Sales · Finding cofounders

Should I be a consultant or co-founder?

Donny Dye Vice President, Platform Sales, | Startup Sales Strategist | Comic Book Fan | Father

October 27th, 2014

Hi everyone,

So I have a bit of a dilemma. I am hearing quite a bit of variance of advice on what to do next.

Over the last 4 years, I have built a reputation and track record of building revenue within a couple of start-ups to substantial amounts (both to 8 figures).

This has given me the luxury of having options of what to do next when I decide to try something new.

The challenge I have is that I am not a developer or programmer. My skills are all in the areas of start-up sales strategy, vetting potential clients, and building scalable structures within companies.

When I bring this up to my career mentors, it is about a 50/50 split to either:
a. Join forces with a co-founder or early phase start-up
b. Become a consult and advise start-ups on moving from founder pitched to sales team driven revenue.

I would love to hear what you think.

Derek Bereit Startup founder || python neophyte, NY attorney, veteran || general counsel Nimbo || co-founder Symptomly | Techstars

October 27th, 2014

Depends what you want to do with your life -- sales will benefit both your options ("sales solve everything"):

(1) Consultant: flexible, focus on one skill, focus on diverse opportunities, no ownership of day-to-day grind, low excitement, limited upside (equity), low risk tolerance, limited energy required

(2) Co-Founder:  dive in, 1,000% time commitment to one company, long days and nights with your new partner(s), exhausting and frustration of launching something, satisfaction of launching something, high risk-to-reward, grind and roller-coaster, tap and build ever facet of your talent and potential talent. 

Tom Maiaroto Full Stack Consultant

October 27th, 2014

I personally always look for advisors/consultants. The reason why is because I rarely find someone passionate about my interests to be considered a co-founder. It's far easier to do a grunt fund, give a small stake, pay cash, or exchange services than it is to say ok let's get married and split this up in a big way... I find it far more valuable to have several people to reach out to for specific answers and guidance than having one or two or more co-founders. 

On the flip side. I think you might even do better by being a consultant. You free yourself up to play the field and pick and choose a bit more. When you find something you do happen to be passionate about, then maybe you can decide to jump in.

Candice Hughes, PhD, MBA

November 1st, 2014

I have been both a consultant and a startup founder. I think it depends on what stage of startups you want to be involved in. Early stage startups (pre-investor funding and early funded companies) are watching every penny. They just don't have the extra cash to pay consultants, much as they might like to. So if you really want this stage of stageup, it would be better to impart your wisdom as an accelerator mentor as an unpaid role where you can feel you're using your skills and giving back to the community. 

If you enjoy larger stage startups closer to an exit, then they may have the funds to pay you as a consultant.

As a consultant, you need to feel comfortable that you are an outsider, there for the short term. I consult for large global companies and I think of it as parachuting in, assembling a team, fixing a problem or implementing a plan, then riding off into the sunset. Then I'm on to the next thing.

If you want to feel more a part of the venture or be involved long term, you won't be satisfied as a consultant. Or if you want team camaraderie, you won't like being a consultant either.

Frederic Moreau Agile Business Transformer

October 27th, 2014

Re: @Donny - Consulting is my priority indeed, and it's also what I do best. That's why my startup project is about changing the way we all do consulting. I believe the industry (management consulting) has failed in providing a good, honest and cost-effective service to the vast majorities of businesses around the globe, and I include myself of course in this statement. FounderDating, Google Helpouts, Quora, Clarity, and other platforms offer interesting opportunities to connect, but they do not change the way we provide advises and they do not reach out to the vast majority of businesses who have limited time, money and knowledge to be advised although they'd be happy to. There is an opportunity here.

I meet and I advise many startup entrepreneurs, mostly for free, and many have great projects on the go. But I'm not looking to join one of them full time because I'm on a mission to something else. This make me happy to get up every morning. 
So what would make you get up happy every morning; helping someone else grow or bootstrapping a startup? 

Tom Maiaroto Full Stack Consultant

October 27th, 2014

@Donny Sales is precisely what I've been in need of for some time. The on going pain point for me is selling licenses to companies for a product and/or custom integrations (services) specifically to corporate. Navigating those deals and agreements is a major pain point. Connecting with buyers is harder.

My latest adventures have also taken me in a MRR direction with a lower price point targeting small businesses and individuals. This probably isn't as attractive to someone in sales. Far less opportunity for commission, etc. On the up-side, connecting with buyers directly is far easier.

However, both scenarios come with a lot of intricacies and an advisor for each (maybe it's a few advisors even who happen to specialize in x, y, or z) would be very helpful. 

...And of course when you're talking about a startup (a bootstrapped one at that) cash isn't always available. Commission, small amounts of equity (again remember pre-funding), these become the only thing to barter with. At least until there is funding (raised or via sales). I do like things like and such where you can pay by the minute/hour for advice too. Having a couple hundred here or there for some quality info and guidance is within I think most startup's budget.

As a consultant, I myself have had plenty of people paying me by the minute/hour in a similar fashion. It'd be great to simply have one big forum (or some format) to exchange knowledge and help, but I have yet to see that work. FounderDating is quite nice though.

Matt Herron Principal at ClearPoint Consulting

October 27th, 2014

Hi Donny, I havent listed it yet, but I have an emerging opportunity you might want to look at. Site is still under construction at . You can take a look at my FD or Linkedin profile for my background. Matt Herron Adiron Design is seeking a seasoned business professional and partner. Are you an experienced MBA with a proven track record, looking for your next big thing? Are you sick and tired of high tech wunderkind pushing the next breakout social media miracle? Are you interested in a four-hour work week lifestyle? Read on. Adiron Design is a new company, playing in a low tech market, with a high tech approach. We have created a beautiful collection of limited edition, high-end outdoor furnishings, made from the finest sustainable hardwood, with a stunning design language based on an American classic- the Adirondack. Before your eyes roll into the back of your head, consider this: A large, established market with well understood distribution channels and high margins. A product line that distinguishes itself in a sea of mediocrity. Quality offshore turnkey manufacturing, with decades of experience in this category. Capital requirements fulfilled by upfront sales with traditionally long delivery cycles. Opportunities for online direct marketing to consumers and the commercial leisure industry. Once established, this is a business that can almost run itself. Youve already invested a whole minute reading this; now spend one more seeing what we mean at We need your skills in business development, sales and marketing, and finance to take the company to the next level. This a sweat equity position in a company that will generate cash out of the gate. We already have a great product line with broad appeal, detailed CAD designs, functional full-scale prototypes, a tier one contract manufacturer with viable pricing, a great reputation in the design community, and 30 years of experience designing consumer products for market. Together, we can succeed. Contact to get started. nubes need not apply.

Chris Carruth VP/Director. Strategy | Business Development | Operations | Product | Solutions

October 27th, 2014

er...mail client=main client lol

Andrew Madejczyk Executive Technology Advisory

October 27th, 2014

I'd have to say it is too often... Depends on the deal. 
And how much time is required. Suffice to say, we never really have only one iron in the fire. 

Frederic Moreau Agile Business Transformer

October 27th, 2014

Donny, you can go both ways at the same time, if you find a startup project that fits into your consulting work. This is what I've done over the past 2 years. It's not so easy, but if it is consistent, one activity will bring a lot to the other and vice versa... in the end it is likely that both activities will merge, creating something new which makes even more sense to you and to your market. 

Chris Carruth VP/Director. Strategy | Business Development | Operations | Product | Solutions

October 27th, 2014

I went the consultant to FTE route so I would have time to work on other projects without feeling I was shortchanging my mail client. Upside was it worked out great, gave me the flexibility needed and allowed me to watch the founder and Board in action.

Although I am now leaving that company I still think it was the best route. The transition to FTE is, of course, easier to secure if you under promise and over deliver :)