Gold-bars

A note about the "Business Guy seeking Technical Co-Founder"

Corporate America's ability to create value the past few years has underwhelmed us. That, coupled with many other environmental effects, has led to many new players entering our consumer technology community.

Building a startup is cool again. That's pretty good for most of us -- new wealth is being created (both real and imagined), valuations are skyrocketing for startups, and people of all skill-sets are flocking to startup town to claim their stake.

This is generally good, but the hordes of new actors have exacerbated a long-standing problem within our community; Non-technical founders who overvalue their ideas and devalue the technical contribution of the people they say they want to work with.

There's a litmus test I've developed to judge co-founder relationships: If the idea is more important to you than the team that implements it, you aren't looking for co-founders.

"This kind of intuitively makes sense; co-founder relationships are a lot like marriages -- and they need to evolve similarly. Think of having kids as an analogy; married couples often produce children together, co-founders produce products together, both are activities that are extremely emotionally and financially stressful.

So, assume for a minute that you would like to have a child. Would you want to have a kid with someone before you knew them well and build a marriage on the common ground of shared parenthood -- or would you rather build a relationship that could support the healthy development of the child prior to embarking on the stressful journey?

Spoiler: the latter method works much better.

Products, like children, are build through a process of development. They don't come out like you expect them to at the beginning, and your best laid plans get completely altered by unpredictable circumstances. What determines your success is how you, and your partner, react to the curveballs. [2]

Your average "Business Guy Seeking Co-Founder" who's out cruising tech events isn't actually looking for a co-founder, they are looking for a hired hand to build the product to their specs, but to do it for equity instead of cash.

Couples don't become ready to have children just because they are "man" and "woman" -- similarly, teams aren't ready to make products just because they have "business" and "developer." 

Instead of running from event to event trying to get developers excited about your idea, think about the types of people you need to give your product the best shot at a good life. Not just skill-sets, but personalities, codes of conduct, theories and principles.

Finally, think about why these folks would want to work with you, and know that improving yourself, and what you bring to the table, will make you more successful. [3]

 

Footnotes:

[1] Important Point, I'm not speaking for experience here. I don't have kids. That said, I'm pretty sure they don't come out fully developed, if they do, my parents worried about me for several decades for no good reason.

[2] This could make sense if Mr. Business Guy had a MUCH better understanding of the market needs, the product capabilities, and the process required to build a product that evolved over time. Developing this skillset turns Mr. Business Guy into Mr. Product Guy, and makes him a much more attractive cofounder.

[3] Seriously, stop being so amazed at your ability to think of an interesting idea. Learn how to get market feedback. Take a job at a startup and learn how to do inbound marketing, or product management. Learn some design or development skills in your spare time. Better thyself.

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