Building Teams · Cofounder

Technical better than business? It takes both to make a team.

Brandon Finlen Believe in better possibilities. Act to make real.

April 25th, 2017

I see a number of people looking for a techie to help build their idea and bring it to life and anytime I see that I know that the trolls will soon flame the poor thread to pieces. Can you help me with this? We all have our strengths - its what makes a great team. Some people have the "idea", others are great at sales, some at marketing, and others at development. It takes individuals with strengths in all of these areas to take a company from dream to reality.

Why when a business person asks for a techie people say dont do it but when a techie asks for a business person people jump at the chance?

I have helped a number of techies launch their companies just for equity stake as an investment.

How do you find and build a great team where everyone puts skin in the game? Its a zero sum game where you all win if the vision and execution align.

A-level teams with B-level ideas succeed. B-level teams with A-level ideas fail. This course provides a comprehensive roadmap for building a standout team, teaching everything from hiring to structure, compensation, and culture.

Mike Makuch Software Engineer / CTO / Cofounder / Consulting

Last updated on April 25th, 2017

I agree Brandon. I'm a long time software engineer, been a co-founder/CTO, angel investor, advisor. I've seen quite a few businesses having trouble largely *because*, IMHO, they did NOT have a technical principal with a stake in the company. Many non-techie's *think* you can just "farm it out" when it comes to the software/technology. But there are many problems with that. There is excellent code and terrible code and everything in between. Software is a living thing and it lives and grows best when there are good engineer caretakers with skin in the game. If you pass the tech from one hourly mercenary engineer to the next what you can very easily end up with is garbage. Now, maybe there are shops out there that can prove me wrong but I doubt they'll do it without equity % stake.

Regarding the "don't do it" advice, I think that's simply bad, perhaps naive advice. The idea is to grow a pie so that everyone gets a slice. If you can do that alone then go for it. But few can do it alone. If it takes a team of people then everyone should get a share (commensurate %). That's how I've seen it done (and participated in) successfully and how I intend to do it in the future.


Last updated on April 25th, 2017

"Nothing kills a good idea better than poor execution." I don't know who said this.

I understand VCs emphasize the importance of the team. Part of the story I heard about Compaq when the founding trio approached Ben Rosen with their initial idea he rejected it, but told them he liked their chemistry and encouraged them to come up with other ideas. The three founders of Compaq were all management "engineers" from TI.

Instagram's founders were both engineering types.

Then there is Chipotle, founded by a cook.

Sam Walton had a degree in economics.

Two of the founders of Price Club/Costco were JDs. They had family history with retail.

Singleton, and Kozmetsky founders of Teledyne, both had doctoral degrees in engineering/science.

The only trend I see in this relatively short list, is pursue what you know. But you do need a team committed to success to get off the ground.

The difficulty I see and have personally experienced with a non-technical person pursuing an "idea" is the lack of knowledge regarding implementation and the cost drivers. It might be better to call them the non-implementing person. That better covers situations like Chipotle.

The relatively new term MVP, I see as a variation of "find a need and fill it" with an new emphasis on getting market data ASAP to fill out a real business plan with solid data. Plus deal with the common issue of your initial idea does not exactly fill a need but putting the concept out there can help you find variation that does. You need to be able to fill that need for less than it costs to make, market and sell it to be successful. Without understanding and accurately determining the cost details of implementation you are missing a major component of business analysis. If it is a technical business only the techies have a chance to realistically determine this and it is a lot of work. I would argue that the cost details of marketing and sales are better known. Except in the case of something like the Pet Rock, marketing/sales do not have the leverage that the implementers have. Hence the techies having a greater advantage on forums like this.

As I see it the IDEA is king, but you need the implementer to buy in to make it happen. If it is their passion package and there is a market that will pay enough you have shot at business success. If the idea comes from the implementer, you have an automatic buy in. Otherwise, you need a technical mercenary. If the task is very clearly identifiable you got a chance getting it done at a cost that makes business sense. If you need creative solutions, you likely cannot do it without buy in by the implementer or a large sum to motivate.

I consulted for a company that was driven by a marketing type. He found an opportunity that I helped implement with my tech/engineering project skills that doubled the companies revenue in six months. I had a gentleman's agreement I would help his idea in return for helping pursue mine. I did not feel he followed through on his end of the bargain. I suspect that similar issues eventually resulted in the company being acquired by a competitor by assuming the large amount of debt they had amassed after I left. I understood they were cash positive before then.

David Austin Relentless problem solver and innovator.

April 25th, 2017

Last fortune 500 company I worked for was a disaster because they farmed all their technical out. They had 6 ventures ... hired all the business personnel internally, hired a skeleton crew of Technical PMs with the commission to send all the heavy lifting to code chop shops. Nightmare. Hemorrhaged cash like you would not believe. Nothing really was fixed, they reinvented the wheel every year, lost most of their IP to overseas units who then became their competitors. Year after year, venture after venture. Go figure ... those at the top were all business people. They eventually killed off 5 of the 6 ventures and bought a new one ... and now they do it all internally. For an MVP farming out technical is okay, but as you move into operations everything needs to move internally.

As for business ... most people are a Jobs or a Woz ... few (like Zuckerberg) are both and those who are need to decide which they will bring and bring on the other and value them highly. Techies are the most likely to make this error and the business suffers usually until it's too late to save.

Vijeesh Papulli Bitten by the 'E' bug. Working on a new project

April 25th, 2017

Very valid observations! Any Techie who successfully builds a business can't discount the effort that his non techie team either internal or external in the form of angels, VCs or mentors / advisors have given him or her. At the same time a non-techie person who has a solution to a problem that could be build into a business would be able to work with techie to achieve success. I guess what is important is both individuals understand the contribution that the other person brings to make the joint effort into successful one. Respect and empathy for each other decisions and contributions will go a long way in making their efforts a success!

Grant du Toit

April 25th, 2017

I have the opposite problem in that I'm the engineer with the ideas. What I need is a business developer and preferably another engineer. I seem to be "off the wagon" in the sense that my ideas aren't software based. Seems so much focus on industry that is scaleable that guys making "heavier industry" have been forgotten and often overlooked.

The challenges are also geographic. I've done the "long distance" method but found it hard to keep team motivated and find they drift off. You lose momentum. This is part of the reason I'm here trying to find the rest of my team. It's hard to find a bunch of guys who have the same passion. I'm surrounded by highly skilled guys. The problem is none share my passion and none willing to work for equity. The other problem is each wants to do his own thing too.

I guess this leaves us to do as much networking as possible on platforms like Cofounder, MeetUp, LinkedIn and even Facebook if you join the right groups. I've been tapping into my mentors and pretty much anyone that will give me the time of day. For now, I carry on doing the legwork and self-funding as far as I can. Goodluck

Brandon Finlen Believe in better possibilities. Act to make real.

April 25th, 2017

To your point CS execution plays a key role. The founder of Idea Labs (Bill Gross) did a pretty in-depth analysis of what made a startup successful. It boiled down to 3 things.

  1. He found the most important factor was timing, is the market ready. To illustrate he talked about a startup he did which was basically Youtube 5 years before they launched. However since broadband penetration was low streaming did not take off and it failed. Youtube tried the same thing a few years afterwards and became successful.
  2. Team and execution were the second most important factor. Those who clearly executed well - won.
  3. Last was the idea itself.

I agree with your point about having an idea not being enough. The point of this thread is execution of a plan takes a number of skillsets, each as important as the other. I know some great technical minds who cant sell. And a lot of great sales people who cant build. But in the end all have to pull together to execute. Thats what makes it successful. Finding the right team if you don't have all of the skills is step one.

Pennant Potential startup looking for the right people

April 25th, 2017

There certainly appears to be a high demand for the techie here and I often wonder if there are other similar sites out there that attract the co-founder counterparts, maybe a 'marketing lab' where there is an abundance of brilliant marketeers moaning about the current drought of available techies in the world !!

Personally, I have given up the ghost and decided that the aligning of the planets simply isn't going to happen, and that I should become a 'Jack of all trades and a master of none', teach myself the skills I don't have. At worst it will make me a better communicator and a stronger co-founder for when the planets do align, in the mean time the ideas and the concepts will just have to wait because the early stage of this execution is going to be slow and painful, but at least no fall-outs and arguments!!