Running a startup is no easy task. Building a product from the ground up takes time and commitment, and attracting investment dollars in a competitive startup environment can be quite challenging. However, startup founding teams without a technical founder will have to jump through a more complex set of hoops. To be clear, there are plenty of startups who have launched and thrived without a technical co-founder to start with (like Brian Chesky at Airbnb), and this is certainly possible for some businesses. But those cases are the exception, and not the rule. To err on the side of caution, it’s best to bring someone on board with technical prowess. Here are a few reasons you should consider a technical co-founder:
Of course, the most obvious reason you’d want to have a technical co-founder is to benefit from on-site support. There’s nothing quite like having someone with a complementary set of skills who is just as invested in the business as you are. After all, communication is so important in early stage startups. Being able to ask a question or brainstorm ideas in real time can change the culture of the company, even when there are just a handful of people on your team. Knowing the help you need is readily available will help boost morale, and you’ll cover more ground quicker.
Technical co-founders are also up-to-date on the latest technology and tools. For example, the DevOps philosophy is built upon the cross-communication between operations and development. Technical people understand the importance that DevOps plays, and can leverage automation tools from companies like jFrog to speed up internal processes and workflows—which ultimately helps your business grow quicker.
Strong Talent at Reasonable Cost
Without a technical founder, you could find yourself searching for an in-house developer. But in those early startup stages, the strongest developers are opting for positions that offer a high five or six figure salary. Chances are, they aren’t willing to give your startup a serious time commitment at a fraction of the cost without ownership and stock.
This is especially true in pre-seed stages, when you don’t have the funding on hand to pay out typical developer salaries. A technical co-founder helps you minimize those financial obligations. As a cash-strapped company, your technical cofounder will help get you to a strong minimum viable product that you can show potential investors.
Deeper Level of Commitment
As previously mentioned, hired developers—even the strongest of them—will likely not be as invested or as passionate as a co-founder. Your technical co-founder will be more committed to the success of your company than any traditional salaried employee will be, because they understand the success of the startup is deeply linked to their own success. When an individual has ownership in a company, it’s no longer about collecting a paycheck: it’s about building something great, creating a future, and making a difference.
Control Intellectual Property
Many startups choose to outsource their work to save money and leverage a talented team. And while there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing, it’s important to make smart decisions about when, what, and who to outsource to. If you outsource your engineering work—especially if the core of your product or service relies on technology—you could end up in trouble in the long-run.
Third party developments are juggling several contracts at once, and when they’re done with your work, it’s on the next. Maintaining that work for years to come can quickly spiral, even if your third party team is on a retainer for support. Even more is that the majority of investors won’t be happy trusting an outsourced team with such an important part of the business. Today’s investors expect to be able to speak to the entire startup team, and they’ll certainly have questions about your technology that someone should be able to answer on-site.
Focus on What You’re Good At
Having a technical co-founder means you get to focus on what you do best on the business end. This might be marketing, selling, or designing. Whatever the case, it allows the team to divide the workload based on their strong suits, and evolve the company with passion. It also makes it easier to understand the technical side; outsourced or even in-house developers might not be too happy about explaining simple technical terms that power your software, but your cofounder is your partner, and can explain even the most complicated jargon in layman’s terms.