What is the ideal mix of founders for a SaaS startup?


I've been talking to some friends about ideas for a startup? There are plenty ideas and the common theme is that they're all SaaS webapps selling to small- or medium-sized businesses.

What do you think is the right set of skills to get in the founders group? Obviously most skills can be found either within the founders or simply outsourced. I've come up with the following skills for this type of venture (in no particular order):

  • Technology
  • Sales
  • Vision
  • Manager/Coordinator
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Support
  • Administration
  • Operations
  • HR
(Let me know if I missed anything?)

So, for the this type of startup, how many founders and what skills should each bring to the table?

Ideally, I'd like the value and effort needed from each to be similar.

Founder Saas

asked Jan 5 '10 at 09:29
Denis Hennessy
1,363 points
  • Some additional skills to consider are design / usability / user experience. Also, legal expertise. – Jay Neely 14 years ago

6 Answers


  1. 1 Programmer
  2. 1 Designer
  3. 1 Marketing + Sales + Administration

3 People with this mixture IMHO is the ideal combination for a startup. Less than that, it wouldn't be as productive, more than that can be too noisy. But you can also add up upto one more programmer if the program is technical.

answered Jan 5 '10 at 09:58
1,342 points


I would definitely vote up designer.

A good designer can pitch in with web design, branding, HCI, user experience, IA, web app design.

These roles could of course be managed by many people in a bigger project, but I think you'd get a lot of bang for the buck with a designer on staff of a startup.

You could replace 'Vision' with 'Product Manager'. A useful role indeed, but more the responsibility of the CEO in a young startup.

answered Jan 5 '10 at 11:24
Benjamin Wootton
1,667 points
  • +1. I agree with everything you say but selecting jpartogi's response since it contains the complete answer. – Denis Hennessy 14 years ago


The question is fine, and in some abstract form the answers are interesting. But IMHO the answer to the question is "that is the wrong question to ask". It is dead wrong to get caught up in the skillsets of the founders.

Startups are a imperfect experience; you make do with what you've got. Most skills can be learned. If a skill cannot be learned, it can be purchased with money (i.e. getting a consultant or employee).

For my personal list of must-have attributes in a co-founder I could go back and forth almost forever. But I guess it boils down to something like this:

  1. I must know my potential cofounder to be honorable even when things are at their worst.
  2. My potential cofounder has to be an above-average performer. Not necessarily a genius; just pretty good with room to grow.
  3. On a person to person level we must be compatible -- not necessarily loving each other as brothers, but compatible for the long haul.
answered Jan 6 '10 at 10:29
Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points
  • +1 for your points. I think 'areas of responsibility' is probably a better term than skills. Each of the co-founders is going to take on 1 or more areas of responsibility and the rest have to be outsourced. I guess the real question is 'which areas of responsibility (for this type of business) should be provided by a founder'. – Denis Hennessy 14 years ago


Here are mine in descending order of priority:

  1. Technology (Developer)
  2. Marketing

  3. Sales (if product is higher end)
  4. Support

Oh, and by the way, "vision" is not a skill. :)
answered Jan 5 '10 at 10:40
Dharmesh Shah
2,865 points
  • Skill is probably the wrong term. I meant something closer to 'area of responsibility'. And 'vision' probably really means 'product vision' as Benjamin said. – Denis Hennessy 14 years ago


I second what everyone said, plus if you're targeting a specific industry, someone with extensive knowledge, experience and connections within the industry can be an extremely valuable asset.

answered Jan 5 '10 at 16:21
Olivier Lalonde
2,753 points


I think you need at least a programmer and a marketer.

You don't need more than one programmer because you should create a minimum viable service. Unless there are separate programming skills involved (like SaaS and Machine Learning), one person is fine.

Design is easily outsourced. What is the designer going to do? Create some HTML templates and CSS files. That can be outsourced for a few hundred dollars in total.

Having said that, it is critical that your values are aligned. What do you expect from them? What do they expect from you?

Having one or two more partners is not bad. They should bring something of value to the table: either skills, money or connections.

answered Jun 24 '12 at 12:19
B Seven
234 points

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