If he (or she) can't deliver that, then you've found the business equivalent of a scriptkiddie that promises a business person he can build the next Google from a wordpress install.
People that think they are good at business is as common as people that think they can hack because they installed wordpress on a shared host.
Just like there aren't that many great hackers there aren't that many great business people. If you find one you'll know right away because he comes with either money or customers. Great business people are worth their weight in gold. Just like great hackers. Unfortunately the two don't often meet.
In my very limited experience, non-technical partners have vaguely done this, but haven't clearly communicated what they're doing or how it contributes value. I think they imagine that I share their background, and automatically understand and value their actions. With no shared background, poor communication, and only a short relationship with them so far, the trust isn't there to really value their work.
My mistake has been looking forward too much to what a product will be, and thus aiming for more than is reasonable in a small, fixed timespan. This inevitably means I can't achieve what I aim for without investing significantly more of my time than the non-technical partner, which makes me feel like I'm getting a bad deal. I have to learn to aim more minimally, and estimate more generously.
It seems that both types of founders need to communicate a lot, and invest more in the personal relationships outside the venture. All that communication will build the trust which eventually makes things flow well and happen efficiently.
At the same time, there's a lot of business guys who can bring real, tangible value in terms of strategy, customer acquisition methods, marketing, finances, etc.
I think there'a huge misconception that all it takes to build a company is a couple hackers who can build a product.
Building the product is NOT the hard part(except the rare case where there are real technical challenges). Building a business is the hard part.
If you really think about it, most startups don't fail because their code isn't good enough. They fail because the founders are absorbed in engineering and neglect the business parts like marketing, monetizing, and so on.
I'm kind of on both sides, as a hacker who's better at the business/marketing elements, so I have perspective into attitudes on both sides.
I may be taking a risk making this comment on Hacker News, but I think in some places, it's actually coders who are a dime a dozen. People who can actually build and grow a business are much harder to find.
Hackers tend to notice the plethora of bad business types, because we're bombarded by them. Business founders tend to notice the lack of good tech co-founders because all their experience is with bad ones. However, we can observe that there are startups with good ideas, good business partners, and good tech partners. They're out there.
If you're a tech or business type and are looking for a co-founder, but can't find one, consider that perhaps the problem is that you aren't compelling enough to attract the right kind of co-founder. Make sure you're bringing all you can to the table, and you'll find someone to do it with you.
My point is that you are right to say that building a business is the hardest part, but you are wrong to suggest that "building the business" is something separate from "building the product", or that success in the former does not crucially depend on the latter.
I agree that fast execution and the ability to turn around and change what you've done (some hackers I know are very change-resistant, note) is important - that's why my last startup didn't do as well as it could. But a lot of that could have been saved with more customer-development methods as well as faster, better code.
And actually, even building a technically mundane product is quite hard, but more for the same reasons building a business is. It's a prototype that's easy to build, but buckling down to cross all the t's and dot the i's, and perform the boring work to make it a real product takes perseverance.
The best hackers absolutely need to find a great business partner. Unless they can wing it on their own. But personally, I hated the doing all the BS it takes to bring a product to market. I just want to build cool shit.
But writing code bores me...I hate slogging through coding and debugging whenever I have to do it.
1) They want full-time effort out of me (often, in the exploitative sense of "full-time"), but they're not full-time on the project themselves.
2) There is zero evidence that they have produced a deliverable for the project. Not even a Powerpoint deck or a napkin.
3) They have no conception of what the BATNA for a talented engineer sounds like. My way to discourage them quickly without being impolite is to quote my consulting rate, which typically causes sputtering.
Aren't you underestimating yourself?
Most businesses don't need Knuths. They need "smart & gets things done". By my reckoning, you're way ahead of the average HNer (and myself) at this game.
If I were to hire him, I would make sure he stays from actual coding as much as possible; that would be a waste of his talents and our time.
Not "underestimating" his coding skills, it's just that his business sense far eclipses anything else he might be good at: programming, Japanese language, or competitive Polka dancing.
This can't be said enough. I so often see people get caught up on which technology, framework, or paradigm is right for a given idea (or worse, constantly revise them) that they get slowed down dramatically, or in extreme cases, deadlocked. I do it myself from time to time. Start by grinding something out and going from there.
As a tip, though, I usually just ask bschooler-types a few basic questions like 1) how many foos are bought today 2) how do wumpats make their purchasing cycle (i.e. enterprise, individual, etc.) 3) who are the existing competitors in this space... Most bschoolers, despite having these questions drilled into them over and over during their 60k/year schooling, don't bother doing the legwork to investigate them before looking for a "technical cofounder."
If all someone brings to the table is "I think this will work" that's essentially nothing.
Now here is the tough question (for engineers): yes, we have the superior ability to execute any idea because we can code. But are we actually going to? This might be generalizing, but most fellow engineers I met prefer working for a stable paycheck -or- prefer hacking a prototype project that never ships. And pet projects started by the above mentioned people (without that business person who pushes them) never get to see the world -- even if the prototype website, iPhone app, etc. is finished, they spend no effort on marketing and give up when no users come.
Again, this is generalizing. There are many examples of hackers who have built very successful ventures (Google, Facebook, et cetera.) But my general observation makes me sad -- many engineers just don't seem to make good founders. What can be done in the engineering community to make hackers more "business-minded" or "shipping-minded," so to say?
Truth is, if you can slot yourself into one of these classifications that easily you're probably not going to be a very good startup cofounder. A startup requires people to wear lots of different hats, with some being in the technical side and others being on the business side. While normal people, aka business and technical founders, can wear one, maybe two hats at a time, start up founders need to be 12 headed hydras.
I'm not saying that there's no specialization on a startup team; it's necessary. But how will your programming ninja respond when an investor asks about how your branding fits the specific niche you're targeting? Or what will the business dude say when questioned about what stack you're going to deploy on?
Maybe it's time we stopped thinking about business/technical cofounders and started evaluating people as startup cofounders.
The blind "hello, please believe in me" model seems commonly believed in, but I've yet to hear of tangible cases where it actually worked. (business person recruiting techie at an event).
Also I would point out consumer internet business people might not be able to have the same impact as a top bd person for an enterprise software company as ES companies have greater needs on building real sales organizations while consumer internet relies on marketing a social phenomena.
Lets get this out of the way. IF YOU WANT TO GET A SALARY GO WORK FOR AN ESTABLISHED BUSINESS.
This post is so short-sighted that if Joshua doesn't already have glasses he should buy a pair. I am a little surprised that someone that runs a business actually posted this. Joshua are you aware of all the activities that actually go on in a business? I can enlighten you:
- Customer Service
- Business Strategy
The reason this post is short-sighted is that you are forgetting about what ACTUALLY makes a business (not an idea) successful. OPERATIONAL PERFECTION
Some supporting evidence is looking at a business plan or even a pitch deck, how many slides are dedicated to the technical aspect? 1 of 10.
"What you business guys should be thinking about is this: what am I bringing to this business?" THIS IS A QUESTION FOR EVERYONE IN EVERY BUSINESS. If you do not directly contribute to the success of the business then you are not valuable it doesn't matter if you have technical skills or business development skills.
I am not a developer! I said it, i'm proud of it and i never want to be a developer. I could never be successful as a developer and i would be doing my business an injustice if i tried to code anything more then a simple webpage.
Startups need to be higly efficent in the way they do work, each of the team members need to be very focused on what is important and what they are good at. Yes, a smart developer can learn to sell and a smart business development person can learn to code, but WHY would do that business development and technical development are two very different skill-sets.