How to Start a Technical Start-up Without a Tech Co-Founder?
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Most people are intimidated by the "co-founder" label and try to dodge a bullet when looking to get some help without giving too much.
While finding a technical co-founder may help out a lot, it's not the only way.
You can hire a senior engineer and design a payment structure that doesn't include equity. Best case scenario, you'll still give up some equity in order to keep your staff motivated.
A fixed paycheck wouldn't motivate most people to respond to an important email after hours or over the weekend. Or try to bring some clients during a conference. Some form of 'ownership' may help out.
Contracting an entire agency may also be a viable option -- although it may be a bit more expensive (given the management overhead). But you can tap into different skills and resources provided by the agency.
I see three major problems when non-technical founders have to deal with source code:
- Inability to understand the business problem in hand
- Poor code quality
- Lack of hitting certain KPIs
1. Explaining the Business Goals
You have to be completely transparent and spend a lot of time with your technical staff discussing business. It's important to discuss the business problems and how your platform or software solution will solve them.
Share some business insight into your business plan. Discuss your competitors. Talk about your target audience and their demographics. Focus on the unique selling benefits and the most important features you want to incorporate.
Build use cases. Prepare flow charts. Design some scenarios resembling the usage of the product by your prospects.
The more your technical staff is acquainted with the customer needs, the easier would it be for them to build something that fits into your requirements.
2. Code Reviews and Analysis
High-quality code is a vague metric. Sure, there are code conventions. There are "best practice" documents. But it's unlikely that you will dig into this one yourself without learning a ton about programming on the way.
Certain tools and systems that could automate that include code linters, convention scanning tools, and the likes. You can discuss that with your technical team and browse for some tools that would reduce some of the basic mistakes.
They won't catch everything. But some automated testing tools will monitor for warnings and notices, intercept CPU spikes, or handle a subset of common problems that could be detected while parsing static code.
If you work with several different independent developers, you can assign them to perform code reviews across the entire code base. This could help identify problems as well.
Signing a consulting agreement with an independent technical consultant or an agency will help you with objective assessments from a third party. There are plenty of senior engineers providing consulting on the side. They could review the latest commits every couple of weeks or run independent tests locally or on a staging environment.
3. Defining the Right KPIs
In addition to the functional requirements, you may set certain KPIs for the technical platform.
Identifying the right KPIs may still take some time (or require some help) and also depends on your business and the platform requirements. Solving more complex problems will also take longer and will cost more - but you don't want your platform to crash once you start generating some traffic.
Some measurable ideas that don't require programming understanding are:
- PageSpeed or YSlow scores that could be assessed with GTmetrix
- A certain number of concurrent users that the platform can handle (this also depends on your hosting)
- A seamless interactivity with a certain degree of volume (say, hundreds of thousands of records)
- 100% coverage and success rate when using some penetration test/security scanning tools and services
The more specific the list, the easier it would be to track success and ensure that the platform would solve the right problems without deviating too much or being unstable as it grows.
Overall, finding a co-founder will solve many of those problems. But creating a mix of experienced developers with a technical consultant spending 4-8 hours monthly on your project could also work out until you generate some revenue and scale your team.