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Does Your Startup Need A Technical Cofounder?

In today’s startup landscape, practically everything can be outsourced. But when it comes to core technical skills, more and more entrepreneurs are opting to partner with technical cofounders rather than hiring someone for an in-house position. So how do you decide what’s right for your new company?

To find the best way to integrate core technical skills into a start up, we asked eight successful young entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) whether startups need tech-oriented founders.

1. How Innovative Is Your Technology?

If you want to start a tech company, you must understand the space. You don’t need to be a developer, but at minimum you need to have the background to know what traits a superstar developer has. It also depends on how innovative your technology is—if you’re using existing platforms and delivery methods, you can definitely hire out a great team to run your company. But if the tech itself is what you’re innovating, you need to understand what is happening inside your business. —Laura Roeder, LKR

2. You Need To Know Tech Basics

I really believe that what’s most important for a founder is the ability to have a vision for the company, make sales and hire well. That being said, when you’re in the startup phase, you need to be able to get stuff done – and that means you need to at least have some basic tech skills. It will also help you to hire better, and understand what’s possible and what’s not possible in terms of technology. Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media

3. Tech Knowledge Is Cost-Effective

I may be biased – as I am a graphic designer with programming, Web and marketing skills – but to me it is highly important that a founder have some tech skills. We use technology in every business, from online sales and shipping to mobile Web. Being able to change your website on the fly based off a new analytic has been key in growing our online business. Understanding how to harness social media and being up to speed with the newest trending platforms allows us to be everywhere. This being done in-house means more revenue stays with us, compared to hiring a firm or paying a employee who requires training and possible review process, slowing down the speed of business and still adding a layer of time effort to the management team. —Jerry Piscitelli, Portopong LLC

4. You Need Basics, Hire For The Rest 

There’s a big difference between not knowing intense coding and not knowing anything at all about the space. For a founder to be able to navigate the industry, it’s important that he/she knows enough about trends in the industry and has a basic understanding of tech. One of the worst things I’ve seen are very non-technical VC’s teaming up and opening tech companies. Sometimes their idea for a company has already been done and not worked, but the founders don’t know that because they haven’t been in the field long enough. Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

5. Tech Skills Help, But Aren’t Necessary

As an Internet entrepreneur, tech skills are certainly helpful (at the very least so you know when you’re paying a fair fee when outsourcing), but they’re most definitely not necessary. I started TheBeautyBean.com barely knowing what WordPress was, let alone how to run a website. Sure, I’ve made mistakes (likely more with regard to technology than a founder with tech skills would have), but founders can’t be good at everything – and I make fewer mistakes in other areas. All entrepreneurs have to outsource parts of their businesses in order to use their skills most effectively. For me, that means outsourcing tech. And so far it’s worked quite well. Knowing your weaknesses is far more essential than not having any. Alexis Wolfer, The Beauty Bean

6. Buy It, Share It, Or Be It 

If you are unable to build your own tech product, you only have three options: 1. Pay a company to build your product, which could cost $80,000 to $100,000 for an initial app and website, and even more as you add features and improve your product in response to customer feedback. 2. Give up equity in your company. Software programmers are in extremely high demand—you’re competing with Facebook, Google and thousands of other startups. Very early-stage startups may have to give up as much as 30% of their company to bring on a rockstar programmer. 3. Learn to build the product yourself. This is the most time-consuming option, but is often the best. By doing so, you could save capital and equity, and at the very least, adopt the skill set to better oversee options #1 and #2. —Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

7. Communication Skills Are Even More Important

I was a sociology major in college. When I started my social network, I didn’t have any tech skills. What I did have, however, was a lot of passion for my idea and the ability to communicate the vision that I wanted to create. What I’ve found is that you don’t necessarily need to have tech skill yourself, but you do need to be able to clearly communicate your vision to others, to excite them to join you in your journey. —Eric Bahn, Beat The GMAT

8. Develop Tech Skills As You Grow

I’ve learned most of my tech skills on the job. Currently, I’m teaching myself to program in Python. I’ve been in business for years and I’m always picking up a new skill set. You don’t need too much in the way of tech skills right out of the gate. You’ll learn a lot out of sheer self-defense as you go along, especially if you need to judge the work of technical hires or sell a technical product. That said, being an entrepreneur is easier if you’ve got at least some of the skills that you’ll need to execute your idea in place before you start. —Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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