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I (developer) chatted with a water quality consultant during a plane flight. Consultant mentioned the CRM for his niche business sucked. He asked if I'd be interested in building a CRM for no money upfront, instead making money later (a percentage of his business I could sell, a license fee, profit sharing, whatever). I realized in that moment once the app was built, I wouldn't need him at all, and that I could sell it (let's assume it'd be a valuable product) to all of his competitors. Either he wins, or I win, but there wasn't​ a scenario I could imagine where we both won. I explained that to him, and he was no longer interested in having me build the software for him.



Why do you assume that water quality consultants would buy a software product from you alone? Selling is hard, and a big part of it is knowing your customer, and gaining their trust. This guy would have a much better chance at accomplishing that. He had a lot of value, you just failed to see it. He made the right choice by finding someone else.


The point I was trying to make is that making an MVP water consulting CRM for a single customer isn't very equitable for me. The amount of money I'd earn for the time invested feels like it'd be less than what I'd likely earn as a consultant for anyone paying an hourly rate.

If I decided to build a CRM for the water consultant market, he brings little to the table for me. What I mean I can find a water consultant that isn't him. If I approached him, pitching on the idea for a CRM that would cost 50% less and be 2x more efficient, he'd likely be open to the idea of at least discussing it. If he said no, I'd simply find a different water consultant to talk to. He if said he'd talk, but only if he got to own after I built it, I'd turn him down.

For him to be a viable non-technical cofounder, he'd need to stop being a water consultant, and start being a cofounder. Those are two separate jobs. He didn't​ want to discuss that. He could bring value, maybe. But he wanted to own the majority of something he couldn't buy or build himself, and he wasn't willing to become a founder. I wasn't interested in doing business like that.

I was once tried being the non-technical cofounder. In the end I decided it was easier to learn how to code, and that path was super hard.


"For him to be a viable non-technical cofounder, he'd need to stop being a water consultant, and start being a cofounder. "

This part I completely agree with you. If you're splitting equality (relatively) equally. He should be as committed as you are, if he's not, than you need to be compensated extra for it.


There's a lot of value available by building apps for strangers for free? All I can see is risk. If you can find a way to de-risk that business model, then you'll have your value.

Perhaps you meant potential. But then there's potential in most everything. Every manuscript in a slush pile has a certain amount of potential.


No, I meant Value. He's an expert in the industry, he has connections to potential customers, he presumably has their trust. That's crazy valuable. That takes years to develop, and there's no "hack" to get around it.

I encourage you to try and build those intangible pieces yourself. You'll quickly find it's not trivial in any way.


Sure, value for himself. Value as a business input to a currently non-existent SaaS app? Way less clear.


This is my last remark here, because this chain is getting a bit long. But I'll try my best to clarify myself. Because I really want this to help you in the future, or anyone who might read this. Because I used to have similar opinions as you, and it hurt my progress.

When you're done building the minimum viable product. You're not done, his value is not used up. You've done only a fraction of the work involved with building a company. The real hard work now begins. I've done this a few times, so i'm talking from experience here. Build it, and they will come... is a fallacy.

You'll need him to get in the door. Yeah, getting in the door of customers is hard, even if you have a product they want/need. You'll need him to help you gain their trust (you're not selling steak knives here, you're selling enterprise software!). High value sales means building a relationship, understanding the process of having clear goals with each engagement, demonstrating the value, integrating feedback, etc. You need an expert who understands sales, and the industry. If he's a consultant, presumably he has this.

You MIGHT be able to do this yourself, but even if you eventually succeed you're probably going to fail a lot before you get it. If he already has the skill set, and he already has the network, and he already has the relationships. He's bringing A LOT to the table. This isn't you working for him, this isn't you working for fee. This is adding his complementary skill set to your own, and building a company.

The one last thing I think every engineer who wants to break out and do their own thing should know. You can outsource product development (not saying you should, just saying you can) but you CAN NOT outsource sales. There are consultants who will help you, there are distributors, but none of that can completely replace having your own dedicated sales/marketing staff. They're augmentations. Building a company is not just having a product, it's having a market, it's knowing the market, and it's having a strategy to penetrate the market. The product is just a part of the company.

I recently quit my job to bootstrap a SaaS. I spend 60 hours working on it a week, and 55 of those hours i'm doing something that isn't coding. I REALLY want to just write some code, but that's not the most important part... not right now at least.

My advice is don't underestimate the value an industry expert who knows sales can bring to the table, and try to be realistic about what your skill set is.




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