Do I need to have an engineer as a cofounder to launch a Web 2.0 startup?

Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

by Naomi Kokubo, editor of Founders Space

No.  But it’s a lot harder to succeed without one.  If your website relies on key technology, it’s really difficult to get off the ground unless one of the founders understands the technology inside and out.  If you’re relying on a contractor, employee or friend to help you out, it may wind up halfway done.  The reason is that the effort required to build and launch a successful Web 2.0 startup is so great that no one but a dedicated founder typically lives up to the challenge.

That said, there are number of decisions you can make to lower the risk:

  • Learn the skills yourself (if you’re capable).
  • Look into all the open source solutions and pick the one you can master.   You’d be surprised how powerful open source is.   With WordPress alone, you can start up a number of businesses without being highly technical.  Choosing the right software can lower the technical barriers and allow you to get started with a more limited skill set.  Here’s a brief overview:
  1. WordPress is incredibly powerful and getting better each day.  You do NOT have to be technical to use WordPress.  Most people can figure it out without an engineer.  If you master WordPress, you can easily launch a Web 2.0 startup.  The key question is whether WordPress can do what you want.  If it can, then use it.  Don’t hire someone to reinvent the wheel.  It’s already built and works!
  2. Joomla is another good solution. It requires more technical skills, but it’s also more flexible and powerful.
  3. Next in line is Drupal and Ruby on Rails.  Both are very powerful, but you really have to be a coder to use them.  That said, if you can master Drupal or Ruby on Rails, you can do very sophisticated Web 2.0 sites.
  4. There are lots of other open source packages out there that may be right for your startup.  Just look around, and you’ll find a bounty of software for the pickings.   If you start with open source, you save yourself a lot of time and money.  You can also prove out the model without spending 6+ months building out your own platform.
  • If you must hire someone to do the work, have them teach you the skills along the way to master whatever software platform you’re using or building.  You may not have all the skills needed, but if you’re smart, you can learn many of them.  Don’t shy away from the challenge.  The last thing you want is for the engineer you hire to disappear or quit and leave you stranded.   Learn as much about the technology as you’re capable of.  This way, if your engineer abandons you or you run out of money, you can keep going.
  • Another option is to bring in a cofounder who has the right technical skills.  This is probably the best solution, if you are lucky enough to find the right person.
  • Lastly, you can always hire someone, pay them some money, and hope they deliver.   If you get far enough along, you’ll be able to raise the money to keep going.  That said, investors typically like to see that one of the founders understands the technology for the same reasons described above.

I hope that helps!

Comments & Advice:
  1. RJ Johnston says:

    Agreed, you don't need it, but unless you have an endless trove of cash, you're probably better off finding one. With that said, you don't have to give away the house either, choosing a co-founder is similar to finding a wife (or husband), you'll want to date for a while before making that full commitment.

    I believe I've shared this link in previous posts but it is a great reference:
    http://venturehacks.com/articles/pick-cofounder

  2. Muhammad says:

    hi. nice article. was just wondering what sort of open source software i would need to create a website like nextag.com, a price comparison site or something similar to google product search. i don’t have knowledge in programming (though i have just started classes) and i don’t have a big budget either but, i really wanna do this as i see it as a good opportunity before the big guns come in. i am not from the USA, by the way, and such services don’t exist here. so, please help me with this. thanks.

  3. Hi, yup this piece of writing is genuinely fastidious and I have learned
    lot of things from it concerning blogging. thanks.

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