The Two Key Traits to Look for in a Technical Cofounder, According to Oxeanic's Mauro Perelstein
Bringing on the right technical people can help take your startup from idea to actual product. And no technical hire is more important than a technical cofounder. WeWork Labs sat down with Mauro Perelstein, Founder and Owner of Oxeanic, one of our Developer Partners about first hires on the technical side, the differences between outsource tech teams, technical cofounders, and CTOs, and the important questions to ask when you're vetting technical talent.
WeWork Labs: Do companies really need a technical person on the team in the early stages of conception?
Mauro Perelstein: The general answer is yes, you would want to have one. However, whether this role is mandatory from the beginning or if it can be outsourced depends strongly on how tech-dependent and tech-intensive your product or service is.
WeWork Labs: When do you know it's the right time to hire technical personnel?
MP: You should always delegate specific technical work to experts as early as possible, because that frees your time to do what you do best, which is to manage and scale your business, look for funding, etc. I think that if you reach the point where you’re over-stressing about something that’s not your thing, and may cause (or is causing) you to neglect other areas of your business, then the ideal time to hire technical personnel is already behind you. You should aim to do this before this distraction happens. Although sometimes counterintuitive, doing so earlier will actually cost less than waiting until the situation is critical.
WeWork Labs: What skills should founders look for in a technical partner?
MP: In technology in general, and in a growing business in particular, there is not a fixed skill set that can withstand the test of time. With growth and challenges, every app, product, and company needs to adapt to different realities, and it is entirely possible that the skills most valuable at the beginning become less so over time and are replaced by others. With this in mind, versatility and commitment are the most important skills in a technical cofounder, because with these two qualities you can be sure you’ll be always in good hands.
WeWork Labs: What's the different between a developer partner, a cofounder and a CTO?
MP: A developer partner is an outsourced party that works with you on your technical platform. Usually they would be compensated for their consulting services and wouldn’t have stock. It is very close to your organization and cares about your ideas and your project beyond the specific technical tasks that may need to be dealt with at the beginning. A developer partner would bring a team on board with him.
A cofounder would usually have equity in your company, and projects their value and ideas beyond their ‘seat’. It is someone you wouldn’t mind (or strongly desire) introducing to your investors and allow him/her a seat at the table. A cofounder will hire the tech-team from within your company.
A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is a bit of a mix between a developer partner and a cofounder. Usually CTOs are minority shareholders that are also compensated with a salary. They will decide if it’s best for your company to have its own technical team, to outsource tech altogether, or a hybrid.
WeWork Labs: How should non-technical founders vet potential technical founders, if they don't have the background themselves?
MP: Just as you would with anybody else. It's practice. A good team must have someone who understands the reality of the business and its goals and someone who can translate them into technical vocabulary to the developers. That's the bridge. Oxeanic can of course help you with this, so you worry more about the answers instead of how to ask questions. But ultimately, the team or person you hire is the translator from vision to reality. And exercising that relationship only broadens the non-technical person's understanding of language, etc.
WeWork Labs: How do non-technical founders show their value to the technical side?
MP: With constant feedback. Ultimately, down the line in the relationship, you both should share the same skills as one learns the other's responsibilities and focuses. Investors will expect a ubiquitous knowledge-base from the founding team. But initially, it's participating in discussions and including technical teams in strategic, long-term discussions and decisions that they will need to be involved in. In cases like this, the earlier a synergy is formed between technical and non-technical, the better the results that can be expected with fewer bumps along the road.
WeWork Labs: Where can non-technical founders go to find people with these qualifications?
MP: There are a lot of platforms that source technical talent, across a variety of avenues. But the most important aspects are that candidates have good referrals from previous employers and jobs and make a good impression on you. The key here is that you feel comfortable with them. And you trust them, or give them the opportunity to prove themselves which grows that trust and respect.
WeWork Labs: Any last pieces of advice?
MP: Yes, a word of caution. Native mobile app development is quite different than web development. It is very hard to find someone who can efficiently code both mobile as well as your online product or API. Even though today there are frameworks that allow coding mobile apps using regular ‘web’ code, those are quite limited, slow, and will likely limit the use of the phone’s built-in hardware capabilities (like face/touch ID, streaming to other devices, augmented reality, etc. which are very desirable today).
This article is part of our Member Services Highlight Series, where we highlight and lean on the expertise of those who offer us premium discounts and services. For more information on Oxeanic, and to contact Mauro, please find his services in the Member Perks section of Insider.