What are Business Co-Founders & Business People for?

“What’s the problem?”, I asked him calmly, looking him in the eyes. Trying to be firm yet comforting.

“I will not take orders from him! Not from him!” he replied in a trying-to-control-anger voice.

“They are not orders…” I tried to explain

“They are! They fucking are!” I was cut mid sentence. “Who does he think he is? He doesn’t know shit about programming or anything technical. What gives him a fucking right to tell me what to do? He doesn’t even know what I do for fuck’s sake! He some random business dude. Ooh! What does he do anyway? Why do we need him, Sid?”

“You really want to know?” I raised my eyebrows.

There are people who understand and work in technical part of a startup - let’s call them Sherlock Holmes. Bah, let’s just call them the techies. That includes the tech co-founder, the programmers and the hipsters who computer.

Then there are people who run the money and people part of the show - the business side of it - let’s call them Dr. Watson or business people. That includes the business co-founder, sales people and the guy who convinced the monk to buy a Ferrari.

These two worlds, in a startup, are intertwined yet run parallel. They affect each other and yet they are often isolated in deep details. And like any two god-fearing nations, they often clash.

It’s not new to see business people having hard time earning respect and empathy from the geeks (and vice versa). And more than often it affects the startup and culture. Obviously it’d be wrong to throw a blanket on everyone and stereotype. But for sake of clarity and making a point let’s assume that everyone is so.

For now let’s see what the business people do. How valuable is it? How real is it? Now these things are ideal situation sorts. Not all will be true but just go get an idea:

People Power

Sherlock likes to focus on what he does the best - thinking (read: tech work). The dirty job of talking to people about stuff they don’t get / care about isn’t something they are often good at.

Dr. Watson (a business co-founder) is likely to come with people skill. And do the dirty job of bargain, negotiations, meetings and face everyone from nut-case clients to CA & lawyer meetings.

Financial Planning

It’s one thing to make tons of money and another thing to keep it & grow it. The later requires financial wisdom and planning. Something that I’ve been working on since past few months.

There will be days in business when you think you can afford a whole range of newly launched Apple products. And sooner than you think, here will be days when you will browse the restaurant menu from the price list.

Financial wisdom is one of the crucial qualities startup founders need to have / cultivate. That’s what makes it a business.

More Financial Planning

The buck doesn’t stop there, apart from day-to-day, month-to-month planning. Then there is often fund-raising, equity munching, and soul-selling-to-Satan things to deal with.

Often looked upon as a waste of time by Sherlock(s). They’d rather fix an IE bug than sit through a meeting with investor.

While for business people, this is a natural thing.

Non-Tech Side of the Startup (Product or Service)

Whatever it is that you provide - there is technical side of it (Google is just a database that needs to query very fast with some magic) and then there is business side of it (people looking for things, people want to get looked at, money!).

Having that extra eye that has a different way of thinking puts thing into 3D. Suddenly you can see much more.

Get Customers

This one might sound like - oh the sales guy. But it isn’t. Getting more customers should be everyone’s deal (and keeping customers more than that).

Usually, business people do a better sales job to non-technical market {1} than technical people will do.

Non-Tech Disaster Management

When there is a security breach, server crash, or reddit is down - it’s a tech world disaster. Everyone on the tech team will be on it. Sherlock will stay up for nights drinking coffee.

Of course there are disasters on business side as well. A deal gone wrong, tantrums of the bank & government, and running out of coffee. Often, it is a client costing you more than he is worth. At times like these you need someone who knows how to deal with such disasters.

Conclusion

In nutshell - you need someone to have your back. You need someone to take care of business while you make sure the gears are working. To run a profitable band - it needs good music and good business.

PS: It goes without saying that just the job of a business co-founder is an entrepreneurial one {2}. In other words, it needs someone who is driven and passionate about the business side of things. Just like the technical side of startup does.

PPS: Stories of people who’ve not touched code in lifetime becoming programmers and kicking off a startup and stories of programmers learning how to “business” are not unheard of. It’s good to have someone experienced, but you can learn it yourself as well - and one should. Helps you respect and appreciate the other half better.

{1} Non technical market is often the best one to create a business in. More on this later.

{2} You need not be a founder / co-founder / CEO or even a business guy to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about the way you approach and think about life. More on entrepreneurial nature later.