Looking to Partner Up March 10, 2019

As a programmer, what would you look for in a non-technical co-founder and their startup idea?

Elliott Davidson @elliottdavidson

For my own research purposes I'm interested to hear it from your perspective (as a programmer) what would you want a potential co-founder to bring to the table if they had a start-up idea?

I know this isn't an easy decision and shouldn't be taken lightly. What would be your reservations stopping you from partnering with them?


  1. 8

    To add to @louisswiss answer, some of my own critical points:

    • Don't try to be(come) technical. I'm technical. I don't need you to understand the tech stuff I sometimes talk about, I need you to immediately let me know when something is too technical and you just need my simpler/clearer decision.
    • In return, don't assume I know anything about your area of expertise - but I love learning (and I'll actively ask for it). If you love learning, I'll happily share as well, but only outside of critical moments.
    • Have experience earning money. I can build projects by myself and get paid doing it. Teaming up only makes sense to build something bigger. Someone without track record can't give me that. Get your own results and know what you're capable of today. If you're at zero, team up with someone else at zero looking to go to step one.
    • Be able to let go of ideas. Don't be married to ideas, neither of us are visionary gurus who can see the future (no one is, and those who claim to be are just trying to sell books). Be married to results.
    • Speaking of marriage, the two of us aren't getting married. We're launching experiments together. If one hooks and we happen to be a fit, great. If not, also great - lesson learned and maybe we know other people that'll be a better match with you. Don't try to force it if it's not working. But don't give up before really having tried either.
    • Don't try to fill (y)our time. I prefer that you do nothing for 99% of the time and then make one decision that leads to goddamn amazing results than that you fill (y)our week with trivial things just to feel busy. Productive != busy.
    • Following up on the previous item: Don't ask me to wake up at 4am. I know how/when/where I work best, and it's not going to be 4am just because someone wrote a book or an article about it.
    • Have a sense of humor. We already have to be real enough in our work and decisions, so balance that with some personality. (Not expecting you to be a comedian though, just yourself.)
    • Lastly, and most importantly, none of the above is written in stone. We're people, so be people. Communicate.

    Entirely my own opinions, but if just one of them helps anyone out, I'm happy.

    Best of luck.

    1. 1

      Thanks, @Skullclown this gives me a lot of insight. Lots of these points I guessed would be the case but nice to hear them from someone else.

  2. 4

    Hi Elliott,

    Interesting question. It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently as well.

    Here's a tool I put together which touches on the things you need to talk about when trying to find a great cofounder. I think some of that could be helpful for you.

    1. 2

      It's a wonderful tools, thanks for sharing @louisswiss!
      Will definitely share it.

    2. 2

      Awesome tool @louisswiss 👏🏾 Thanks for sharing!

    3. 2

      Looks great I'm going through it now!

  3. 3

    To add up on the other comments:

    • I don't want my co-founder to be technically competent, it's my job, I'm (mainly) technical. However, I would expect my co-founder to know a minimum about software project management: Agile, Lean, Devops, theory of constraint and all this good stuff. Knowledge work and taylorism are not necessarily compatible.

    • Minimum of knowledge about the market we want to target and having past experience and connections in it.

    • Being able to iterate through ideas quickly: we try, it doesn't work, we try something else. We are not our ideas. We are not our projects. We don't let go a part of ourselves when we discard them.

    • Knowing how to argue, with concrete arguments and data. Pushing ideas 'cause "I feel in command" is not good. It sounds obvious but most of the time people do it without even knowing it.
      In general, good communication skills is key I think.

  4. 1

    I'd choose the co-founder having marketing skills.

  5. 1

    Deep, deep, deep, deep pockets. 😉

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