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Good post.

Speaking as a technical guy, my default position is to be turned off by co-founding with a business guy unless they have an amazing track record. I like the advice of earning a technical co-founder.

I just wish more business guys realized their ideas aren't that special, aren't a magic way of printing money and just coming up with the idea doesn't entitle you to 75% of a two-man venture. It doesn't even really entitle you to an extra 10%.

In the beginning, your job is probably going to be to find a place to work, deal with the guy who's installing the Internet line, buying computers, buying food, buying and assembling furniture and generally just making things work. That's all very unglamorous work but, depending on the venture, it's quite likely your (alleged) business skills will be of very little value (while you're building a PoC/PoS/MVP).

I don't think I'm alone (as a technical guy) in generally finding business guys to have an inflated sense of self-importance who often want to treat technical people as an exchangeable/replaceable commodity.




Because non-technical people lack the skill of implementing ideas in code, their experience in following through with ideas and learning from that process is extremely limited.

Clearly, coming up with ideas and trying them out is not something you can only do in code, but when you do code you do that all the time. Every day, every hour, maybe even several times an hour.

Ironically, a self-described non-technical "idea guy" has relatively little experience in coming up with an idea, implementing it, testing it and iterating on it.

I'm speaking in general terms of course, some "idea guys" are simply brilliant and have an amazing vision. But they're the rare exception.


They all think they are the rare exception.


Most of them think they have a great idea, revolutionary, really. It's not, of course, but they're too inexperienced to realize that.

Often the focus of their idea is the consequences of their new fangled web service once it already exists and have already succeeded. They tend to focus on how cool it will be when it exists, when their idea has already materialized, has made a dent in the world and has a great amount of users and a good reputation.

Rarely do they focus on the difficult part: how to get there from here. How to solve the chicken and egg problem. And because they don't focus on that journey, they tend to miss things, like they say the idea will attract people of type A, but when you ask them about a problem they introduce attribute X that clearly isn't attractive to type A, and yet they don't tweak the idea to fit the new circumstances. This is because they are bad at making mental models, unlike programmers they don't make or use mental models every hour of every day.

But it's the idea they think is great, they usually don't claim to be the next Steve Jobs.


> It doesn't even really entitle you to an extra 10%.

Depends on the capabilities of the business guy. The best idea in the world, with the best technical execution in the world, is worth precisely $0 without the capability to bring it to market: to build sales channels and drive growing revenues.

This is a real skill, often over-looked by gung-ho coders with a neat idea. If you don't have the contacts and the experience of engineering a proper bis dev strategy, you ain't going anywhere.


So, you need a sales guy.

I don't think I've ever met a self-described "business guy" who wasn't a student.

If someone is a great salesman, they are a "sales guy". If they write ads, they are a "marketing guy". If they allocate capital, hire and fire, and lobby the CEO for more funds they are "managers".

When people say "business", it means they don't know what they are able to do, but want to make money. Or that they want to be the manager, but don't want to say it.


I don't know how a student could call himself a Business Developer and keep a straight face.


What does that make the CEO?


The "whatever the hell I need to do to make you and this business successful" guy.


The guy that talks to other CEOs, goes to CEO conferences, decides on strategic development and signs deals.


You forgot to mention the golfing.


Same thing.


"The guy that goes to jail."


If business guys want to earn their chops, there are a bajillion open source products out there that a solid consulting or VAR business could be built of off. Learning how to, for example, configure file servers with samba for small businesses, or set up blogging platforms, are a good way to get some technical chops too, and is most likely going to take less time to get good at than becoming a kickass programmer. And it's more practical experience than telling people about your awesome idea that just needs to be implemented.

In other words, there are a lot of business opportunities for which a majority of "the technical part" is already done.


That's called consulting, generally not really seen as a startup.

I don't really get your point? You seem to be telling people without technical skills to go get into non-scalable business models?


I'd venture to say that many ideas don't qualify as being a "startup", even if they are "generally" seen as such.

I fail to see what's scalable about an idea without implementation, making the end result, a non-scalable business model (as a business that doesn't have an implementation by definition isn't scaling), the same.

My point is that if you're a business guy who just has an idea, and doesn't have any business creating/building experience, you're going to have a hard time getting technical people on-board. You can get business creating experience without having some Super Duper Awesome Unique Idea that requires a technical guy. And you can do this yourself and earn some tech chops at the same time, which will help at selling your "It's the Vimeo of Youtubes!" idea to other, more technical people.

A successful consulting business is more valuable than having an idea that hasn't been implemented. Having had an unsuccessful consulting business is also more valuable than solely having an idea that hasn't been implemented.

The problem here may be pride: being a person with an idea is seen as a more desirable state to be in than executing on someone else's idea.


The examples he gave are misleading; they tend to suggest consulting.

But his point is right: There are applications that have been written for a small number of clients, but languish because getting that amount of success is something a developer can do on his own. In other words, it's tee'd up: There's a business case, a product and there are existing users.

What remains needed is someone who can get additional users, grow the application, leverage the business, etc.

It's such a good idea, in fact, that I don't know why there isn't a bigger 'reverse market' of devs looking for a business partner. Maybe because once you've got to that point you start thinking you don't need an MBA to do business.


Agreed, my examples were contrived, and there are better ones, but that doesn't mean one can't build a business off of them (and I know people who have).

All one needs to do is go to freshmeat or ohloh to see loads of stuff that could be leveraged to fulfill a need and ultimately build a business. You know that it fulfilled at least one person's need, because it was created to scratch an itch. Sure, maybe they aren't polished or sellable out of the box, and many of them are infrastructure (rather than end-user-product) related, but that's where the work of building a business comes in.


I don't really get your point?

It allows a 'Business Guy' to prove that they have what it takes to grow and manage a technical business.


"If you don't have the contacts and the experience of engineering a proper bis dev strategy, you ain't going anywhere."

Sorry, complete nonsense.


You could flip it and it would be just as true (that is, not at all):

Speaking as a business guy, my default position is to be turned off by co-founding with a technical guy unless they have an amazing track record. I like the advice of earning a business co-founder.

I just wish more technical guys realized their code isn't that special, isn't a magic way of printing money and just coming up with the implementation doesn't entitle you to 75% of a two-man venture. It doesn't even really entitle you to an extra 10%.

In the beginning, your job is probably going to be to find a place to host, writing alpha CRUD apps, buying computers, buying food, buying and assembling furniture and generally just making things work. That's all very unglamorous work but, depending on the venture, it's quite likely your (alleged) coding skills will be of very little value (until you've found a market).

I don't think I'm alone (as a business guy) in generally finding technical guys to have an inflated sense of self-importance who often want to treat business people as an exchangeable/replaceable commodity.


If your technical cofounder isn't the most important part of getting your startup off the ground, then your idea is probably not technically novel/interesting, an maybe you should hire it out to an external team.

The difference in results across two developers can be incredibly pronounced; sometimes, those egos are very much earned.

Personally, I started a company without a business guy and no external funding. It was incredibly difficult to do without external capital, but we own it, and we're not beholden to external interests. We've hit a million a year in revenue, and are poised to completely eclipse that. I've had to step up to effectively serve as CEO and CTO, but without the code, there'd be nothing to sell.

I'm not claiming that 'business' doesn't matter, but rather, that compared to the people that imagine and then create the things you're going to sell, the usual business guy -- minus any other specific skills in the field in which he's working -- is a commodity.




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