【雙語】新創路上,沒有真正的「各司其職」?──如何尋找「技術共同創辦人」,並避免自己像個笨蛋?

【雙語】新創路上,沒有真正的「各司其職」?──如何尋找「技術共同創辦人」,並避免自己像個笨蛋?

你應該發展專業能力、市場歡迎度和技術知識,世上根本沒有所謂的「商業面」──打造一間可行企業需要做什麼,你就得做什麼。

還在硬切「商業面」與「技術面」,說明你太外行

只要一句話,就能終結你的創業夢:「我來負責商業面吧。」

對一整個世代的程式人員來說,非技術共同創辦人這個概念,已經從「爛」變成「梗圖素材」。那個形象實在不太好──一個看起來像是兄弟會成員、擁有誇張創業點子的傢伙,打算把程式人員當成他執行長之路上的、用過即棄的踏腳石。

但等等,如果你就是那個沒有技術技能、又想要創業的人呢?顯然,非技術創辦人還是可以很成功,看看 Airbnb 的 Brian Chesky 和 LinkedIn 的 Reid Hoffman 就知道。你要怎麼成功展現你的價值,找到技術共同創辦人?

我們為了回答這個問題,展開了一項非正式研究計畫,涵蓋超過 50 位技術和非技術共同創辦人。我們的統合分析具有量化元素(利用這些創辦人的部落格和文章,計算非技術創辦人應該有的特質)及質化元素(利用一系列一對一訪談來驗證想法*)。

研究中的絕大多數創辦人,全都同意一件事:可行企業不能硬性分為「商業面」和「技術面」。經驗豐富的技術人才都知道這點。反之,企業必須融合專業能力、市場歡迎度和技術技能。身為非技術共同創辦人,你得證明自己能讓業務成真,而不只是負責「商業面」。

更明確來說,尋找技術共同創辦人之時,必須要完成下列 3 項關鍵行動:

1.    專業能力──讓人相信(只有)你可以發展並銷售這個點子。
2.    點子的市場歡迎度──證明你的點子真的具有價值、真的受市場歡迎
3.    技術知識──發展你需要的技術能力

行動一:讓人相信你可以發展並銷售這個點子

資料來源/Daniel Wu、Stephen Turban

為什麼是你?你找上了一位技術創辦人,而且你有個很受市場歡迎的點子,很好,但為什麼他們想和你合作?為什麼他們不去找另一位朋友?為什麼他們不去找另一個具有技術能力的人?

要證明你的價值,你得讓他們相信,你、甚至可能只有你,才能發展和銷售這個點子。研究中的大多數創辦人都同意,你得展現在使用者、在目標問題方面的專業能力。

Zott 為例。 Zott 是一間聚焦於住院孩童、成長快速的娛樂經銷公司;其中一位共同創辦人 Taylor Carol,11 歲時白血病確診,並在接下來 5 年裡頻繁地進出醫院,每次都得困在隔離室裡好幾週。正如他所言,「每次得接受長達數月的治療時,電玩就是我的逃脫窗口。」

Taylor 並不是技術人,但他對於病患經驗擁有非常深厚的理解。想打造一間針對病患提供內容的公司,實在不能沒有他或像他一樣的人。因此,在他與父親一同創立 Zott 之時,就已經有技術領導者想加入他們。

想吸引技術共同創辦人,你得展現,你就是他們與目標問題之間的連結。如果你和 Taylor一樣,曾親身體驗過那個痛苦無比的問題,展現這點就會比較容易。

又或許,你非常在乎這個問題,先前也曾嘗試解決這個問題。Taylor 在癌症緩解之後,就與父親創立非營利組織,試圖解決這個問題。他們共同創立慈善組織 Gamer Changer,與科技企業合作,為住院病童提供電玩和娛樂。至今,他們已經為住院病童娛樂募集超過 1,600 萬美元的捐款。

你的故事就是你的提案。因此,記錄並展示與目標問題有關的經驗、失敗和成功。讓其他人了解,目前的解決方案有多爛,如果你已經嘗試過這些解決方法,就更是如此。說服內業人士擔任你的顧問,並宣傳他們的支持。這都會讓你成為吸引力十足的共同創辦人。

行動二:打造強而有力的證據,證明這個點子確實具有價值、受市場歡迎

資料來源/Daniel Wu、Stephen Turban

一大部分創辦人認為,如果非技術共同創辦人的點子已經受到市場歡迎,他們就會更有優勢。原因相當單純──單靠寫程式沒辦法創辦公司。
 
想像一下兩種情境。在這兩種情境裡,你都是一位在 Stripe 工作的後端工程師;有個朋友找上你,他想建立新式的點對點付款系統。

情境 A(低市場歡迎度):你的朋友帶著幾張 Powerpoint 簡報找上你。他告訴你,他已經和十幾個朋友談過,而且他們似乎全都很喜歡這個點子。他雙眼閃閃發光地對你說道:「我們會成為下一個 Venmo。」
 
情境 B(高市場歡迎度):你的朋友帶著一款非常糟糕的 iPhone app 找上你。這個 app 非常慢,但他告訴你,已經有幾十個人常常使用它,而且等待名單裡還有數百個人。他是因為嘗試自力解決這個問題,才換來這些顧客。他給你看了幾位使用者的強力推薦。他也雙眼閃閃發光地告訴你:「我覺得那裡一定有點什麼。」

如果你和大多數人一樣,第二個朋友眼中放出的光芒,會顯得比較有吸引力。他有的不是抽象概念,而是真正的使用者(更棒的是,他還有個簡陋版本的 app),這代表市場興趣和成長潛力確實存在。
 
如何提升點子的市場歡迎度?我們的創辦人指出,你得測試假說、不斷增加測試的精確性,然後追蹤測試結果並展現市場的興趣。
 
Airbnb 為例。Airbnb 的非技術創辦人 Joe Gebbia 和 Brian Chesky 利用一封單純的電子郵件,創造了第一版的 Airbnb。郵件的內容十分直白:你可以在當地舉行會議期間,租一張他們房子裡的氣墊床。
 
顧客非常喜歡這樣的經驗,因為他們面臨嚴重的價格問題,也有幾個人決定註冊。有了這樣的初期資料,他們也找來了第一位技術共同創辦人 Nathan Blecharczyk。證明確實有不少住客想要這樣的產品之後,他們便打造並擴充平台,讓其他房東可以設立自己的 Airbnb、取得自己的住客。接下來的事,你應該已經知道了。
 
Airbnb 的做法就是,不斷建立愈來愈接近實物的假設,然後利用簡單易懂的指標追蹤結果,例如註冊數、產品原型的使用者人數等。他們找上共同創辦人時,不是只有點子,而是有一小群非常喜歡這項產品的顧客。


從低精確性邁向高精確性的範例。表/換日線編輯部 製作、資料來源/Daniel Wu、Stephen Turban

行動三:發展你需要的技術技能

資料來源/Daniel Wu、Stephen Turban

最後,63% 的創辦人同意,身為「非技術創辦人」不代表沒有技術能力;反之,那代表技術發展並非你身為創辦人的焦點。你可以、也應該在技術上做出貢獻,但要確保那是你能快速學習的領域。

最高比例的創辦人認為,非技術創辦人應該學習前端和一點點後端。學習前端十分重要,因為它在技術上比較容易,而且有助產品快速迭代。

此處的關鍵詞即為「需求」。除非你想轉換職涯跑道,你並不是要成為這項計畫的科技長。正如 Yipit 共同創辦人 Vinicius Vacanti 所言,「我發現,我的目標並不是成為 Yipit 的科技長,而是打造能夠獲得市場歡迎的原型。」你的目標是學習足夠的知識,讓自己可以派上用場;但也不要過度投入寫程式,反而沒有將時間用於發揮你的價值所在──找出產品市場適配,並吸引早期顧客。

許多創辦人認為,擁有技術技能的重點在於發展同理心和信任。創辦人的技術能力愈強,就愈能了解權衡取捨。這樣的同理心則會帶來他人對你的信任;當你提出策略性行動之時,你的共同創辦人會知道,這樣的提議是以充足的理解作為基礎。

現在就開始創業

尋找技術共同創辦人並不容易。優秀技術人才非常珍貴,各方都想吸引他們的注意力,包括大型科技公司、其他共同創辦人、他們自己的創業點子,甚至連非營利組織也不例外。因此,不要只是等待技術創辦人到來。想要成功,就得做所有創業要做的事。打造你的專業能力、市場歡迎程度和技術知識,現在就開始。

同意?不同意?請告訴我們你身為技術或非技術創辦人的經驗!

註:Dollar Shave Club和 Dropbox,都靠影片帶來了一輪募資。

《關於作者》

Daniel Wu and Stephen Turban

Daniel Wu
Daniel Wu畢業於哈佛並取得 JD/PhD 學位,現為科技律師,主攻都會創新。他在如何利用科技及法律推動可負擔住宅和運輸方面的研究,曾刊載於 ShelterforceUrban.usProduct Hub

Stephen Turban 唐文理/Seeing The World As A Foreigner
Stephen Turban,國際商業領域的知名主持人、作家、研究者和講者。Stephen 的文章見於
哈佛商業評論、赫芬頓郵報,亦是Tech In Asia的星級貢獻者;經濟學人、BBC Business News、華盛頓郵報、Tech Crunch、Tech Republic、Inc.、Quartz.com、PBS News Hours 等媒體,皆報導過他的研究。Stephen 畢業於哈佛大學,主修統計。

以下為本文之英語原文,中文部分由黃維德翻譯:

3 strategies to find your next technical co-founder without looking like an idiot

Develop expertise, traction, and technical proficiency. There’s no “business side” -- you do what it takes to build a viable business now.

Five words can end your start-up dreams: “I’ll handle the business side.”

For a generation of programmers, the idea of non-technical co-founders has gone from bad to meme-worthy. The image is unflattering - a bro-ey guy with outlandish start-up ideas who wants to use and dispose programmers on his path to CEO. 

But, wait, what if you are a person without technical skills interested in a startup? Clearly, non-technical founders can be successful; just look at Brian Chesky of AirBnB or Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn. How do you successfully show your value and find a technical co-founder?

To answer this question, we began an informal research project spanning 50+ technical and non-technical co-founders. Our meta-analysis involves a quantitative component - where we use these founders blogs and writing to count the desired characteristics of non-technical founders - and a qualitative component - where we validate these ideas in a series of 1-1 interviews*.  

Overwhelmingly, our founders agreed on one thing: viable companies can’t be split inorganically into business and technical “sides.” Experienced technical people know this. Instead companies require a melding of expertise, traction, and technical skills. As a non-technical co-founder, you need to build evidence you’ll make the business happen, not just handle the business “side.”

Specifically, we identified three actions as key for those looking for a technical co-founder: 
Expertise - Show that (only) you can grow and sell the idea;
Traction for your idea - Prove that your idea is valuable and has traction; and 
Technical proficiency - Develop the technical skills you need. 

Action 1: Show that you can grow and sell the idea 

Why you? You’ve approached a technical founder with an idea with traction. Great. Why would they want to work with you, instead of another friend? Or with someone else who is technical? 

To prove your worth, show that you, and perhaps only you, can grow and sell the idea. The majority of our founders agreed that you need to show expertise in the users and the problem. 

Take the case of Zott, a rapidly growing entertainment distributor company focused on children in hospitals. One of the co-founders, Taylor Carol, was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 11. For the following five years, he was in and out of hospital wards - occasionally, stuck in isolation rooms for weeks at a time. As he put it, “Video games were my escape while receiving treatment for months at a time.” 

Taylor isn’t technical; but, what he does bring is a deep understanding of a patient’s experience. It’s hard to imagine creating a patient-oriented content company without him or someone like him. So, when he began Zott with his father, they had technical leaders looking for the opportunity to join.

To attract a technical co-founder, you should show that you are the connecting glue between them and the problem. That becomes easier to do when it’s a painful problem you’ve experienced firsthand, like Taylor. 

Perhaps you care so much about the problem, you’ve already tried to solve it before. After Taylor recovered from cancer,  he worked with his father to create a non-profit to address the issue. They co-founded Game Changer charity, a 501c3 that partners with tech companies to provide video games and entertainment to children in hospitals. To date, they’ve raised over $16 million dollars for children’s hospital entertainment. 
 
Your story is your pitch. So, document and show your experience, failures, successes around the problem. Show that existing solutions suck -- especially because you’ve tried them trying to solve your problem. Convince industry insiders to advise you and advertise their support. All of this makes you an attractive co-founder.

Action 2: Build strong evidence that the idea is valuable and has traction 

A significant portion of the founders argued that a non-technical co-founder is in a stronger position when they have an idea that already has traction. The reason for this is simple - you can’t start a company by simply writing code. 

Imagine two scenarios, in both you are a back-end engineer working at Stripe. You have a friend who approaches you with an idea for a new type of peer-to-peer payment. 

Scenario A (Low traction): Your friend approaches you with a few Powerpoint slides. He tells you that he’s spoken with a dozen of his friends and they all seem to like the idea. “We’re going to be the next Venmo,”  he tells you, his eyes glinting with possibility . 

Scenario B (High traction): Your friend approaches you with an incredibly janky iphone app. The app is slow, but he tells you that a  few dozen people are actively using the app and hundreds are on the waitlist. His customers came out of his efforts to solve the problem manually.He shows you some of the glowing testimonials from a few of the users “I think there’s something here,” he tells you, his eyes also glinting with possibility. 

If you’re like most people, the the glint in your second friend’s eye is more attractive. Instead of having an idea in the abstract, the fact that people are using the app -- and better yet, a scrappy version of the app -- shows that there’s interest and potential for growth. 

How do you build traction for an idea? As our founders argued, you have to test hypothesis with increasing amounts of fidelity; then track the results and show the interest. 

Take Airbnb for instance. Airbnb’s non-technical founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky’s created their first iteration of AirBnB with a simple email. Its contents were straightforward - you could rent an airbed at their house during a local conference. 

These customers loved the experience since they faced the price problem acutely and a few people signed up. With this initial data, they recruited their first technical co-founder -- Nathan Blecharczyk. After proving that plenty of visitors wanted this product, they built a platform and expanded -- supporting other hosts to set up their own Airbnbs to get their own visitors. The rest is history.

What Airbnb did, was create hypotheses, which were increasingly close to the real thing. Then they tracked the results using easy-to-understand metrics - such as number of sign-ups, number of people who have used the prototype, etc. When they approached a co-founder, they weren’t coming with simply an idea; they had the beginnings of a small customer base excited about their work.

Action  3: Develop the technical skills you need

Finally, 63% of our founders agreed that being the “non-technical founder” does not mean that you’re technically incompetent; rather, it means that technical development is not your focus as a founder. You can - and should - contribute technically; but, make sure it’s an area you can learn quickly. 

Take front-end. The single highest percentage of our founders agreed that non-technical founders should learn front-end and a little back-end. Learning front-end is important because it’s technically easier and can help you iterate quickly through products. 

The key word here is “need.” Unless you want a career change, you’re not going to become CTO of the project. As Vinicius Vacanti, co-founder of Yipit put it, “I realized that the goal wasn’t for me to become Yipit’s CTO.  My goal was to build a prototype that got traction.” You’re goal is to learn enough to be useful; but, not focus so much on coding that you don’t spend time on your value proposition - finding product-market-fit and attracting early customers. 

Many founders argued that having technical skills is about developing empathy and credibility. The more technical you are as a founder, the more you understand the trade-offs.  That empathy, in turn, leads to credibility. When you propose a strategic move, your co-founders know that you’re coming from a place of understanding. 

Start building your business now

We understand that finding a technical co-founder can be hard. Great hackers are a precious group; they’re being flirted at from all sides: big tech, other co-founders, their own start-up ideas, even non-profits. So don’t wait for a technical co-founder. To succeed, you are willing to do what it takes to build the business. Build expertise, traction, and technical proficiency. Start now. 

Agree or disagree? Comment below with your experience as a technical or non-technical co-founder! 

Daniel Wu
Daniel Wu is a tech lawyer with a JD/PhD from Harvard, focused on urban innovation. Shelterforce, Urban.us, and Product Hub have featured his work on how technology and law can advance affordable housing and transit.

Stephen Turban
Stephen Turban is a well-known host, writer, researcher, and key-note speaker on international business. As a writer, Stephen’s work has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, the Huffington Post, and he is a star contributor to Tech In Asia. Stephen’s research has also been covered by the Economist, BBC Business News, the Washington Post, Tech Crunch, Tech Republic, Inc., Quartz.com, and the PBS News Hour among others. Stephen graduated from Harvard College majoring in statistics.

執行編輯:莊承憲
核稿編輯:林欣蘋

Photo Credit:Jacob Lund@ShutterStock

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