Cofounder · Technical co-founder

Technical Co-founder or leading a technically qualified team?

Jaudat Ali Co-Founder GiFsports

June 7th, 2015

Hello, I am new here, so forgive if i make any rookie mistakes.

In about a week or so, I plan to start working on my startup which is basically a sports app. I have been trying to find a good technical co-founder who can oversee the technical side of the startup while i concentrate on other aspects. The search is ongoing.

I have also been trying to build a team which is qualified enough to work on the idea. I have an app developer and a guy for back-end engine development. I've been researching, reading and looking up whatever I can about whatever I need for the startup, from technicalities to business modeling.

My question is, what would be better? Getting a technical co-founder on board or leading a good team of software engineers and app developers?

I am studying Electrical Engineering. I wouldn't say that I'm a non-technical founder, I like programming and i intend delve deep into Software engineering this summer, atleast enough to communicate my ideas to the team fairly well.

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

June 8th, 2015

If you have an EE background, you have the knowledge to run the technology side of the business.  And while the idea and marketing is likely yours, you may well want to instead be looking for someone with more customer side and business ops experience, rather than a technical cofounder.   As a dual EE/CS degree myself I can tell you that while there are differences, the general principles aren't that radically different.

What IS different is that most engineers are fairly poor at marketing and customer engagement and most importantly sales.   So I would be looking more for someone to lead your Sales and Marketing and business ops

Boris Kogan Startups and innovation

June 7th, 2015


It seems like on one hand, you have a pretty strong technical background, or will by the end of the summer. So you'll be capable of hiring and supervising a team, at least initially.

On the other hand, correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to have made up your mind on what you will be building, its features, etc. So your "technical co-founder" would actually just be a product manager, not really a co-founder. 

So what would you have to offer? I mean, if you are the brains behind the operation and the "co-founder" is just the implementer? 

Paul Self

June 8th, 2015


I would recommend a co-founder that is invested either with time or money and committed to the cause. I am looking for a CTO to drive product development, own the architecture and take a lot of that project management off my desk. A sol-trepreneur is a bigger challenge than you think. Well, maybe you understand the challenge since you went through this on start-up weekend. 

You need a partner to help you drive the business from every end. They need to provide critical input, a different perspective and push from other angles than you are pushing. Once you start raising funds, you will find that to be a full time job and will need someone driving product development and roll-out.  It will be best if this person is in at the ground level and can run with the ball.

Jaudat Ali Co-Founder GiFsports

June 11th, 2015

I have time to recruit people as we grow into our next phase which is actually marketing and launching the app itself. Right now, we're focused on developing the MVP. It could take around 3 months for the back-end engine to develop.

Karl. As far as the MVP is concerned, im doing market research and surveying potential users to determine what the minimum features need to be for users to actually use our app. I write sports articles for a couple of websites so I have access sports fans I could survey. Ofcourse, the sample size would be small but I would be getting feedback on whether the "feature" that I want to give is actually attractive enough.

Peter. I have an SE on board who can grow into a tech co-founder role.

Peter] Peter Jones creates solutions for product USP, market messaging, team building, venture and other commercial capital

June 10th, 2015

Hi Jaudat,

You already have many things to take on board and learn:

Marketing, Digital Marketing, Sales, Team Leading, Product Design & Iteration, Customer Service, Cash Flow Management....

The list goes on.

Why take on more than you need to?

Many startups take on Tech Co-Founders, probably a good reason for that...

Just saying!


Jaudat Ali Co-Founder GiFsports

June 8th, 2015

Thank you for your inputs.

Boris, I had not thought of that. The basic idea behind the startup and how to go about it is pretty much set. What I'm basically looking for is someone who knows how to deliver them from engineering point of view. Your interpretation seems to be the right one. I already have app developers working on the prototype and we'll start work on the back-end engine in the coming week. We have a guy on board for that too.

Basically, what I'm looking for is someone to oversee the overall development.

Karl, I can relate to what you're advising since I worked alone during the startup weekend, where I originally pitched the idea and won. I could easily understand the technology needed behind the idea since I'm fairly tech-savvy but it could have been much easier for the overall startups outlook if I had a business-oriented person with me.

I'll keep your advice in mind as I'm building my team.

Rob G

June 9th, 2015

I agree with Karl S.  It sounds to me like you are heavy on the technical side and essentially non-existent on the "business" side of the equation.  "Business" covers a lot of ground, but in this case that needs to be at least one person who has experience (real-world experience) in at least one of the following:  sales, business development or marketing - all 3 would be great.  A couple of young engineers who know their way around Ruby or Python can pass the smell test with investors, but this is not the case for a young MBA or 3 - you will need some real experience here.  All 3 disciplines are themselves broad subjects.  You are building a consumer focused mobile app which typically means a long lead-time to revenue which means raising investment money to support scaling which first requires traction which means proving a rapid adoption rate and rapidly growing user base (who are using the product, not just signing up) and/or some revenues.  Especially if you intend to monetize (a good idea if you intend to attract investors) then the "business" efforts will be focused on either building an advertising model or subscription model and likely some key partnerships (business development).  All that takes a ton of time - more than designing and building the app itself. 

Santhosh Nair Chief Technical Officer at SearchForce Inc.

June 8th, 2015

Jaudat, it is hard to give an advise without knowing how complex your application is (a highly scalable enterprise platform vs a not so complex mobile app) and how confident you feel about driving the architecture & technology. It very difficult and time consuming to change/redesign your technology stack once you are committed . So a wrong choice of technology/architecture could kill a startup.

I assume you are planning to own the product and would be leading the business development, fund raising as your business grow. In that case, it would be too much work for any one person and most often you would end up not giving enough time on product development. A technical co-founder can ensure the on-going focus on product development and give you a lot peace of mind.

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

June 9th, 2015

I do want to challenge you a bit on that.   Since you lack a business background, how do you know you have an actual Minimally VIABLE Product?   Part of the reason for bringing someone onboard who has a business view is to help flesh out the lean startup worksheet and really identify what the Minimum features are of a Viable product. 

There are startups that have succeeded purely from a technology background... but they are much rarer than ones that have a more balanced leadership team.  In some cases that is a technology person who has half a decade or so of business experience. In other cases its like Apple was with Jobs and Woz.

Now one important caveat.  By business experience I do NOT mean someone who has gotten an MBA.  In fact MBAs have relatively poor track records in starting successful businesses.    No I mean someone who actually has some business experience (like Gates bringing in  Steve Ballmer after Ballmer spent a few years at P&G)

Boris Kogan Startups and innovation

June 8th, 2015


Just to be clear, what I mean is this. To have a CTO who is really worth something, meaning that he will bring more to the company than he takes (in terms of time and effort,) you have to be able to offer him something. 

Since you are in the early stages, you probably don't have the money to offer a competitive salary. 

You might say "my idea is so awesome that the startup will be the next Facebook," but any CTO with brains will have heard that a million times and knows that most startups fail, and that the market value of an idea in the early stage ranges from 0 (with lots of work, it can become something) to negative (it will eat up your time and cost you opportunities.) 

The only incentive you have left is to offer the CTO the opportunity to create something new, to really make his mark. But in your case, you've already got the app planned out! 

So right now you don't have anything to offer the kind of guy you'd want on your team. 

I agree with Karl. Be the CTO/CEO until you have a working MVP with early customers. At some point, bring in a CMO/biz dev guy to scale. Then you will have something to offer an incoming CTO who is worth something: the technical challenges associated with scaling and follow on development and shares in a company with actual customers and a product.