Since I began working at USV I have heard the importance of backing a team of technical co-founders that can code and iterate fast. I believe in this thesis and have seen its importance up close and personal.
I also feel there is a time and a place for the Business person to come in. This is usually a person who either codes a little bit, or none at all, and provides some business development, management, sales, leadership experience to the team.
My friend Jon Steinberg recently wrote about exactly this new breed of person in his post Hackable Business Development.
People on the business side of internet software, constantly bemoan their inability to code. I’ve been guilty at times of the frequent refrain, “My kingdom for the ability to code.” However, I’ve found over the past year that the emergence of APIs coupled with eLance (or oDesk or one of the other contractor platforms) have made this expression of exasperation largely hot air.
For $500 and four weeks of late night emails to eLance developers, you can basically spec and build simple, rough apps that knit or build upon open APIs to create things that are interesting and potentially valuable. To be clear, you can’t build complicated apps or the next Salesforce.com on this kind of shoestring, but you can achieve the kind of learning, vetting, and experimentation that is left undone if you don’t.
I call this process Hackable Business Development.
Read the rest at his post…
I believe in this process more than ever. I personally have written about my own SandBox projects and web services and feel that although I an not a web engineer I am a qualified project manager in those areas.
My friend Spencer Fry from CarbonMade even has this job of “non coder” and has a great list of responsibilities and tasks over at Hacker News and a great discussion also ensues based on a company struggling with the coders + business person situation.
This includes things like finance, payroll, inbound advertising requests, outbound communications, fundraising, marketing, social networking, strategy, and many many more.
I think the technical co-founder is as important as it ever was. The ability to iterate fast when feedback or problems come in and get something working out the door fast is invaluable. The alternative and drawback to Jon’s example is that putting together a project spec. and executing it correctly takes time.
I do however think this is one of the best way to get something to market quickly. Using the basic principles of the MVP (minimum viable product) and Customer Development Process you can learn quickly from this path.
In the end you will always need a CTO – but the business stuff is always essential.
I have been spending some late night emailing sessions myself getting a few things created and the learning behind this project management process is totally worth the time and small dollar investment.