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.


    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.


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


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