Marco Gallotta, an extremely gifted technologist and developer posted the following statement on his Facebook page:
One major difference I’ve noticed between the Silicon Valley and Cape Town startup mentality is that here the techies are learning how to do business, whereas in Cape Town the business folk think they know about tech. In some cases they do, but it’s rare. The result is startups here often have two technical co-founders, whereas in Cape Town there’s almost always a business co-founder (sometimes both are!). People I speak to here often ask what these business co-founders do. I’m hard-pressed to come up with a good answer.
I felt that he had an interesting perspective and one that warranted a discussion from the perspective a business co-founder, me.
I am one of these “business folk” who “think they know about tech” and that actually is a great summary. Although I am fairly technical in my knowledge (I built my first website when I was 12). But your observation of business people is not entirely complete.
I do agree that in Cape Town (SA as a whole) there is a lack of drive from techies to become more business orientated and push their products from merely a cool side thing in to a fully fledged business. In some cases, even in the valley, technically gifted individuals lack the business acumen to make their product, app, idea, technology or innovation a profitable success.
Bare in mind that a technology business isn’t just about the technology. Even tech businesses involve generating revenue, managing staff, managing sales people, managing call-center people, support staff, brokering deals, negotiating contracts and much more stuff that isn’t technology orientated.
Often once the technology is built in its first iteration the next step is business, sales and marketing. Techies know they’re good at tech but also need to recognise what they are not good at and find a partner to balance out their shortcomings.
If the technology evangelist in the business is stuck doing the “business” stuff then the product can suffer. This is where a business co-founder comes in to play and is extremely valuable. Often my job entails making sure that the technical team is happy and comfortable enough and have what they need in order to build the absolute best product they can.
In the end though I think that co-founder relationships need to be analysed on their merits and in context. There is no sweeping rule to abide by, there is no one shoe fits all solution.
Cape Town needs to find its groove, we need to emerge out of a lot of teething pains and get a sense of what works for us in our context.