Guest Post: Bootstrapping on Steroids- Build an Internet, Technology or Software Company for Zero Dollars Part 2

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This is the Part 2 of a 3 part series, courtesy of Alex Genadinik. Part 1 can be found here.

Introducing: Guest blogger and fellow Tweep Alex. Alex has a background in software engineering and is currently focused on building semantic systems for the business world. He is the founder of Semantic Valley, a web 3.0 start-up specializing in creating taxonomy and ontology based products. Their alpha-stage demo of a semantic search of shoes can be seen at MilderWilder.com.  Say hello on Twitter too! @genadinik

Why Everyone Should Have Partners to Round Out the Team

Sometimes engineers who have become confident in the business world can pull off a start-up by themselves, but most people need partners.  Business people always need engineers for the obvious reason that someone has to actually build the product.   Engineers need business people and additional engineers because it is just too difficult for one person to write code, go to business meetings, network, deal with legal issues, do marketing, branding, social media, a slew of other tasks, while keeping a clear mind to maintain focus on their entrepreneurial vision.

The Perfect Skill Set of the Founding Team

Traditionally it has been thought that a perfect founding team consists of 2-4 people.  The ideal mix should consist of one person who covers all things having to do with the business side, and the rest of the team members who have strong backgrounds in creating technology.

The engineers should ideally have different backgrounds within tech.  One may be more of a back-end server engineer who would be in charge of architecture, while another could write business logic and focus more on the user-facing part of the application.  As for the business person, she has to stand on her head doing all the non-tech tasks (legal issues, business docs, business networking, lead generation, light accounting, etc.) possible to allow the engineers to focus on building the core product.

Hunt for the Right Partners

Find A-players who buy into your idea and are willing to work crazy hours, side by side with you to grow the idea into a company.  But how do you know whether people will deliver?  People often say they will or can do various things, but often cannot or just do not.  They may have the best intentions in mind, but few people can work in a highly-demanding and unstructured environment for a long time; especially without a regular salary.

My view is that everyone should be given a chance, and put into a position to succeed, even if it is a long shot.  At the same time, to ensure you do not waste your time, let them prove themselves by assigning immediate tasks and see for yourself how they will perform.  This will help you weed out bad partners.

Here are some specifics to look for:

    • Responsiveness
    • Professionalism
    • Honesty
    • Accountability
    • Sharing of vision
    • You respect them as people and professionals

If any of these qualities are not there, see it as a big red flag.

Appreciating Your Partners

Once you do find good partners, recognize that working for equity is much more difficult than for a regular salary, and appreciate their work.  At the same time make sure they always have momentum-building, challenging but not overwhelming tasks.

For your part, I will add a few more items to the list above:

    • Help them whenever possible
    • Don’t overwhelm them with large and/or multiple tasks
    • Don’t make them do low-priority tasks
    • Appreciate them (I know I am repeating myself, but this is important)
    • Give credit and recognition

Other than cash, some underrated currencies you can give to the people you work with are:

    • Give credit and recognition
    • Excitement and feeling of momentum
    • Feel-good and knowing they are appreciated
    • Equity
    • Make sure they learn new skills
    • Building rewarding relationships
    • Engage them in doing something interesting

Granted, none of the “currencies” mentioned above trade one to one with the U.S Dollar. My view is that good leaders ensure that their partners and employees get plenty of above items before actual cash starts coming in.  It will also help you strengthen the team.

If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for the final piece in this 3 Part series by Alex Genadinik A.K.A. @genadinik.  You can catch up on Part 1 here.

Warm regards,

Cori Padgett

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