Cofounder

Does anyone have any tips on how to deal with a non-technical co founder who has a lot of technical opinions?

Juan Musleh Development Manager at Bitstrips

July 8th, 2013

I think I'm dealing with a scenario of "little knowledge is a dangerous thing". How much do you involve a non-technical cofounder in technical decisions? how do you let them know you're making good progress even if the "UI" is not polished.

Federico Marani Technical Architect

July 9th, 2013

Being a technical cofounder, I think reasons for this could be two. One is that is genuinely interested,  and the other is micromanaging.  I personally enjoy explaining how things work from the technical side, but, this being the common pattern, the risk is you don't get much done because of this analysis paralysis.
Curiosity is ok, but you have to be pragmatic about it. Micromanaging is really not ok, it's lack of trust and I would run away from it. There's a lot of work to do in startups,  each one has to deal with his own things.

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

July 8th, 2013

Patience, education, build trust. Most entrepreneurs are control freaks and imagine not knowing enough about something to control it... so sit in front of a white board, explain what you're doing and why... and show them the alternative (we could invest all the time in a great UI but we're likely going to redo it).

If it doesn't slow you down too much, explaining what you're doing and even soliciting input is great for the relationship... pretty soon they'll get tired of trying to understand the complexity and everyone will move on.

Peter K Chen

July 8th, 2013

It seems like maybe getting a design cofounder can help balance things out. Or at least other outside input so that this person can be more open to other people's opinions. I've found cofounders like that typically just need time. If time still hasn't resolved the issue then it could just be a bad personality match.

Todd Ellermann Experienced I.T. Leader, CTO, and Creative Entrepreneur

July 8th, 2013

Two thoughts: 1) establishing trust with a business person, whether startup or new job is always about finding the balance between sharing information, delivering on time, and NOT inviting too much meddling with the soufflé! 2) I have often sat down with business partner and envisioned a completed product. Then asked them about all the marketing material, flyers, brochures, press releases, gorilla marketing activities, sales pitch, pricing model, have them get on the phone and presale three customers( do everything BUT take the money. ) In other words bury them in the 100 other things they should be thinking about and working on. A product alone does not make a business. If they can't bring more customer insight to your world, you may want to stop now before you poor your time into a failing BUSINESS, no matter how brilliant the idea seems. Todd R. Ellermann VP Engineering Virtualtourist.com

Ryan Rich

July 8th, 2013

Having dealt with a lot of clients during my freelance career I can say that prefacing demos goes a long way. If your co-founder isn't part of the technical team then schedule demo times for input but preface those demos with the fact that they are rough'd in, or that you're just testing a new feature, or that the UI is just temporary. 

People can always have good ideas; whether they're technical or not. The key is to find the right time to have those ideas introduced. A useful tool is to have a weekly show and tell; just like back in elementary school. Have your technical team sit down and hear what your business dev. and marketing teams are up to and vice versa. 

To ultimately answer your question of: "how do you let them know you're making good progress even if the "UI" is not polished."  Your other co-founder is either a.) very inexperienced, or b.) is very unreasonable. If you're finding a hard time talking about a simple demo to this person then look out for when bigger decisions and discussion come into play. 


Jacob Dvir Dreams Maker through Innovation

July 8th, 2013

Pretty simple: step on his/hers toes as well Sent from my  iPhone.

Rob Mathewson

July 8th, 2013

Is this the marriage counseling forum? :-) I think patience is in order, especially if this is your non-tech partner's first-ever development cycle. Growing pains should be expected. Set expectations in advance. Perhaps suggest some background reading. If your cofounder is indeed bringing the business skills that your team needs, then it's in both your interests to find a way to work together.

Meghan Conroy

July 8th, 2013

Having been this person - i think that the best option is to set clear expectations from the start - and then meet those expectations - smaller builds - faster iterations meet both of your desires... It is when you don't know what is happening or what to expect - that it makes it challenging to deal. Say for the next week we will be doing - xyz and let them see the progess at the end of the week. DOes this make any sense?

Anonymous

July 9th, 2013

I agree that it's similar to a client relationship, so...
  • share early share often
  • under-promise and over-deliver
  • double all time estimates 
But to answer your first question, should they be making technical decisions? No. They should help create use cases, white board user flows, and generating other requirements. But they should not be making any decisions about implementation.


Jacob Dvir Dreams Maker through Innovation

July 9th, 2013

Hi Robert, I think that Juan is referring to a situation where his cofounder is micro managing him. It should be easy to explain tech issues to investors/customers but they don't care much about tech... only if it's useful to them and how it's making their lives easier. Like Steve Jobs would say: "The new iPhone is 2 times faster"... he never spoke about cores and MHz and stuff like that. Simple. Nice. Understood. This is not the case, as I understand it.