Hi. For all practical purposes I am a non-technical founder. I have much business management experience coupled with finance and fundraising skills. My startup is at the customer discovery and development stage so strictly speaking at this very moment I do not need a technical co-founder. But I will need one some day, when it comes to getting the MVP together for example. Trouble is, I have no understanding of how development works. I get confused between the terms software development, software engineering, "full stack", coding etc etc etc. All these terms sound to me like they refer to the same thing but I'm probably wrong. My startup is a software solution that combines stuff that has already been done by many people before me but with additional features that have not been done or have been done very little. It requires deep subject matter experts (P.hD level) to design and build the advanced parts, but the rest has already been done and we just need to build our own version of it. My P.hD colleagues are anoraks - they are focused on the rocket science but either can not or will not work on the other stuff that is also required. Trouble for me is that I don't know what I'm looking for. How do I go about identifying the skills needed and then finding them? Totally lost here, appreciate any guidance or direction.
Loved how you used the word "anoraks", never heard of it. Learned something new... :)
Coming to your problem, when you come up with a decent solution to the problem you are trying to solve, you can talk to technical folks in your network who've built startups before. They'll be your best friends for inputs on implementing it.
You already know that the customer discovery phase will tell you the scope of MVP. Basic questions that need answered from a technical standpoint if you are looking for pointers...
Learning to code yourself can definitely help you go a long way but it can be hard and time taking depending on the time you have available and your inclination towards these technical fields.
The questions you asked here will be answered by your technical co-founder anyway, so you don't need to worry about it. The main thing to focus on is the idea and making sure you have a solid solution for the problem you are trying to solve. You can then get someone with product knowledge to help you structure the solution into a product.
Identifying the skills required - you'll know when someone you are talking to can give you convincing answers to the above 3 questions. You'll have to talk to many folks to get a sense of what a good answer is. If it doesn't feel like your cup of tea, hire someone from your network or online who has already built one or two startups.
Finding folks is definitely easy (you just have to post it online and spread the word in your network), finding the right folks is very hard. It's not just about having the right skills, it's also about the person/team having the passion to carry forward in a startup environment. The solution here is also to talk to as many folks as possible, see if you hit it well in your initial discussions and take a call based on it.
You can always outsource the application development to a company or freelancer if you want to keep things lean (at least for the MVP). I've written about outsourcing here - https://cofounderslab.com/discuss/is-it-detrimental-to-outsource-code.
Sounds to me like you need to find a technical advisory (former CTO say) to help you figure out what you need, etc.
This is a very common scenario for non-tech founders , so don't worry you're not alone. The good thing is you're asking the right questions. The best way is to tap a technology expert and explain the MVP to them , in addition discuss your product road map ,so they can take a long term view in advising you, not only on the current needs and the tech stack/architecture to enable that , but also on how to scale and harden as well. Stating the obvious , but make sure they sign an NDA with you. Lastly , since you're building a software solution consider bringing on a tech co-founder/exec for long term success.
I'd be happy to hook you up with the right expert ,write to : firstname.lastname@example.org