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Experience or youth--who is a more "fundable" technical co-founder?

My team has several candidates interviewing for technical cofounder. Two of them have director level experience at the top tier Silicon Valley companies--Google, Yahoo, Facebook. One candidate is a recent grad from a top tier school with not as much experience but could his youth be an edge? My team is trying to figure out what type of tech cofounder would be best, especially from the perspective of Angel investors.

I think there is some concern that if we don't involve the younger guy that we may not end up with anyone sometime in the next 4 months. However, that we have gotten some sincere interest from experienced developers seems like a good sign.

With time being a scarce commodity who should we focus on?

Background on our company: we are creating a addiction recovery platform (web/app) and already have an app in the marketplace with some solid partnerships in the piloting stage.

18 Replies

Jake Carlson
4
0
Jake Carlson Entrepreneur • Advisor
Software Development Manager at Oracle
There is no substitute for experience. All things being equal, I would not hire a green, unproven CTO just out of school to get an 'edge.' If he has a proven (and verified) track record, that's one thing. But if all he has is youth and confidence, I'd opt for someone with more experience as your chief technical person.

If this guy just out of school is oh so good you could always bring him on provisionally without a 'CTO' title until he proves himself. By that time you'll know whether he was all flash or not and the other more experienced folks will have become available.

That being said, I don't know what other factors come into play (difference in compensation, size of company, etc).
Jason Graves
2
0
Jason Graves Entrepreneur
Software Architect - Nokia Bell Labs
Experience vs. Education only matters on paper. This is similar to asking what's better, being book-smart or street-smart? The answer will aways be "well, it depends."

My assumption here is that your candidates are all qualified for the role. So I suggest getting to know them on a more personal level to determine which candidate will fit in the best with you and your team.

To be clear, I think experience wins this argument 9/10 times. However, I think we can all name a few "experienced" CTOs that should not have been given that title.
Gabor Nagy
4
0
Gabor Nagy Entrepreneur
Founder / Chief architect at Skyline Robotics
Portfolio will always beat degrees for me.
Show me stuff you've done and if it impresses me, I won't care if you got all Ds in school, or if you dropped out.
And portfolio / projects done "on the side" will always beat projects done while working for someone else.
The former will prove not just that you can do it, but that you are excited about doing it.

Donald V Steward
0
2
Donald V Steward Entrepreneur
Owner, Problematics LLC
My situation is that I am 83, have done the math for a very unique application that could help make for a more harmonious world by solving social problems that others have not been able to solve, but I have no business experience. So I am looking for a partner with business experience. Anyone interested in helping make a better world and perhaps making some profit in the process?
Md. Shihab Uddin
0
0
Md. Shihab Uddin Entrepreneur
Full Stack Entrepreneur| Helps SaaS Startups Go Lean| HBX Grad
If I was in your state I would have given the young one an opportunity.
Shivi Aggarwal
2
0
Shivi Aggarwal Advisor
Founder of Hale Sciences (HealthTech) | Ecommerce | Entrepreneur
Remember, co-founder *should know* how to code. He isn't expected to do so. Why? He is usually a CTO of the company. He is expected to architect the software and define all the integrations. It comes through experience playing with many softwares in the space, writing code, working on various frameworks and especially, making mistakes and see others make them!

So, the expectation should be an experienced developer who is abreast with latest technologies, frameworks and paradigms. Such a person with managerial experience is a must. Remember, a CTO is also expected to hire developers and manage them. So, HR and good communication skills are somewhat important too.

Talent in writing code and experience in choosing the best mix and architecting softwares are two different things. Choose wisely!

P.S.: Please upvote this answer and any other answer too, if it helped. Thanks!
Thomas Agaraté
0
0
Thomas Agaraté Entrepreneur
SLICK Founder, Product engineer & Drone pilot.
For my point of view, I would like to know where you found these potential cofounders ? Here ?

Thanks :)
Janine Davis
5
0
Janine Davis Advisor
President & Co-Founder Fetch Recruiting & Fetch Advisors
Without a question, experience. Being an ex-technologist, I can say first hand that the way you learn how to do things right is by doing it wrong, and then fixing it. No matter how smart you are, you can't learn how to architect something to scale until you've architected something to scale, and had it fail (and then figured out how to remedy the situation).

I also speak to countless founders looking for a tech co-founder who face the catch-22 of not being able to get funding w/out a proven CTO, and not being able to attract/hire a proven CTO without the funding. So if you have the means and the right candidate(s), you are in a very enviable position. Good luck!
Rob Gropper
1
0
Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
proven experience wins every time in your situation. no question. Funding tilts toward traction. OK, more than 'tilts' - your life depends on it. Traction hinges on product and sales. presumably you've already proven product/market fit. Now getting a product built as quickly as possible that you can deliver to those customers who are waiting (and support them) needs to be your top priority. If you can build your product right the first time and scale it all the better - that tilts toward experience. If your product can be architected and built by your technical co-founder who also has the experience to screen, hire, manage and mentor younger/less experienced developers as you grow all the better. Again, this leans toward experience.
David Schreiber
1
0
David Schreiber Entrepreneur
Founder
In a cofounder, you should ask yourself: is this someone who you could work with, as a partner (i.e. an equal) for the next ten years? One of the major causes of startup failure is fights between cofounders, so you want someone you can work with.

And then: technical competence, passion, grit, and a dedication to do what it takes to make the company successful. I would strongly disagree with the previous comment that a CTO shouldn't be coding. For a pre-investment company with just a handful of people in the very early stages, there's no room for a pure manager CTO. Or indeed, a pure manager of any sort: every person in the company needs to be willing (and eager) to get their hands dirty. So if you go for the more experienced person, make sure they understand that while they will architect and set the technical vision, they also need to be willing (and capable) of implementing as well.
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