Today, during one of our daily Skype chats, my (tech) co-founder and I reflected on what we dub “The Business-Tech cofounder paradigm”.
business guy <-> tech guy
business guy : “i want this and this”
tech guy: “wow great plan!”
tech guy: “fuck … that’s a fuckload of work”
business guy: “dude…this doesn’t work”
As I write this Tycho is realizing one of my ‘great plans’ swearing my name and envisioning me on the cross, as I sit back, itching to get the latest version of his localized updates. Test it, then open up another issue on Github. Having designed the platform we’re currently building (foundervous.com) which ironically connects founders, startups, and investors like Tycho and myself. I didn’t take the technical implications of my ‘designs’ into account. Sketching this on paper and adobe is one thing, implementing them is another.
Lesson 1, sit together, make a prototype. One week saved designing the platform costs 2 extra weeks programming and fixing bugs.
That being noted, there is no optimal composition of a perfect team but there are certain things to look for when trying to find your cofounder or recruit a team. The first thing, and in my opinion the most important is diversity. Diversity not only in terms of expertise but also in terms of age, interests, experiences, background. Tycho and myself are juxtaposed in just about every field except for our humor, even during the stressful times we can relate in that sense.
… That being said of course there are cases of great startups being founded by individuals, like Dropbox. I firmly believe that diversity does help when coming up with new ideas, features, and functionalities. The probability that a single individual is ‘right’ in whatever sense that may be, is doubled when there are two of you, so lesson 2, find someone that’s different but you can see complements you. In one startup, I was stuck with another business person. We had great ideas, but the fact that our skills overlapped heavily did not mean we complimented each other in contrast we substituted each other and cannibalizing our ideas; we never ended up succeeding. Complement do not substitute.
Lesson 3, stick to that ONE idea. Every entrepreneur is the same. They open the newspaper, read, ‘huh, why isn’t there an app to fix that.’ Ask too many questions and you’ll get too many answers. In some cases consultants and entrepreneurs are much alike, both are problem solvers. One takes a business problem and fixes it the other takes a population’s problem or a market problem. One tackles it from an analytical side the other with creative intuition. Consulting, yukkkk. Develop that ONE idea, and stick to it. Develop the passion, develop the knowledge. Learn to live, sleep, and breathe this idea. Of course, most entrepreneurs have more than one startup or company. Just like investors, entrepreneurs hedge their risk and diversify across several startups. The only problem is that, in my opinion, in order to really succeed you need to follow through with just one. Its this reason that startup accelerators require applicants to be full-time ready to risk it all.
Last week, Marc van der Chijs, cofounder of the Chinese Tudou (youtube) told me, ‘entrepreneurs are risk-takers. If you’re too risk averse go work for a corporation’. True story. So, be ready to risk it all. Don’t be reckless but use your judgement.
Ohhh, new update, time to go piss off ‘the tech-cofounder’