Will investors be concerned if I don’t have a tech cofounder or my own tech team?

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At Pollenizer we built great MVPs for great startups which gradually migrated over to their own product development teams when revenue or investment made it possible to hire a team.

If your startup is a tech startup, at some point it will need to take charge of its own intellectual property — the advantages against competitors which give you the ability to grow faster, operate leaner, service a bigger market, and surprise and delight customers.

If somebody’s going to buy shares in your company on a public stock market one day, if a larger company is going to be interested in acquiring you, if you’re going to build a resilient, profitable business that provides long-term employment security and fulfilling careers for employees (or some combination of all three) the unique and valuable technology powering the business should be in your company’s hands.

And I don’t mean just the ownership—which is something you should expect to have whether you develop your tech inhouse or pay someone else to build it—but you will need to control the strategic direction and tactical decisions that need to be made day-to-day.

No creative differences between your startup and the digital agency which built your app, for instance, and no unexpected delays because the software foundry building your platform just took on a huge project for a larger and better paying client.

But:

  • The skilled engineering talent doesn’t have to be a cofounder or even a member of the leadership team. Most experienced tech investors have personal experience of what can go wrong if someone who isn’t ready to be a co-founder or member of the leadership team is thrust into that position because the leadership team thought that would be necessary to satisfy investors.
  • Very few early-stage investors (possibly none during a lockdown recession) would consider a startup investment opportunity without evidence of commercial traction (growth in revenue, transactions, customers, user engagement.)
  • If you need tech talent to build a minimum-viable product in order to get commercial traction, then get that tech talent as best you can. In our local market, it’s more important to show commercial traction growth than it is to show you’ve got a rockstar tech team.

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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