What is a Technical Co-Founder?

April 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

Most successful startups require both a technical “hacker” and a relational “hustler” to bring them to life.  One common pattern is that a “hustler” has access to ideas and potential funding and looks for a “technical co-founder” to join him or her,  through a process often compared to finding a spouse.


A technical co-founder, like any co-founder, is “your business partner, your confidant, your co-leader, someone you could trust to stand in for you, a real part of the business, a long term commitment, your partner in crime.”

At first, this involves partnering together to develop the idea, business model, and investor pitch.  This is difficult, collaborative, and iterative process that requires both co-founders to fully invest in, refine, and own the vision.

Once the startup gets funded and moves from courtship to infancy and beyond, co-founders become both the initial executive team,  moral authority, and shared source of the corporate DNA. Typically the hustler will become CEO and the hacker will become CTO.

As CTO, the technical co-founder is responsible for the technical and often product direction of the company. As a member of the executive team, they share formal responsibility for company strategy; but as a co-founder, they also are implicitly responsible for the culture and health of the company.

What few people realize is that the co-founder relationship is possibly the single the most critical aspect of company success. Most startups ultimately fail because the organization was not fast enough at recognizing and responding to external threats and internal tensions.Having gone through the crucible of founding a company, co-founders have a unique ability to bear each other’s burdens, speak uncomfortable truths,  and raise each other’s morale.  Healthy co-founders, like good parents, create a culture of trust and respect throughout the company by the way they relate to each other.



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