I have an idea that I'm confident in and I'm at a point where I need a non-technical cofounder to help me fill in the gaps and prepare a solid business plan to present to a grant fund that has shown interest.
I want to make sure that I've prepared enough to attract qualified people. For the non-technical cofounders out there, what are some must-haves and red flags when judging a technical cofounder and their idea?
I would start with some healthy humility for your contributions and the importance of the technical ingredient to the ultimate success of the venture.
And an expressed understanding that the value of your intuition outside your particular area of expertise is likely to be off the mark compared with your intuition within your domain of expertise.
You should probably seek the same from your putative partner.
Hi Max - I have 2 recommendations for good starting points:
1. Your business plan - there are lots of free templates and even software that can help you complete a biz plan. Don't make this a huge effort, just use bullet points/short answers for most of the sections to outline your ideas & vision...spend most of your time on the technical pieces of the plan. This will ensure that you have a document to guide your discussion about the business as a whole, will highlight your areas of expertise, and show that you're willing to be contribute on the business side but honest about needing someone to fill in your gaps.
2. Use a personality assessment or compatibility test - Take the Gallup Strength's Finder test or a similar assessment yourself, and have anyone that you're considering as a co-founder take the test too. Most startups fail because of internal conflict. It's really important to understand each other's natural tendencies as well as strengths & weaknesses. You need to have an honest discussion about how you will break out responsibilities, resolve disagreements, etc. Coming to the table with your test results shows that you're fully committed to forging a relationship that works, for the good of the company.
PS. I would love to hear about your idea & will look you up on Linked In!
Yeah, it wouldn't hurt to work through a business plan template and fill in what I can. It'd also help me identify exactly what I need out of a cofounder.
I didn't think about taking a personality test, though I'm wary of their results. I looked up the Gallup Strengths Finder and I'm interested enough to try out the top 5. I'll give that a shot and see what it has to say.
If you check out my profile description, I've put in some details about what I'm trying to accomplish and included links to some documents I've written about the idea and how I plan to implement it. It's lengthy and in need of simplification, but I'm always looking for feedback! Thanks for the response!
When anyone asks me about joining a startup, I suggest they look at it in the same way an investor would. After all, they will be investing money (generally making much less, if anything) AND time.
My suggestion is to prepare as if you're talking to an investor. (Though I disagree with the other advice to do a business plan. I haven't had any investors care about them, they take a long time to write, are constantly outdated (or need constant attention), and so on. Stick with a Lean Canvas type of approach. 1 page. Easy.)
This is a very difficult question to tackle for anyone, but right off the bat there are some red flags, Max.
You wrote, "I'm confident" [in a new tech that involves blockchain], and that's a red flag.
You also indicated that you've already identified a "grant fund" as a capital vehicle; that too is a red flag.
But mostly, you believe you need a non-technical co-founder. I believe you need a technical founder, that you can call a co-founder, but he/she needs to be the face of whatever you're calling this.
This is my approach to such confidence in a new product/service involving new tech, thought up by a person not at all from the world the idea seeks to exploit:
1) Exactly why are you so confident? Layout your MVP from day 0 to today. Explain the solve; explain the why? Explain who else is doing or working on the same solve. Take me on a REALLY deep dive of your SWOT.
2) Why should I bet on you? I looked at your profile. You're a gamer. What are your experiences in finance, global regulation, etc.
3) Blockchain is disruptive. But why is it really, and what could disrupt blockchain? How? When?
4) Are you too early, just in time, or a bit too late in the marketplace? Why, exactly?
5) Show me the numbers to get to: (a) a working concept, (b) a beta, and (c) a deployable platform.
6) What other uses does your idea have? What are the alternatives if someone else gets to market with your idea first?
7) What's your exit strategy?
These are the minimum that I would want answered, and I'd want it in writing before we ever met (don't forget to execute an NDA).
First of all, I think we should get on the same page about what I mean when I say I'm confident.
I'm confident in the concept's potential for all of the reasons I included in my explanation document linked in my profile description. If you have concerns or see problems with my reasoning in that document, I'd love to hear them so I can determine its validity and work towards a resolution.
I'm confident in my own ability to develop the idea. Yes, I'm a gamer, but I think the more relevant piece of information is that I'm a software engineer with a degree who develops video games and has spent a good deal of time studying and developing with the emerging technology I plan to use (Ethereum). My first programming job was designing/developing tools and algorithms to facilitate futures trading, including autonomous traders. A key skill for programmers is their ability to think abstractly and apply those abstractions in various ways, which is something that's applicable anywhere and not limited to coding. I appreciate your concern for my technical abilities, but it's a concern I don't share.
Yes, I've indicated that I have interest from a grant fund, but you appear to be making assumptions about how I view that opportunity. It's a foot in the door currently and with a proper plan will provide a small amount of funds that will be used towards key hires and allow us to run a successful ICO, which is the true capital vehicle that I'm working towards. It'll accelerate the startup process, but it's by no means something I'm relying on. It's just an opportunity I plan to take advantage of.
When you say this is a new product/service "thought up by a person not at all from the world the idea seeks to exploit", I'd love to hear some specifics to back up this perception of me and my idea. It's fine if you want to disregard the applicable value of my education and experience, but I feel like my idea is conceptually sound and I haven't received any feedback that would make me believe otherwise. The high-level point of my idea is that there are logical processes that can streamline and emulate what IPOs and stock markets do while cutting inefficiencies, minimizing investor and investee risk, and significantly lowering the barrier of entry for successful investing. If you want a proof-of-concept, take a look at literally any successful ICO. At a minimum, the Dapp will be an interface for quickly launching and managing customized ICOs with tools for interacting with token holders and exchanging held tokens with other users. At this level, there are some competitors (such as Coin Launch), but I have key features and a long-term vision for social and abstract investing that will set us apart and propel us forward. Again, this is detailed in the documents I've provided, so if you have specific questions/concerns/problems with my reasoning then please let me know. All feedback is valuable and all problems are solvable.
Yes, blockchain is disruptive. This is because it provides a secure and autonomous means of keeping perfect immutable records. Ethereum adds a layer to this that allows you to write code that can manage currency and data in an autonomous/ownerless yet very secure way (Smart Contracts). Sure, there are competitors out there like IOTA's Tangle, SkyCoin, SafeCoin etc. that could knock Ethereum out of the game. This is why I'm focused on keeping my system technologically agnostic and interoperable with other emerging technologies as they come.
When I say a user can generate "personal shares", I'm making use of a commonly understood concept. However, they're technically generating ERC20 tokens that have their own value independent of Ether or any other cryptocurrency's value. Through the use of oracles, we can ensure that we have a path to seamlessly adapt to new (potentially disrupting) technologies that accomplish the same goals as Ethereum. Take a look at AION to see how this can be done.
No, I'm not an expert in global regulation, but I am aware of the recent SEC regulations on cryptocurrencies and the threat they would pose to my idea. Of course I would enlist the support of qualified experts to steer us in a legally compliant path to realizing the idea's full potential.
I believe I'm right on time in the marketplace to be honest. ICOs have proven fruitful for many, cryptocurrency is gaining more and more traction and my particular use is innovative.
What other uses does my idea have? Well, anything that can be done in an ICO can be done in my Dapp. It's accessible to ventures outside of the crypto space, so anything that can be done on Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, etc. can be done on my Dapp. I have a fairly solid network of game developers who'd be willing to pilot the Dapp to crowdsource funds for their game ideas in unique ways.
On the moment-to-moment level, I would have the unique ability to invest in a risky tech venture and mitigate that risk by investing in From Software's next Souls-esque video game, which would be practically guaranteed to be a hit. Would you be able to capitalize on that exact opportunity and do you think you'd recognize it quicker than me?
From a financial security standpoint, my family and friends could exchange our personal shares in a distributed way that would allow us to automatically cushion each other in bad times and benefit from each other in good times.
If someone beats me to market, I can still do all of the above. If they don't provide the ability to do those things, then I'm at an advantage. It's a strong foundation with a lot of creative and beneficial uses.
The full production plan (including itemized feature estimates, budget, crew plan and cost schedule) is in the works. I'm consulting with a past coworker with experience in founding startups and project management for tech ventures.
High-level exit strategy would be to pay off debts, exchange remaining funds into Ether and store them in a Smart Contract that allows token holders from our ICO to receive a partial refund proportional to their contribution. Obviously there are more logistics to consider and the details will be fleshed out over time.
To be clear, I wouldn't expect anyone to bet on me outright. I'd expect the right qualified person to show an interest and collaborate with me while we gain an understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses, our shared vision and our belief in the system. Either we realize we aren't compatible, or we build a solid functional relationship with trust between us and bet on our potential together.
as a non-technical co-founder myself it’s important that you bring your vision and an understanding of what you are willing to do and not.
Ive been put off in the past when my technical co-founder decided he didn’t want to code. It left us totally screwed. We had a guy who wanted equal shares and say but refused to do any work.
We we went from the ability to bootstrap a great idea to years of trying to pull it together through giving up equity and paying firms to help.
In the end we separated from the technical guy and have a backend that is probably more complicated then it needs to be.
Also come to the table with ground rules. Where is the separation of duties and so on. The more agreed to up front the better.
Good advice. I do think that our marketing and UI/UX design will play a more vital role than the development itself, as the building blocks that make up the idea aren't as complex as the various ways those blocks could be used. Those aren't my areas of expertise, so I would need to ensure that I find somebody that I can trust to steer us in the best direction possible on those fronts.
Thanks for the feedback!
Baser pn the kind of posts non technical founders make it should be I have an idea I am technical founder.