Should cofounders code for the startup? Outsource? Lets end the debate

Should cofounders code in a startup

There has been many rounds of discussion whether a cofounder should do ‘x’ type of work in a startup. You can replace ‘x’ with coding, presenting, managing, selling, hiring etc. Though out of all coding seems to have taken a frenzy discussion as tech startups are sexy now a days. Having started a tech startup myself and spend a decade in the IT software industry I believe I have now experienced both sides of the table and hence this post.

What is your venture about?

For the most stupidly obvious questions out here – If you are a non tech startup / venture you better not code. Period. I know many friends who are trying to figure out how to build their own websites. With a myopic view it makes sense to them as they seem to have stupid reasons like, “I have some extra time as of now” or “I will learn something new”. As a founder you are better doing something that multiplies your efforts. If tech is something which can be outsourced or done by an employee you better not do it yourself. Learning things that you won’t apply every week for next 1 year is waste of time.

So for non-tech startup coding is a no-no, for tech we will touch upon this later down the post

What role can you play best?

Technology and coding is like Math. There is not just one clear cut way to derive a solution. You can answer the same problem at hand in multiple ways. When I say the word – Apple, the apple image that comes to your mind and mind of others is not the same. Some will think of a simple apple, some might think Apple the company and its logo and others might even think of a green colour apple! Though all have Apples in their minds.

Same way Websites, programs and coding is far from what meets the eye. In a tech startup its not a piece of code it’s the DNA of your venture. You are not supposed to just make something that works today but you are supposed to make something that is solid from inside and runs for ages to come. You need to know your strengths to decide whether you can play with it.

Cofounders as hackers

I personally don’t code in my application (Though I can give serious attempts). There are several small tasks that I have to accomplish so that the team can concentrate and develop what is required. These can be from admin tasks to social media. Yes this doesn’t mean that you pull yourself away from coding your apps. I occasionally help the team search out for reusable snippets, debug things that don’t work, fix a few glitches here and there and decide upon how certain things are to be done.

You can call yourself a hacker, jugadoo or a Product Manager. The team or other ‘tech cofounders’ are supposed to develop things but the onus of how, why and whereabouts of the application comes on you. You are the one who initiated the idea and that means you are supposed to answer any question related to the product that is being built.

To outsource or not to outsource

This and several other questions simply get answered with one clear benchmark. What is the soul of your company about? A tech startup can’t outsource tech, a operations startup can’t outsource ops and a financial instrument based venture can’t outsource their intellect to others. If coding is removed from your startup, OR it is done in a less qualitative way OR it has been done by several entities in hundreds of iterations; will your stuff still be alive and kicking? If yes, then outsource else you are fooling yourself big time.

A floral venture can outsource ecommerce applications, A bank can outsource their core banking system and a ecommerce venture can outsource delivery (to some extent). Beyond that outsourcing is more pain than gain.

Exceptions and Conclusions

founder coding outsourcing imageYes there are examples like Instagrams who would always deviate you in believing that you can do everything and anything and still rake millions. But these are a few exceptions. You can try yourself and see if you can do things for a week but you need to set deadlines. It’s not about you learning, it’s about your venture succeeding. You can’t keep figuring out how to install an ecommerce solution when you can simply get your cart up and running by taking a SAAS (software as a service) solution. Yes you are short of funds but as they say time is always important than money.

If you haven’t yet started and have a small app idea to scratch your own itch or solve your own problems – you can plan and do things yourself. But if you have already ventured you can’t take the risk of losing on time.

As a founder you are supposed to do many things. Hack, Debug, know the technologies, set the environment, measure and track user behaviour etc. All this is tech, yet you haven’t really done any coding! I also agree to what zemanta blog says. Coding as an activity requires chunks of time together 4-5 hours in one go. Most founders don’t have this luxury.

So as a founder you have various animals in your team and you are the ring master. You don’t play yet you manage the show.

In a tech startup you do tech but you never code! Tweet this … Got it!

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