The latter is hard to find too, so it's not like tech guys have it any easier.
Wait, what are we taking about?
1) Programming isn't impossible to learn. An outsourced MVP might be a sign that the non-tech founder is not fully committed (my grandpa owned a small factory, but stressed the importance of knowing how to work all the equipment even if he stayed in the office).
2) Technical people (of which I am one) frequently underestimate technical challenges. I'm a good developer but at times have have massively missed deadlines, released buggy/untested shite, and mis-predicted technologies (e.g. I once thought Flex would take over the world).
So if we have worked for years in a field and made these mistakes, we have a hard time trusting a non-technical person the even guess at the challenges/tradeoffs up ahead. And to tell when it's time to right the ship or pivot from an idea they are attached to.
So to flip it, you need to market yourself more than your project. I think the best non-technical cofounder is somebody who is a some-time developer. As a manager at Vanderlay Industries once said:
"If you think I'm looking for a guy to sit at a desk pushing around papers, forget about it. I got enough headaches trying to manufacture the stuff."
I can definitely agree with your comment.
It's like a handsome, successful, wealthy, socially well-adjusted man who has trouble finding a new girlfriend because he only goes out with his current one. Any developer's first reaction to a new project is to wish they could raze it and start over from scratch, imagine how much more intense that is when the initial development was done by an MBA.
The code is good. Enough people have looked at it for me to know that. Unless we change language it is something to be built upon, not razed.
hold on... "of all the bullshit MBA types" - that means you are calling me one of the bullshit MBA types! :( Perhaps you meant "compared to the usual bullshit MBA types"? ;)
The Java point is interesting, and something I have discussed lots with various people - including people who have contacted me today after posting this blogpost. Half the people think I should stick to Java - it's a fine tool for the job, half the people think I will need to switch language. No doubt being in Java reduces my pool of potential co-founders.
> It's the first programming language taught to every freshman Computer Science undergrad, everywhere in the world.
Except where Python is used. Or something else.
> Even most die hard Rubyists know how to write Java.
Well, a lot of the move to Ruby (particularly Rails) was a reaction to perceived issues with Java, so, yeah, Java skill is probably overrepresented in the Ruby (particularly Rails) community.
> Who in the world teaches PHP?
Judging from a quick googling, plenty of places teach PHP.
That you have to get approved and give references is also the biggest "f* you" to potential users. Why would any sensible person waste their references' time and goodwill with this nonsense?
Hopefully someone will make a worthwhile "founder dating" service that just lets users find others who want to work on something and gives them a way to make contact. Don't make users jump through hoops, and don't abuse users.
anyway, i started seeking tech co-founders after the failure of that outsourcing attempt. it was too hard - the few talented people in my school (i was still in college at the time) who i befriended were either more interested in gainful employment with competitive salaries after graduation, or they wanted to do their own startups and not ride on mine. i believe i have successfully sold my vision to a few of them, and a few of them have informed me that when i described my ideas, it has changed the way they look at the industry i'm tackling (advertising). some has expressed interest, but without external funding and significant traction, they usually fizzle off after a short period.
so anyway, right now i'm at a stage where since i can't find a tech cofounder, i've decided to BECOME one myself. that's right - i'm returning to school for a computer science degree. i start school in january next year, and hopefully over the next 3-4 years i will build my skills up to a level where i'm either a successful founder, or i'm one of those engineers you mentioned in your article who are deluged with attractive offers.
good luck to you and your startup though, as a fellow entrepreneur i sincerely wish you the best. it's a hard road to tread.
That sort of talk usually prompts a bunch of people to say - hey - you can teach yourself to be quite decent in just 6 months! Possibly true - but that requires a lot of spare time that I don't have. Also, there's no way I would have been able to build Satago with 6months of experience.
In fact I briefly tried and started blogging about it: http://newbiehacker.wordpress.com/
if i was allowed to return on a different visa, i would not choose to go back to sch for CS and would instead learn these stuff on my own. unfortunately, i was denied such a visa and thus... here we are.
Looks like this guy needs to write down the list of qualities his co-founder will need to have and which one he is prepared to discuss; I mean if he is in his late 20s, early 30s, it is likely he would choose someone around his age and that's probably around the time someone is starting to be concerned about settling down.
Stop trying to turn middle-manger types into tech startup CEOs.
In response to your article, maybe you might consider showing more of a love and understanding for technology? Perhaps even acknowledging that traditional business knowledge may be a hindrance to a startup, instead of a clear benefit? 
OP worked at Rocket Internet for 2 years. Say what you like about them, there is nothing 'traditional' or 'middle-manager' about a role like that. OP also has a PhD in genetics and an MBA, a not-too-dissimilar set of qualifications to US founders. You don't have to be a software engineer to have useful startup skills...
The obsession with PHDs and higher level education.. great, another Euro-obsession.
Look, I'm not saying that he can't be a great startup founder. I'm just offering a different perspective for how to present one's self to potential tech cofounders. Emphasizing "business skills" and higher level education is definitely not the best way.
I've come from a company where the tech guys are treated like second-class citizens to the business guys. I want the opposite of that - somewhere where developers love to work (and share in the equity/options etc).
I think your comment about middle-managers becoming CEOs is partly because we still have less tech startup culture here vs the US. Not so many Facebooks and Googles. Also places, like I mention, where business guys are valued too highly.
I'd say my business knowledge is far from traditional: PhD Genetics, biotech consulting, database redevelopment and management, MBA, industrial-scale eCommerce incubator, entrepreneur.
I agree with the AVC article. The team described there is my ideal team. I am in effect at the moment the Product Manager.
In fact, the tech side of things in my startup have gone extremely well - it works well, the code is good, the product build speed has been good - mainly due to the good relationship between me and the contractor. The tech side of things is the least of my problems, but I still want a business partner because it is impossible for me to do everything on my own - it just makes sense that my business partner is also technical.
> You need to have someone in the team that can fix a crashed server at 3am, or burn the midnight oil to hit a new feature deadline.
Almost every contractor I've worked with on elance has been willing to work whatever hours were required. For $5 an hour. Why give up precious equity for something you could hire out for a few dollars an hour?
> To date I have been using a contractor to build Satago, and whilst he is very good (one of the best developers I’ve worked with to be honest, but sadly based very far away from me in Russia) the fear is that without the large chunk of equity that a co-founder would be working towards, he could just down tools, and then Satago would grind to a halt.
If I were you I would find a few other good developers to work with. Elance has them in abundance and they'll be more than happy to work for you at $5-$10/hr. (I prefer fixed-budget projects, personally.)
Here's how I get projects done: I take a few INDEPENDENT features from the product roadmap, set clear expectations with the developers, hand off the code, iterate, finalize, then pay my main developer to integrate their code into the main code-base. In my case I'm the lead developer so I do the code integration, in your case maybe it would be your contractor from Russia.
If the developers I've hired write good code and deliver as promised I keep them. If they don't I move on to someone else. In one year I've gone through 6 developers and kept 2 of them. 2 competent, hard working, reliable developers.
When I said "set clear expectations", some expectations I've found useful to establish with a contractor are: clearly define the project specifications (you need to be able to tell them exactly what needs to be done), clearly define the project deadlines (first iteration due in 2 weeks), clearly define the budget ($300 for features X, Y, and Z), and clearly define the communication requirements (respond to emails within 24 hours, provide constant work status updates). It's also a good idea to let them know that you're looking for developers with whom you can establish a long-term relationship and that this small project they're about to work on is a test. If they meet your expectations you will keep working with them, if they don't you won't be repeating business.
I also make sure to tell them that the code needs to be thoroughly documented. It helps the other developers who have to work with their code and it could help you get an idea of what's going on under the hood.
In summary, I think technical co-founders are over-rated. I see no reason to give up equity for something that can be easily contracted out. Ok, finding good contractors isn't "easy". It takes a lot of time -- it's taken me 9 months to find 2 solid ones. But the ones I've found can reliably get the job done, on time, within budget, guaranteed. I own 100% of my company.
I don't think that is just because of the code-ownership. Doing this stuff is tough and I really need to delegate to someone - and at this stage I can't afford to hire someone on good money, so I'd rather find someone who is apssionate about the idea and with whom I could work well.
In fact the technical development has gone very well - I am working with a great contractor.
Do you really need VC money? I mean really need it. Most projects I've come across can be bootstrapped.
> they all insist on it
Did you counter them with "I have 3 contractors at my disposal on-call, round-the-clock"?
> I can't afford to hire someone on good money
£30k is a lot of money. Nearly $50,000 USD. How much do you have left? How much are you paying your Russian developer? (too much, I'd bet). $50,000 is 5 developers salaries, full-time, from India, for a year.
> I'd rather find someone who is passionate about the idea and with whom I could work well.
If that's the direction you want to take it, I wish you all the best of luck. I personally would go a different route.
> I am working with a great contractor.
It's entirely plausible that a business run by 1 technical contractor will fall apart (life happens... I've had contractors break contract several times due to personal issues that arose). It is, however, much less likely that a business run by 5, competent, well managed developers will fall apart.
Just sharing what's worked for me. Best of luck whichever direction you go.
No I don't really need VC money. I need more money, but I'm pretty sure I can crowd-source it again via Seedrs.
£30k is a lot but not that much... I had to pay for non-tech stuff too. My Russian dev is very good value compared to hiring in Europe. I'd really rather have one top-notch guy than 5 ok guys. The quality of dev so far has been 1st class.
1. Your one top-notch guy who getting in a car crash would put your business on hold for months until you could find a replacement. My 5 "ok" guys are fault tolerant, providing constant development regardless of what life throws at them.
2. My 2 developers aren't just "ok", they're rock stars. 1st class all the way. I pay them $5/hr. Don't underestimate India or the Philippines because they're low cost. Don't overestimate the difficulty of programming. It may seem hard to you but to someone who knows how to program it's incredibly simple. To a fluent developer, writing code is like writing an essay.