Is a 50+ year old technical Cofounder a "fit" for a social mobile app?


2

I have a very specific situation regarding a potential cofounder, and would be really grateful for your feedback.

I'm working on a LBS mobile app for meeting new people in real-life. I'm in my 20's with several years of business experience, with some web development skills. Obviously, I needed help in the mobile space.

Now I have a 50+ year old with exceptional technical credentials:

1) Very passionate about the idea/problem, with the right drive and attitude (not in for the money)

2) IIT and MIT graduate

3) Worked for Microsoft and other big tech companies

4) Been CTO of several startups (that didn't quite take off) with a customer centric mind

Here are my concerns :

1) His age. It's great that he has a lot of experience, but atm I can't picture him being a cofounder of a social-media product targeted to young people. Is this a valid concern?

2) Incubator. Since he has a family, quitting his full-time to join an incubator before raising money would be too risky for him, but that's been my goal since day 1. Also, because of his age, I can't picture him being a part of a team that joins an incubator. Again, am I stereotyping too much?

3) Coding. He doesn't plan to do the coding himself, but rather use his team in India to do the initial development with a scalable infrastructure in mind. Since we're still validating the solution, is this even necessary? I just want to get the core features out and test the market ASAP without worrying about servers.

4) Timeframe. Using his team in India, it would take 2-3 months for a first release and cost a few thousand dollars. But he says that if we need more iterations after that, he'll make the cost almost 0. I honestly think 2-3 months is too long, since I know that with frameworks like AppMobi, JQuery mobile or Sencha you can probably bang out an MVP in a week. Am I correct in this?

Technical talent is hard to come by, so I want to make the best decision. Again, THANK you for your inputs!

Edit: To Don: Thanks a lot! Your answer was extremely insightful and gave me a totally fresh perspective :)

In response to your question about the frameworks (and to NetTecure), it's an aggressive estimate but I've been to mobile hackathons and Startup weekends, and I've seen what people are able to accomplish with those frameworks and built in geolocation APIs in just 24 hours (which I think is all we need for the MVP). In fact, I already have the Facebook login with a MySQL backend working.

I've only done basic web apps on a LAMP stack before, so I can definitely be wrong about the timeline, but I just don't see why I should invest $2000 on developing a concept that is largely unproven and risky. It would be smarter to me to spend that money on marketing, since we need a critical mass.

To RonGa Thanks Ron for your input! Rightnow our models are primarily Premium Subscriptions (it will be dating focused, so upselling on premium features) and Advertising (both local and display). That's part of the reason why I don't want to spend 2-3 months building the app, but rather try to validate the concept and the corresponding business models asap, so we can iterate quickly :)

Anyhow appreciate all the response. I think I have a solid idea of how to proceed from here. Hope I can return the favor soon!

Co-Founder Technical

asked Nov 26 '11 at 17:08
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Derek
11 points

3 Answers


2

As someone with a "peer" resume to your 50+ guy, I noticed several things:

  1. Bang out an MVP in a week? That rings with the optimism of inexperience. It sounds like you need the foil of someone with the experience to actually know what it will take.
  2. Big tech company experience does not equal start up experience. One can get used to all the existing infrastructure and resources of a Microsoft -- and the loooooong timelines (to balance out my statement in #1).
  3. Not coding himself is a definite weakness. I do not believe it is overcome even by explicit experience managing an outsourced team. This is a real red flag. I manage an in-house team and an outsourced team but I also code. He can code if he really wants to. If he actually can't, then he needs a hands-on manager under him who can -- and I doubt you want that extra layer.
  4. I don't know jack about social media and mobile. It's not that I don't know Facebook and Twitter and Angry Birds, I just haven't had the advantage of growing up with it. This is why I have not one but two 20-somethings on my team. He would have to be one exceptional 50+ to be plugged in to this space. If he has the humility to recognize this gap in his own experience and more importantly has demonstrated that humility to you, great.
  5. I don't know what to make of two statements that appear to be in conflict. He has been CTO of several startups but now he can't commit to you because he has a family? How did he commit to the others? Was he actually CTO or was it more that he would have been CTO if they ever went anywhere (and apparently did not)? Being part of the management team of a startup or startups that failed isn't necessarily a red flag but then again it isn't exactly a badge of honor.
answered Dec 1 '11 at 07:16
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Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points

1

If you believe you can create a MVP in a week, then just do it. Two weeks later (yes, it probably will take twice as long) you can see if its a good idea for a start-up or not, and then you can use the team in India if you would like.

How were you planing on raising money? If you had specific investors in mind, you might as well ask their opinion... Since you are not asking for money, but rather only for advice, you can expect them to be honest. You can also tell them your future plans, and then, in a few months, once you accede your plans, you will impress them enough to invest in you.

One thing I am wondering about that you didn't address (though it is not relevant to hiring a 50+ co-founder) is how you plan on monetizing your app... Developing an app is easy (it takes money and time) but making money from an app is hard (you have 500K+ competitors out there trying to get the same bucks out of their users pockets).

answered Nov 27 '11 at 07:22
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Ron Ga
2,181 points

0

Wow, what a question. Any answers you get (including this) will be 1 persons opinion and needs the weighed up against your knowledge of the person in question. Now, my opions.

  1. Age should not be a concern. Only ability.
  2. The risk is his to take. Your role is to provide him with the information he needs to make an appropriate assessment of whether it's appropriate for him to take the risk.

3/4. Not taking part in the coding would worry me. At the point, you have to ask yourself if you want to outsource your development or retain ultimate control. This is the important part as co-founders really need to be on the same wavelength here. If you are trying to take different routes now, it doesn't look good for the future.

3&4 are where I'd judge his fitness to join the team.

answered Nov 26 '11 at 19:48
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Chris Felstead
131 points
  • Thanks a lot for your response Chris. I had similar thoughts with #3 & 4...it's nice to hear it from someone else :) – Derek 9 years ago

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