It’s hard to imagine any new business idea in today’s world that doesn’t involve technology in at least some way, big or small; however, often the people dreaming up these great ideas don’t have a tech background. When it comes to fleshing out the idea and getting their business off the ground, entrepreneurs can understandably feel a little bit vulnerable when it comes to making decisions on tech. The development can be quite costly, consuming a large percentage of the budget, and can also be very complicated, especially for someone without a related background. In an effort to fill the gap in experience, some entrepreneurs seek out a tech co-founder – but, is this always prudent, let alone necessary? Here are some pros and cons of bringing on a tech co-founder.
A tech co-founder is a built-in resource that can help translate software jargon used by your development shop and advise you on complicated issues or choices that may arise with regards to the technical aspect of your product or service.
A tech co-founder, by virtue of having equity in the business, has the skin in the game to keep him/her motivated to move the project along and make the best possible decisions for the business. As an investor, he/she is less likely to leave the company, leading to more consistent outcomes and preventing the loss of institutional knowledge down the road.
A person who has the requisite experience and disposition to grow and run a successful startup while also possessing demonstrated skill in all areas of software development is a true unicorn. This person could fetch somewhere near three-quarters of a million dollars per year working for a large company without any of the risk entrepreneurship carries. So, aside from being a potentially tough sell, entrepreneurs also often don’t have the budget to bring someone like this onto their team in the first place. In the event that you do make the hire, paying even a comparatively modest salary may divert funds from other crucial areas such as marketing and software development.
In the case where the original founder does not understand tech, but the co-founder they bring on does, there can arise an imbalance of control. it can be hard for the original founder to maintain control of the trajectory of the company and the vision when he/she doesn’t understand the intricacies of the technology. We’ve seen several examples of tech co-founders brought on by entrepreneurs making unilateral tech decisions and essentially running away with the product, leading to a major departure from the direction intended by the original founder.
Another near inevitability of a start-up is some shaking and settling in the early years, even simply due to conflicting personalities rather than conflicting visions. Keeping your company completely under your own control can prevent the drama and/or leadership replacement that we see so often. Compromising on your vision early to suit the opinions of your tech co-founder (or any other partner you bring on, for that matter) doesn’t guarantee that person will even still be part of the team down the road and you might find yourself regretting the decision to depart from that original vision and the passion you held for it. Additionally, if you want to get back to the original path, you might find that you’ve wasted a lot of money going down a road you didn’t prefer and spending a lot more to begin again.
What’s the Alternative?
As you can see, the decision of whether or not to bring on a tech co-founder isn’t always an easy one. Based on our experience working with entrepreneurs, we often feel that maintaining total control of the vision is the most important thing – after all, startups most often begin as passion projects. Picking out an excellent software development partner can help fill the gap in your technical knowledge, as they are just as capable, most likely even more capable, than a potential tech co-founder at explaining your options and helping advise you on the big, expensive decisions that you’ll have to make. That, with the added bonus of being an impartial third party who’s there to help you realize your vision and your vision alone.