Do I Need a Tech Cofounder for My Startup? (Hint: The Answer Is No)

What do Tinder, LinkedIn, Airbnb, and Pandora all have in common?

Besides the obvious (they’re all successful), they were all started by people without technical experience. There’s no reason to be sidelined for not having the technical knowledge to launch a startup.

Many people who have the intention of creating a startup bank on finding the right tech co-founder. The idea being that as founders they can focus on business strategy and growth. They’re willing to share their vision with someone simply because the current paradigm is that startup tech co-founders are a given. But this isn’t true, and there are plenty of ways that this type of thinking can hurt more than it helps.

What Does a Tech Co-founder Bring to the Table?

In theory, when you look for a tech co-founder, you’re looking for someone who will take your mind off the tech-related aspects of the startup. This includes creating a cohesive vision for developers and keeping everyone working toward a common goal.

Having a tech co-founder is also about saving money. Here is a person who will have to put in a lot of hours and work probably more than anyone else on the development side, in exchange for a share in the potential profits. In a lot of ways, it’s a dream come true for startups. Not to mention the funding opportunities that a startup tech co-founder can produce.

However, the sad reality is that it doesn’t always work out that way. Trying to shoehorn in a co-founder rather than working with a reliable team often becomes detrimental for a lot of reasons.

It’s Hard to Find the Right Person

The responsibilities and expectations of a co-founder are vast, and it takes a special kind of person to make it all work. For starters, you need a person who is as passionate about your startup as you are, or close to it.

They also need the right kind of experience. The perfect tech co-founder doesn’t only need the technical expertise but also the depth of experience that allows them to organize a team successfully. An ace programmer straight out of college may have the right know-how but most likely won’t have the awareness to be a great tech co-founder.

What’s more, you could find a tech co-founder with all the right experience in all the wrong areas. If you aren’t a technical person, this can be hard to judge. Anyone can produce a series of buzzwords and seem like they’re just what you need only to have a completely different skill set than what you expect.

The responsibilities of a co-founder extend beyond knowing how to code well. Someone can be a great programmer with no idea how to lead a team. Moreover, there may not even be a team to lead. If you’re working with say two engineers, that’s a group that’s best managed without a technical lead.

Additionally, you need someone who is committed. No matter how you slice it, a startup is a bumpy ride, you need to know that your co-founder is willing to go the distance and do what it takes. If a better offer comes along and you lose your tech co-founder, it can be a disaster.

Finding the right person is not easy. Tech resources are in such high demand these days that finding one available to co-found with your startup is extremely difficult. You’ll have to spend a lot of time at tech meetups, networking, interviewing, and getting to know people. Time, that you could spend launching your Minimal Viable Product or polishing your pitch deck.

What Are The Alternatives?

There are many ways to circumvent not having a tech co-founder. All the responsibilities of the position can — in one way or another — be distributed among the rest of the team or outsourced.

  1. Outsource the Engineering

A simple solution is to rely on an app development agency. There are many to choose from and it’s very easy to work with a team that’s already established and knows its way around the development process.

The right agency can also help you understand the requirements for your MVP and with decision-making along the way.

  1. Startup Tech Consulting

Instead of relying on a co-founder to put together the right team of developers, you can do so yourself. All you need is a little help in understanding your needs, which you can get from a consulting firm, like

Startup tech consulting companies take on the role of a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or advisor for your startup for a lot less money. They can help you formulate a comprehensive strategy for creating an MVP as well as choose the right technology and tools. Some will even continue to work with you into the marketing and promotion stages if you choose.

  1. Learn What You Don’t Know

This is a bit of a stretch for someone focused on growing a new business. Learning to code and getting a decent grasp of technologies is not feasible in a reasonable period. Some people take this option seriously, but it almost always fails.

However, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as learning to become a programmer. There is a lot of existing infrastructure out there that you can use. Just like Squarespace and WordPress can help create great websites with no real knowledge of coding, click-and-drag development platforms such as Bubble are becoming more and more popular for applications.

Even if you don’t have a coding background, you can put together the MVP that you want with minimal effort. This is an excellent alternative to coding that still puts control of the development process in your hands.

To Co-found or Not?

A technical co-founder is not an essential part of a startup. Technical leadership is undoubtedly necessary, but it’s something that a startup can grow into. Getting a technical co-founder on board is hit-or-miss and time consuming.

Instead, there are many ways to take charge of your technical needs. Startup tech consulting is always available or even outsourcing the entire project to a bespoke app design agency. Or, if you’re ambitious, you can get the essential development of an MVP done on a no-code platform yourself.

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