If you're making, say, web analytics software for online retailers, your best business cofounder would be a guy who had just spent a year convincing online retailers to buy his company's Magento extension (or whatever). This guy will make your product better, will know what to say to customers, and will probably even dial up all the people he already sold to so he can also sell your new product. A second best fit might be someone from an ad agency, for example, who had pitched and won the business of a few online retailers.
Don't buy this visionary, motivator, fundraising, connector bull. If you need a life coach, hire a life coach. There's only two critical functions to your startup: Make the thing, Sell the thing. You can fake the rest if you do the big two.
More to the topic, a proven sales person is not the same as a business cofounder. Sales experience is a minimum, but with this model it's basically assumed you have a sales ready product.
Domain expertise is great too.. in all hires.... if you can find it. That's where you'll source your "strong-vision guy" if you're lucky. Very lucky.
Marketing (real, user-adoption marketing), PR, design, and perhaps channels to funding and recruiting-- that's what I consider business-side startup execution.
Where do you find these people? I don't know- it's different for devs. People can say, "I can program." It's less cool for people to say, "I can market. I can run a PR campaign." It's not the primary factor, but I think it's a factor.
Signed, Business Guy.
I didn't know Steve Jobs had a well kept apartment and an exquisite blog. Is tripping on acid and living in India any better an indicator of your product design prowess?
I don't mean to be cynical, but this kind of writing to me is just "talking". The camp director, the hustler, the protege; they have these characteristics, come from this background, blah blah blah. No fact, all fiction, bullshit for the ear and mind.
If you are a technical person starting a company and you don't know any business co-founders whom you have worked with then don't bring them on as a co-founder. Find another technical co-founder and make your first hire the business person. This will give you time to build out the product and understand more of what you need.
In an effort to meet more like minded technical entrepreneurs, I've started a free co-working space in Downtown Los Angeles. It's called Droplabs, www.droplabs.net.
Anyone is welcome. The original founders, I'm 1 of 7, all work with the Drupal CMS, but also work in other systems. There's other independent creative consultants there too doing Ruby, Node.js, C/C++, various client projects and about 4-5 startups.
I'm still looking for the right people. I'm ambitious: http://about.me/blakes
In a week or two I have a project for Show HN...
Honestly, the attitude toward "non-technical co-founders" needs to change in this community and the fact that anyone would say you don't really need one is just naive. Build it and they will come is a Silicon Valley pipe dream that happens to .1% of companies. Talking to customers, exploring competitive products, negotiating service contracts, firing up potential employment candidates, getting press, lining up distribution partners, selling clients, exploring new markets for potential leads, managing non-technical resources, fund raising, pitch writing, and more are just a handful of the things that a "non-technical co-founder" can be doing. Doing them yourself when you can find someone more experienced or focused on this is poor management of resources and speaks to an inability to delegate or manage limited company time and resources.
Having been through YC, I can tell you right now that not only will they not teach you "all the mysterious business stuff", but if you think "business stuff" isn't actually that hard, you work with shitty business people and aren't aggressive enough in your initiatives.
Everybody likes to downplay the importance of business people in startups. My first co-founder and I in Earbits were both non-technical. While we looked for a technical co-founder we lined up an advisory board from Google and EMI Music, raised friends and family money, recruited a designer for equity only to mock up our site and design our logo/brand, and had record labels sending us boxes of CDs for a radio platform that didn't even exist yet. During that time, three technical people flaked on our project, one of them after signing the paperwork to join. Do you see me talking about the lack of importance or reliability of technical people? No. Your bad experience or rumors about shitty business people are unfounded. Most successful companies have a solid business-oriented co-founder. For every crappy "idea guy" there is a flaky developer.
It made me realize that I am already a Camp Director and Hustler myself, and made me re-affirm that what I need is a design co-founder (aka the Steve Jobs protegé, as he calls it).
Here are some startup ideas of mine btw: http://ideashower.posterous.com
I don't know where all of this bad advice came from, but you should never, ever have an equal cofounder.
1. Passion (intrinsic motivation)
Otherwise, I don't need them and I can do the rest myself.
I'm sure there are lots of "ideas guys" who offer nothing but fuzzy and poorly reasoned concepts. There are also "ideas guys" who have expertise in concepts and customers who will think of things you've never thought of. A previous commentator mentioned that if you're looking to start an web analytics company, you might find someone with expertise in that area. Not only will they help you make customers, they'll give you a much better understanding of the market and what white spaces and other opportunities may exist in the market.
In the end, you simply need to understand the value of any founder you bring in. If a non-technical founder can provide better value than a technical co-founder, being afraid of hiring an "ideas guy" is not ideal. You simply need to find the right one.
There are lots of outstanding founders/CEO's who either come from no technical background, or a technical background that pales in comparison to a really great engineer.