Is a startup that is 3-4 non-technical founders useless?

So, I’m currently 19 and in college.  I have a startup with a couple of roommates, and we have a very unique idea, we know exactly how to monetize it, how we want it to be built, we know the need that it fills, everything is figured out.  Well, except for the actual coding.  I know a decent amount of Java, JS, C++, and some other languages, just nothing near the capacity needed to build this project.  I have never wanted to be known as an “idea guy” but well, I’m certainly closer to that than being an actual useful programmer.

The weird part of this is that I am almost 100% sure that the “business” cofounder has just about secured a decent amount of funding.  I mean, I always was under the impression that without any coding cofounders a startup is going to go nowhere.

Is hiring contractors really that viable of an option?  I 100% know that even as I’m studying programming everyday, I can’t make up that much knowledge before we actually have to bring a product to the table.  I mean, if we got an office and stuff and this started being full time, I was planning on just doing anything that the business needed – working with the programmers, marketing, working on the office, literally any dirty work that needs to be done etc..

Not really sure what I’m asking, I’m sure many legit programmers are laughing at this right now, so I guess I’ll narrow it down to this: Should I A) – Quit and tell the other cofounders I’m not competent enough for the position of CTO, anything technology related B) –  Desperately try to find a technical cofounder or C) – Just go along with this, hire contractors and learn programming in the meantime?

Sorry for the wall of text, just really anxious about this.

  • Elance. Odesk. Understand a bit of the technical side and contract it. If your business isn’t that tech heavy, you’re not useless. If it is, then yeah, get a good technical cofounder.

  • The creation of whatever tech platform your company is based on is a HUGE amount of value. And someone is going to have to provide it. Someone with skills that make them high in demand and hard to hire.

    Do you think that every one of your 3-4 founders is just as vital to the company’s success as that person is? Or are they all just college roommates/buddies?

    If it’s the latter, then not being able to find someone who wants to provide the majority of the value of a company they’re the 5th (and only useful) co-founder of is just the first of MANY problems you’re going to have.

  • It really depends what business you are doing. If tech is secondary importance, you can build a business without a technical guy. Outsourcing the is painful and will come back to you as a problem further down the line, but you can test out the idea this way.

  • No you’re not worthless. If you have some programming chops you’d have a good idea what is possible and how complicated it might be and you’d be an ideal proxy between the “idea guy” and any programmer you might outsource it to.

    If you’re not comfortable with your skills, outsourcing IS an option, but it requires careful monitoring and detailed specs. Many successful companies have been started with non-tech founders although usually one of the founders have previous experience being involved in tech projects in some capacity.

  • Do you have the coding chops to make a MVP? If so, then you can use that to get the ball rolling, prove viability, and get funding. After that point, you can hire better coders (possibly even to the CTO role) to take it to the next level. No sense in putting the cart before the horse, can you make something yourself that is good enough to prove that it’s worth putting in the time and effort to actually do it right?

  • Haha, that’s so funny. When I was 19 I started a business with 5 non-technical co-founders while I was in college.

    The reality is that the non-technical side of things isn’t so much of a problem when you have money, provided you choose a problem that is not technical at its core (don’t build a machine learning algorithm or a robot). Focus on something you can deliver easily technically (marketplaces are a good example), get some contractors going on it and you’ll be fine.

    For the record, all these years on, the startup is still going. Three co-founders left and the two who remained had the guts and business chops to keep raising money, close out some sales and make the business profitable. You really need is a CEO who has full control of the company, not decision by committee. And remember, even if this all goes south it’s only your first rodeo. Enjoy it and you’ll have some great memories to look back at.

  • It depends on the business that you’re in. If you’re a TECH company and it’s about the way your widget interacts with web crawlers or something then you need a tech person. If it’s more of a sales/biz dev play I think you’re ok.

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