Developers: Running Your Own Company Isn’t Only About Writing Code

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I have been talking with a lot of founders, developers and recruiters recently (I am hiring for 2 developer positions).

An interesting topic comes up often: Finding a talented developer is hard because they want to start their own company. I want to send a very strong message to developers who want to start their own company:

You can not do it alone, and it is more than code. Way, way more.

Writing code is hard, but so are the other parts, and I think developers might underestimate the challenge because the other parts are not a technical challenge, and the thought process is that non-technical challenges are easier. Not true.

I have a computer science degree and can appreciate this more and more as my company grows.

With all the successful (note the keyword successful) founders and developers I have talked to (over 20) every single one of them had a non-technical cofounder to do the business/sales/marketing.

Here are the other (very important) pieces needed to ensure that your company is successful:

  1. Have a product that someone (lots of someone’s) actually will to pay for
  2. Write good code for that product
  3. Talk to the clients
  4. Generate sales leads
  5. Close those sales leads
  6. Have a strong marketing message
  7. Raise money
  8. Look for talent
  9. Keep your current team happy

On average, developers might be good at points 2 and 8, but that is only 2 out of 9 critical factors. Only 22%. Let’s say that a single developer might also be good at 2 more areas (4/9) that is still only 44%. And I am talking about skill sets here, having two developers does not increase your chances.

A colleague who sold his company made an interesting comment. He said that developers who try to run their own company get the lesson on their third try. The first time they blame the technology, the second time they blame the market, then they realize its their weakness in business.

So lets say that you believe my story that you need a non-technical co-founder. Now what? Where do you find one? If you have ever tried the dating scene, it is like that, but harder. You literarily are looking for a partner. Someone you like, can trust and communicate with (sounds just like a romantic relationship!). And it is a relationship (minus the romantic part).

I am probably one of the most optimistic people in the world, and this post does sound a little on the down side, but just like winning the Olympics is not easy, neither is building a large successful business. To those that want to try, I will encourage them 100% – but go in knowing that it takes more than just code.