The Jobs of Technical and Non-Technical Cofounders

I had a meeting with another StartX startup founder today. He’s a Stanford MBA, and has been struggling because his technical cofounder is out of commission. I offered to take his code and drop a widget into the app so that he could keep moving without his cofounder. He regretfully declined.

B owns the code, he said. That’s his job.

Noooooo.

    Dear Non-Technical Cofounders,

    A Technical Cofounder’s job is not to write code. Stop treating your cofounder like a commodity you could outsource to India. That’s a waste of a CS PhD’s time.

    Writing code is not a secret ninja skill, as much as we would like for you to believe that it is.

    Python, Java, Lisp — whatever your cofounder’s weapon of choice –- is a language in which to communicate an idea. A doctor may communicate his diagnosis to the patient in English, but fluency in English is not what a doctor advertises as his primary asset.

    The ability to write code brings an idea into responsive, communicable form. But a Technical Cofounder’s job is not to write code any more than a French cofounder’s job is to translate all your ideas to French. The job of a Technical Cofounder is to be a Cofounder.

    The role of any Cofounder, technical or not, is this: Do whatever the other Founder can’t do.

    If your Cofounder’s only ability is to translate your ideas into an iPhone app, just outsource that nonsense and keep the equity.

software-developers

If you’re hosed in the absence of a technical cofounder, well, better get cracking on Coursera.

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