Finding cofounders · Technical co-founder

Unknown Technical Co-Founder or Known Non-Tech Co-Founder . Who is better?

Syed Basith Business Architect

July 20th, 2016

Assumptions: B2C on SaaS Model.
                         One Founder on board (Business/Finance Type)


In Hypothetical situation where you need to choose between Technical Co Founder  (Read Web Developer) and Non Technical Friend/Colleague (Hustler Type) who would you choose? 

The question here is what is more important ? The Technical Skills of the Co-Founder  or additional pair of hands (Given there is lot to do in a startup) or having very good relationship and understanding with the Co founder ?

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

July 20th, 2016

Think of starting a business like juggling. One ball is building the product. One ball is developing the market. Another ball is managing the money. Depending on your business and other factors, there may be more balls in the air. 

The point is not how many balls are in the air. The point is that if any of the balls falls to the ground, you're not juggling any more. In this scenario, which ball is better? 

If a ball is optional, it doesn't belong in your startup. If a ball is necessary, it's just as good as all of the other balls. 

Noah Webster Co-Founder at Joir

July 20th, 2016

I agree with Joe. Which skillset is more needed? Do you have to choose just one? If you need both, and can only choose one, then is this project ready to get off the ground?

David Rueter Empowering businesses to improve and get lean through technology and best practices.

July 20th, 2016

I'll go out on a limb here:  Neither.  Why?  Since you are pondering the question, evidently neither strikes you as essential to the success of the business.

A person who is not essential to the success of a startup is probably going to be dead weight or worse.  To elevate the role of such a person to a board-level position compounds the problem.

Success is more important than optics.  Assemble the team that is essential for and passionately focused on success, and go execute.

***Learned repeatedly from the school of hard knocks.

Neil HereWeAre Want To find-close Business Online without competition Before They Google Search? We solve this problem 1(508)-481-8567

July 20th, 2016

Neither type is the primary concern at the founding time.

What matters is that you first know for sure that you have a market, who it is, that they would buy, why they would buy and how many would buy. You also must know your window of opportunity, costs, marketing costs, product costs upfront.

Now you can decide what your co-founder should be skill wise because you know, you have not guessed re what it will take and when to get the product/idea/solution into a marketable fashion and how to pre-seed the market so it is ready to buy.

You will also know if your idea is actually marketable and buyable and by whom. You need a marketing type to research it, validate it and then manage how to go after real world clients asap, not a tech person.

Based on that now You also know whats needed tech wise to develop the product and which tech types/skills to bring onboard ASAP. One of you needs the management skillset side to run the show, project manage, finance management.

So, you really cant answer that question as you posed it nor should you until you have answered my first segment questions above.

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

July 20th, 2016

Syed. I had several friends with whom I was a business partner when I was young.
It did not work out because we allowed our friendship to overlook the skills we really needed. Later on, I was fortunate to have a partner for 20 years with whom I frequently quarreled. It worked out well because we told each other what needed to be said.  We kept our eyes on the cash register and making it ring. I was in his home twice in 20 years, he was in mine, once. I have many good friends. I don't do business with them, which is why I have had them for a long time.   

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

July 20th, 2016

In my practice we've always found the relationship to be crucial. When things get challenging, it's usually some aspect of the relationship that we needs attention to get things back on track. 

We spend a lot of time on what we call the While We're Still Friends Conversation. Basically the WWSFC covers how everyone will treat each other, how responsibilities will be divided, and how things will be resolved when they get off track. 

Trust - often an artifact of a previous relationship - CAN make the WWSFC go faster and more smoothly. It can also cause partners to make assumptions about how things will work. Very often these assumptions do not stand up to the pressures of executing a successful startup. 

I STRONGLY encourage you to have your own version of the WWSFC - whether you decide to work with life-long friends or complete strangers. I'd equally strongly encourage you to get professional facilitation for your WWSFC. I could make a long list of reasons why - or you can just trust that having a (relatively) neutral experienced facilitator in the room is the right thing to do. 

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

July 20th, 2016

I agree with Joe Albano.  I don't see the balls as mutually exclusive. It takes a lot of different skills to create a product, fund and manage a business.  FD is full of people who have one or two skills but are deficient in others. Too often they think that their skill is what is important and that they need to hold on to the lion's share of the company.  Build a team of professionals who will accomplish the tasks assigned to them. This especially includes the people whose job it is to raise capital. 

Syed Basith Business Architect

July 20th, 2016

@Joe The juggling analogy is great... It puts things into perceptive ....

@Irwin, Your comment "FD is full of people who have one or two skills but are deficient in others. Too often they think that their skill is what is important and that they need to hold on to the lion's share of the company." is spot on. Everyone thinks their skill/area is the most important and it takes a lot of courage to let go off all the control. But it is enlightening for me, will hold onto it.

But what about the relationships aspect? From my study  (Yes,reading a lot of startup books) so far most of the great startups had founders who know each other before. (Paypal, FB, Google)

If it was trivial, most of the startups founders would have never mentioned it ...

I have some more thoughts but will hold on to them for now...

Neil HereWeAre Want To find-close Business Online without competition Before They Google Search? We solve this problem 1(508)-481-8567

July 20th, 2016

Of course its important that founders should know, respect and get along well but there are specific skill sets needed from day one. I really don't like your characterization that most FD folks are here to push their unique skill set as the most valuable. 

Read less and go talk with other folks starting up businesses, SCORE, etc directly. They are in the real world and may even be the best partnership buddies you could ever have re advice and guidance.

I think we who post on FD are here to help, advise, share what we have already been through, offer real world derived perspectives, have a genuine interest in helping. We also want to learn from each other and have deep discussions so the person asking the question gets an incredible multifaceted viewpoint and advice.

So, Syed, did you read my comment? Curious about your response. Thanks

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

July 20th, 2016

David Rueter, I like your style. A business is a business. When I was an employee I swapped my time, talent and energy for a paycheck. I wanted to do my job well and keep the boss happy, but I was not looking for a relationship. When I became an employer, I treated my employees with respect  and appreciation. I took on partners to make more money which was what my partners wanted as well. It helped that we all had a good sense of humor but that would not have compensated for a task poorly done. What is disquieting  is that many people looking for "relationships" with co-founders or partners are wasting investors' money.  I taught in a top business school for almost 10 years.  Good relations with co-partners never came up.