)

total number of programmers = 25 million (number of StackOverflow accounts)

% of world programmers in the USA = 5% (US pop as % of world pop)[1]

% of Americans in a startup approriate age-range = 20% [2]

% of programmers who know a given technology = 30% (guess)

### Now run the numbers:

Okay, so that all adds up to:

2.5% * 25,000,000 * 5% * 20% * 30% = *drum roll* **1875**

So that’s it! Out of a US population of 319 million, **a mere ~2000 people are viable co-founders**. That’s just 1 in 1.5 million people.

### Dang that’s hard.

Then factor in the fact that the vast majority of great programmers are already employed (or 3 years into starting their own succesful company), and that only a small % will have your same interests and a compatible personality. It becomes easy to see why *so many* startups deliver bad technology or are torn apart by co-founder conflicts.

So…good luck!

P.S. If you’re looking for an opportunity and love music, metadata, and HCIR, shoot me an email at george j london on gmail. Or if you just like Fermi estimations, follow me on Twitter