Cofounder · Fundraising

Which comes first - ideas or cofounders?

Devon Yeon Director, Channel Sales, Asia South

January 20th, 2015

I am at the juncture of  actualizing my idea. I have the idea on the note and how it should work. I do not have any technical skills. I think I need to gather co-founders with technical & developing skills, maybe also marketing & fundraising skills. What should my approach be - cofounders and then idea or idea and then cofounders?

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Michael Barnathan

January 20th, 2015

Very few people will follow you if you aren't willing to tell them what you're doing, so sharing the outlines of the idea will probably be necessary to find cofounders. Your team is usually a more important determinant of your success than your initial idea (since the latter often changes).


January 20th, 2015

There are two ways this can work.

If the idea you have is so unique you should not share it with anyone, you can cut out pieces of the puzzle and have people work on it and not tell anyone person how it works together, this will allow you to be the only one who understands your vision. Many many people I talk with take this approach, it works well, if you invest $100,000 in the project, you will always spend the full amount, very easy to execute on. If you have another $100,000 then you can pour this in as well, again very easy to execute and spend money.

It never actually works but you will feel empowered by the results and can take pride that no one else knew the overall concepts.

If you want to be successful, then you have to take the second approach which is find a team that can work as one. Your first hires or co-founders will make or break the company and project.

There is no such thing as no idea, why would anyone work with or follow you with no direction.

You need to document your ideas, they should be so simple that you can explain them to someone you meet in an elevator (Kinda like an Elevator pitch).

If you can not say it in 2 minutes, then something is wrong and people will not understand.

You also need to remember that is your idea and no one else will have the same passion that you do!

This is important, if you spend 80 hrs a week on the project, don't get pissed when others only spend 40 or 50 hrs on the project, its your dream not theirs.

All that said, document your ideas, talk it over with family, try to get a proof of concept together (If its a mobile all this could just be something on paper you pretend is an app) and live with it 24hrs a day, keep it in front of you day in and day out. Make sure you can sell yourself.

Based on your question, I would have doubt that you have sold yourself on the idea.

Logan Kleier

January 20th, 2015

Execute at least part of your idea before trying to find co-founders. 

And before trying to gather co-founders, I think you need to get clear on what you skills you are bringing to the table. For example, if you say that you need technical, developing, marketing and fundraising skills, then people are going to want to know what you are adding to the team. 

It will be difficult to recruit others to follow you if they do not have a clear sense of what your "value add" is to the company. Coming up with the idea alone isn't enough. In fact, that will tend to drive away developers, because they will feel that they are doing all the work and that you are doing none. 

Lawyers have a saying that there are "minders", "grinders" and "finders." Minders are the people who come up with the big legal theories and arguments, grinders are the people who do all the work, and finders are the people who find all the business. You have ask yourself which one are you. If you're the minder, then you still need to offer more to potential co-founders than just the idea itself. 

Mark Tuttle co founder and CEO at Cryptografx Security Solutions

January 21st, 2015

HI Devon,

I am glad you have an idea that you are confident in.  All of the posts previous to mine give good insight.  I have founded a number of companies, and I am still learning.  As to patents, they are a lot of work, the provisional patent buys you a year, but then you must make the full filing, or forfeit the filing.  In my current company we arranged the license of a group of patents to protect they way we do things on the back end.  Else our idea is so simple it would be copied.  Being copied is one of the biggest challenges, not the idea being copied, but after you build, launch, get some traction, and things are going well... someone with more money, bigger team will just copy what you are doing... and all your left with is the memory of being first.  co founder selection is critical... and of most importance.  

An investor at early stages invests in the team, and not the idea in most cases.

Here is a really good video from a class at Stanford University, by Peter Thiel, co founder of Paypal (and others).... Competition is for Losers....  The take away for me, was create a solution for a segment, even if small that you will have the monopoly on... I have pivoted my business and am focused on finding that monopoly segment....

Good Luck

Omar Hakim Technology Commercialization & Patent Monetization Professional | Expertise in Management Consulting & Startup Investing

January 20th, 2015

I suggest that you file a provisional patent application before you begin discussing your new venture with potential customers, co-founders or investors. It will establish a clear "chain of title" as to what you brought to the table first, and it will enable you to legally say that your ideas are patent pending. If cost is an issue, you can write and file your own provisional patent application ($130 in USPTO filing fees), which holds your date for twelve months until you can hire a patent attorney or a patent agent to file your utility application. If you need help with the provisional patent application, I recommend Nolo Press ($139 + USPTO filing fee): or LegalZoom ($199 + USPTO filing fee): Good luck! Best Regards, Omar Omar Hakim Managing Director, Hammersmith Ventures

Mark Dostie CTO of Artificial Intelligence Dev

January 20th, 2015

Good answers so far, as you can tell you will need to share your idea...but I would add that maybe you do not share it with potential co-founders to start. Instead you should find some independent but trust-worthy 3rd parties to review your idea. You mentioned you are not technical so finding someone who is strong technically and can review your idea in confidence (NDA) would be beneficial. Once you are at the co-founder level you will need the elevator pitch mentioned by Thomas but you will also need to "tune" it to the type of co-founder you are pitching to (business, technology, marketing, sales, etc.) and that will be easier if you have tested the idea on an experienced 3rd party.

Devon Yeon Director, Channel Sales, Asia South

January 20th, 2015

Thanks Michael and I agree. I am 100% on sharing the idea and vision and I do think the idea will continue to evolve and expand. If I managed to get the team (cofounders) onboard, the idea will probably goes many ways. As I pen out my idea, it is still evolving on what and how it can be done and who (target group/addressable market) will benefit. However, I need to start somewhere which now I need a cofounder with strong technical skill to share the same vision. After reading a few postings, I know I need to work on the prototype to raise fund to further develop the product. The question is what to share in order to get the target group of cofounder to be interested.

Sean Roland

January 20th, 2015

I'm also a non-technical founder.  Depending on how technical your concept is to develop, @Thomas was being conservative on how much you would invest to develop the first iteration.  As a startup founder, you have to become (very good!) at selling.  So your first job needs to be "selling" your idea to people to be your team, and who will want to help flush out your initial idea and mold it into something better that you're all passionate about. I'd suggest you need a designer and developer.  If you do Channel Sales, you need to figure out how to do marketing -- otherwise your team members will be wondering what it is you contribute -- the idea isn't enough for a startup since it's going to take a significant amount of work to turn an idea into something with real traction.

If you decide to build your concept out by finding some cheap labor, then it really becomes more "yours" and you may have a much more difficult time finding anyone to be on your team -- unless you pay them.  And the important thing to remember about product development is -- unless you're an extremely rare unicorn, it will take multiple iterations on your original build to fix all the things that aren't quite right and limit user adoption.  And so the cost keeps increasing, and you still aren't where you need to be.  Also, the people working for you aren't as interested in telling you you're wrong and trying to build the best product for millions of users -- they're interested in doing just what you tell them.

So find your co-founding team and be generous with the equity split, because your idea will never be realized without a great design and a person who can code that design to life.

Devon Yeon Director, Channel Sales, Asia South

January 20th, 2015

Thanks Thomas, Mark and Omar for your input.

Hi Omar, in fact, file a provision patent was one of the initiate thought. Will you also recommend and what is the different of these patent companies?

Devon Yeon Director, Channel Sales, Asia South

January 20th, 2015

Hi Omar, one more question, since I am not technically inclined, how do I specify on the technical part for the patent?