You should be your own technical cofounder
Every once and awhile (increasingly so lately), I get an email from someone sharing their “awesome” idea for a product or startup. I don’t mean to insinuate anything when I put the word awesome in quotes. These ideas really are pretty awesome. What strikes me, however, is that these emails are not usually just asking for advice; they usually are asking for me to be the technical cofounder (or for me to help them find a technical cofounder).
I have always been one to believe that the most valuable skill you can have is the ability to turn your ideas into products without relying on anybody else. As great as it is to have ideas, it is even more important to have the skills to flesh out your ideas and turn them into something real. At least I think so.
In an email that I got recently, I decided to share some advice and I thought it would be good to post it here for others to see. Of course he should take my words with a grain of salt—I’m pretty sure this guy is older than me, after all.
I’ve seen you come up with so many great ideas. It’s really a shame that you have such a huge barrier between your ideas and the execution. Being able to actually build the products that you dream up is crucial. If you can’t play a role in the creation of the actual product, than frankly, you add little value.The idea is great, yes. But in the world of web applications and simple, single product startups, it is not the ideas that set the company apart, it’s the execution. If you are just an ideas man, than there is little stopping your “technical cofounder,” as you worded it, from screwing you and running with your ideas. This is exactly what happened with Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevii (as depicted in The Social Network).Of course there are roles in startups for non-technical people. They are very important, of course. But for someone, like yourself, who is coming up with so many ideas, you will be doing yourself a huge favor if you learn to code. You absolutely will not regret it.
One other thing to note is that there is clearly a difference between building a product and starting an actual startup. The advice I gave above applies mostly to those who seem to need a technical cofounder in order to even start building a basic product. Once the product evolves into a full fledge startup, then the circumstances are slightly different. However, I still believe that being able to code and/or design is a crucial skill, even if you are not specially a designer or engineer at a startup.