Building a team · Cofounder

What co-founders do I need?

Steve McDonald

Last updated on April 10th, 2017

I am the creator and developer for a product www.knowpal.ai. As I understand it, most startups are looking for a technical co-founder to help them build their product. My marketing consultant says I have the polar opposite problem - I AM the technical person for my startup.


The startup is a SaaS model for a digital assistant platform for persons with special needs such as ADHD and memory loss. The revenue will be subscription fees, customer segment at first will be consumers living with ADHD or other mild to moderate cognitive challenges.


I am talking to a doctor and a startup consultant about being on an advisory panel for me, but neither of them would be co-founder candidates.


I am unsure of who I need to find to build a strong co-founder team. I am told that VCs won't even consider a startup that does not have a strong founder team.


I have a vision and I know how to build out the tech for the vision, but it would be nice to be able to 100% focus on building and the 'how' of our solution - vs juggling the CTO hat and CEO hat, so perhaps a CEO is good. I am not sure if there a place for a Sales guru if we are just selling to consumers. I can hire an accountant for finances. I have some experience with customer acquisition but planned on hiring out the rest with a consultant.


What am I missing here? Any thoughts on the co-founders I probably need?

Steve Owens

April 10th, 2017

Do not hire anyone until you validate the market.


Then, be very careful who you hire until you get a repeatable business model that creates a steady flow of profits. Best case scenario is that no one is hired until this point.


Use consultants and service company a lot.


Once you have a repeatable business model, it will be a lot clearer who you should hire - and they will cost you a lot less.


VC will not fund until you have substantial revenue. They are looking for a team that can scale a proven system - they don't fund ideas, regardless of the team.



Lloyd T Technologist in Videogames of over 15 yrs

April 10th, 2017

My first startup I was CEO/CTO/Sales etc - and learned quickly that I don't want to be CEO. I can own, and execute, the tech vision but I needed someone who can grow the business beyond the technical aspects.


With that in mind, I didn't pull the trigger on my second startup until I found *that* partner, and it's been great! Business is growing, we have a magnificent team building great things, etc. But couldn't have done it without my business-counterpart.


To answer your question - first you need to determine what you want to be. CEO? CTO? If you want to be CEO, then get a technical cofounder (CTO). If you want to be CTO, then find yourself a business-focused cofounder (CEO).


You probably know what makes a good tech partner since you've done the work. But your business-focused partner is tougher. S/he needs to do the things you may not want to do/cannot do - hustle for business, make deals, exercise networks, ban on VCs doors, and ultimately *sell* the product, vision, and business.

Jasmine Bridges I'm an expert in Technology Development &Scale up.

April 10th, 2017

Look at Steve Blank's website regarding a ton of product-market fit resource.


Also to get more business saa I highly recommend taking the free courses on Coursera. Please contact me and we can share resources.


Joy Montgomery Continuous Improvement for Cleantech Companies, Connector

April 11th, 2017

If you're not a serial entrepreneur with some successes and failures behind you, find a CEO that has those lessons already learned. Marketing is important. My personal thought is that Investors want to see that you have an experienced CFO so they can feel confident that their funds will be managed well.

Hugh Proctor Hard working, dedicated and innovative CEO / CTO

April 10th, 2017

Hi Steve,


I'm in the exact same predicament and yes, after talking to loads of investors, they won't touch me no matter how good the product or the size of the market.


It's a very trick predicament, in my case, I am where I am because I did through out the process try to recruit, first my friends, then my colleagues, then online and through networking events. It's very tough when you have a vision, they love the vision but so far, my experience is one that because of a comfort zone that comes from full time employment, it is difficult for others to understand that timing, hard work and sacrifice is what it takes.


We don't live in a deprived world or in Silicone Valley where being exceptional or unique is of value.


I've also had the experience where as the CTO tech guy, I looked to hire a CEO. The problem here is the hierarchical structure, a CEO almost automatically gets this big ego, and becomes less accountable to you. The ego comes from most that you may look to head hunt also.


I've also reached out to my friends for help, advice or assistance but so far I've found that most are able to talk but not offer tangible solutions. I had a financial controller friend who wouldn't even go out of his way to help work on revising the financial projections. It's a sad story.


I have to take my own advice, but wearing so many hats from the start is very very stressful and simply can't do it all.


If you do plan to get a CEO, then give yourself the title of President or Chairman; it sounds silly, but it will mean that they remain accountable to you and your vision, and is their task to achieve strategic and sales targets that you set.


You also don't want to be 100% focused on the tech, you need to at some point, think about delegating the work out and practice interviewing early on. The problem here comes that you will look to work 24/7 but with an employee, they don't see the vision and generally only put out work 9-5. Remembering that 30% of these hours maybe productive; finding good talent in a start up is very very tough as most of the talent goes to work for a large company with high pay expectations.


I put all my budget in making the product work... admittedly my product is extremely tough stuff, but I'd love to have £10k to get really good marketing budget.


I have to say, that to investors, I've even adopted a tactic of saying that my girl friend is my design lead... it doesn't really help... but she is very good and charming so they quickly warm to her and almost forget about the product and team. Helps that she's tall, blonde and beautiful.


I'd get a Managing Director, Business Development Manager or Product Manager... but basically their task is to love the product and promote it everywhere. To get feedback and discuss with you how you can incorporate what the customer wants, verses what you think the customer needs. To think of cool ways to promote the business.


It would be amazing to get a mentor as well.


Hope this all helps. Good luck and I'll be routing for your success!

Mitch Harris VP of Data Engineering at Beacinsight, Inc.

April 11th, 2017

Yes, you definitely need to show to investors that you have all roles covered. You, as most likely the CTO type, will need a CEO, CFO, Sales roles covered. If you don't have those skills or the will to do those roles, you'll need to find people for them.


But VCs and accelerators sometimes have a 'CEO in residence' or other people in their 'stable' that are available to join a startup. Angel investors are probably not geared up for providing such people, though thye may have a contact list that will include people that could fill these roles. So consider asking.

Eugene Aryeetey Self motivated and dedicated person

April 10th, 2017

Hello, Thanks for reaching out to me. I have a had a look at your product and i will say you as you are a technical person, you need someone with Sales, Finance and Business Management. After all, a master strategist will be a good addition for example someone who has taken a company like yours before and turned it around. Thank you. Regards, *Eugene O. Aryeetey*C.E.O, *Zentech IT Solutions Limited * *Office Lines: *(+233) 302268650 || (+233) 302985013 || *Mobile Line: *(+233) 248174003 *Office Location:* 2nd Floor, Tesano Commercial Plaza, Near Zoozoo Restaurant, Tesano, Accra-Ghana*.* *Website: *https://www.zentechgh.com || *Email**: *eugene@zentechgh.com || info@zentechgh.com *Skype**: *raskegh *CONFIDENTIALITY NOTE:* *The information transmitted, including attachments, is intended only for the person(s) or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any review, re-transmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received this in error, please contact the sender, delete and destroy any copies of this information.*

Robert Joseph Listen to YOUR Body. . . You're Made Of Music!

Last updated on April 11th, 2017

Attract and build an equity based advisers team. If you are in the idea stage and can attract subject matter experts in business, marketing, R&D, legal, and intellectual property to be on your adviser team (with 1% equity, standard for active roles), then you have a business that is attractive. You can later turn advisers into co-founders, partners, investors, etc; in fact advisers should be helping you find and fill critical roles. You may not need to give away a large share of your business to a co-founder. Your adviser team should be able to assess if you need a co-founder/partner or simple fill founding roles. Ideally, they believe enough in the business proposition to assume those roles for equity while you seek funding, build product and generate revenue.

Mark Temperley ex-X Commerce finance, ex-management consultant

April 14th, 2017

You need people who bring something you don't have. You may be great technically but lack marketing or finance. And also you will need a COO at some point who will pull everything together. Specific expertise - I your case medical - can be brought in as necessary, but as advisors not as cofounders. It's a bit like lawyers - you pay for them when you use them.