Do you need a technical co-founder?
Thursday, October 15, 2015

Do you need a technical co-founder?

I don’t think non-technical founders should learn to code. I also don’t think most non-technical founders need a technical co-founder.

There can be advantages to having a technical co-founder. But what if you don’t have one? Should you be actively looking for a technical co-founder? Should you put your startup on hold until you find one?

My answer is no and I’ll explain why.

I talk with lots of startup founders. It’s one of the perks I get from Dabble Lab and as a mentor at Tampa Bay Wave, the largest tech accelerator and coworking space in Tampa, Florida.

Recently, I met with a guy who had a startup idea I thought was really good. Even better, he had a ton of domain expertise and an impressive professional record. But, he wasn’t technical (read, he wasn’t a coder). While talking, he told me his startup was “on hold” until he could find a technical co-founder.

I was sharing this story with a few others at Wave and mentioned that I didn’t think most non-technical founders needed a technical co-founder. The conversation quickly turned into a debate.

My position wasn’t non-technical founders are never necessary. I just don’t think they are necessary in all (perhaps most) cases and not having one shouldn’t be a show-stopper.

The arguments in favor of having a technical co-founder are all good and valid. However, finding the right technical co-founder isn’t always an easy thing to do. Even if you find someone with the with the technical chops, there are so many other things to consider. Do they share the same vision? Will you get along? Will they be in it for the long-haul? What if he or she bails on you? The list goes on.

Also, for a lot of tech startups, the “technology” isn’t always the main thing. Very often it’s a strategy, business model innovation or the ability to execute better than anyone else that provides the real opportunity. Developing these kinds of things might not require a technical co-founder. Take Product Huntfor example. Groundbreaking technology? No. Successful? I’d say so.

In fact, not having a technical co-founder might actually provide advantages. It’s easy to think that as soon as you “build it” everything else will magically come together. It doesn’t. Ultimately, what makes you successful is your ability to figure out how to go further, faster, with less. If in your case “less” means no technical co-founder, see how far you can go without one. You might find out you really don’t need a technical co-founder after all.