App development · Cofounder

Tech co-founders: dedication vs. expertise, which one should I pick?


June 28th, 2019

So far I have been on my own, and it is hard. I was planning to develop my app with a foreign company. Suddenly, an honest and very dedicated local developer wants to join for equity. Having a co-founder in my area is such a relief, it is hard to think alone, and it is good to be able to meet. We have an excellent energy so far.

But soon enough, I realized he is lacking technical skills and that some of the development work he does is assigned to a team of contractors, and I don't know much about the quality. His technical skills are at the intermediate stage, has a small portfolio, and I am hesitating to task him with the app (which he wants).

I am in a conundrum. I want someone with his dedication and I already promised him a certain level of equity in exchange of both developing the app and being a CTO going forward. Nothing signed yet, it has only been 2 weeks.

My options: Either hope that dedication will eventually lead to excellent results, or risk losing him and have a difficult discussion with him, telling him I would rather someone else develop it -- thus reducing his stake in the company.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

June 28th, 2019

He is not a CTO and may never become one. Don't promise titles, just responsibilities. Dedication is important for co-founders AND skill. There's nothing wrong with delegating. Even though you're not a technical person, you should still be able to supervise technical employees if you're running a technology company. You had better learn enough about the technical side that you can understand what's going on for two reasons. 1) if your co-founder leaves or dies suddenly, and 2) so you can check the work of your partner and build trust in his efforts.

Responsibility and equity are not inherently interlinked. Equity is EARNED, not given. Delivering on tasks should earn equity, not simply being the first employee(s). The mistake may be in how you structured ownership, not in your partner's skill.

Best to get in front of it now. Talk to him about your doubts. Have him show you why you can trust his efforts. Discuss a revised structure that rewards outcomes with equity instead of basing it on length of service.

Diego Machado CEO & Co-Founder at TowerHouseStudio

June 28th, 2019

Dedication is always good and needed, but to be a CTO you will need a lot of experience, given that all technological decisions will depend on him knowing what to do.

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

June 28th, 2019

You can judge and validate skills; you cannot measure dedication. If the question is binary, get the skills. However, if you are seeking a person that leads tech (CTO or not, forget the titles like @Paul states) one of the skills critical is to lead and manage a well understood tech plan. You can code every language and know hardware inside and out, but if you cannot lead a team of people, you cannot be a CTO.

Additionally, a critical issue I had to deal with with a former CTO (and a very close friend through 4 other companies and 20 years later) is a CTO that would prefer to code (through interest or frustration that others were not). A CTO is not a coder. Ever. I "threatened" to fire him if I found him writing code again. He was an excellent coder, but a more awesome leader. CTO, SaaS expert, Product development, Listener, Learner, Architect

January 9th, 2020

Always look for a fool in the deal. If you cannot find one. It's you! 😀 -- Mark Cuban

You will find all kinds of cheats in the market. The trick is to navigate through them and find a person who can deliver and prove it before asking anything.

And, please do not think for a moment that honest and real people will come to you for just a cushy title. They are busy building products. 😀