Should I get a technical or non-technical co-founder?

I’m about to get pulled into a startup by a non-technical co-founder who is young with very little experience in the field (how do I make a website kind of inexperience) but has managed to get an incubator position with just the idea. I’m a bit concerned about how much value a non-technical co-founder can bring to the table. My question is for the technical co-founders – do you regret getting a non-technical co-founder? Would you do it differently next time? Do you think that the co-founder has enabled anything otherwise not possible with a technical co-founder? Should I run?

  • isn’t it hard to get an incubator position with just an idea and absolutely nothing to show? what is his background in? will the company benefit from having a non-technical founder or is it a very technical idea?

  • It depends on the incubator.

    Do they have money to put into this?
    Are you expected to put money in?

    On the value of the non-tech co founder you need ppl on your team with different types of skills just being able to put a website together isn’t enough. Does this person have some marketing skills? Sales? The incubator likely isn’t enough but their resume should be. Do you believe in the idea? Do you believe in them?

    • The incubator will give a bit of money, offices, coaching and then introductions to VCs. The cofounder candidate is a young graduate with a lot of determination and a good idea but with no work experience or any proven record on the marketing/sales side. I could bring her up to speed with marketing and online campaigns so that she can focus on traction and I focus on the product, however I’m wondering if anyone else has followed a similar path and has regretted it?

  • It really depends on the incubator. Incubators or “accelerators” are a dime a dozen. If she got into a Y-Combinator or Techstars, I’d say take it. The network alone will make it worthwhile.

    From what you’ve said, it doesn’t look like she has a lot to offer the venture other than the idea. From your gut feel, is the idea really that valuable or protectable? If she came from industry and has a unique take on a problem (ie. she was VP at Target and found that they seem to always run into an issue that no solution can solve and she feels a software solution would be a perfect fit), then she brings domain knowledge which is valuable. If she’s a super sales person, that’s also potentially valuable.

    So my take is, its not a great arrangement but you might be able to get complementary benefits from it – ie. network, resume, tech skill building, pitching experience etc that may make it worthwhile.

    • We’ve had another meeting today. I’d say that after accepting that this is not an ideal arrangement, at the end of the day our ideas seem to align and she seems to have potential on the people side. Gut feeling says to go for it for the journey.

  • Steve Jobs was a non-technical founder. Obviously, I’m not saying that your co-founder is the next Steve Jobs, but the point I’m tying to make is that there are other valuable skills besides coding, which can help a startup succeed. Jobs was incredibly good at selling products and with his salesmanship abilities and Steve Wozniak’s technical abilities, they were able to start Apple Computers.

  • Problems with her being just out of school:
    — no industry network, therefore no sales
    — no experience how things really work, therefore inherit business / economical problems with the idea, which you can’t spot either but surface 6 months down the road
    — overconfidence, probably even entitlement, edginess from the fact she has to prove herself in a men’s startup world

    I would run. Look for a biz co-founder with deep industry experience.

  • My opinion as a non tech person is to find another non tech person who’s opinion you trust deeply. They could assess this persons abilities after a few conversation to know the personality traits that could cause issues in the long run. This advisor could also mentor the non tech person over time.

  • If you ask an engineer founder “What’s the hardest part?” they will tell you that 80% of the work is writing code. If you ask a business/sales-oriented founder the same question, they will tell you that selling and building the business is 80% of the work. The reality is that the company has to be able to execute on BOTH or it won’t fly.

    The right co-founder (depending on what “non-technical” means) can make all the difference between being the next Betamax or OS/2 (technically superior and not winning the day) or success.

    • As a tech background cofounder building product but not coding mostly, I’d say tech is definitely 80% of the work. Don’t believe not educated people saying they learned sales – u can’t learn sales u only get experience in sales.

      For me, great cofounder was a venture capital fund partner (still on the job, didn’t quit) – u get professional financial modeling n business forecasting n good contacts to raise money n no need to pay him salary.

      I didn’t code a lot just manage, but I don’t need another guy like me while we still 10 ppl company – only coders n supporters, no managers or communicational time wasters…

      So I’d think what exactly this co-dude can give me, that I don’t know? This should be important n must have knowledge to grow ur project. If nothing critical, maybe just hire this person?

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