Tech Geek + Biz Geek = Match Made In Startup Heaven

About This Blog

This site is for  entrepreneurs.  A full RSS feed to the articles is available.  Please subscribe so we know you're out there.  If you need more convincing, learn more about the site.

Community

Google+

And, you can find me on Google+

Connect on Twitter

Get Articles By Email

Your email:

Google

Blog Navigator

Navigate By : 
[Article Index]

Questions about startups?

If you have questions about startups, you can find me and a bunch of other startup fanatics on the free Q&A website:

Answers.OnStartups.com

Subscribe to Updates

 

30,000+ subscribers can't all be wrong.  Subscribe to the OnStartups.com RSS feed.

Follow me on LinkedIn

OnStartups

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Tech Geek + Biz Geek = Match Made In Startup Heaven

 


In my prior article, I wrote about the concept of the business geek.  This article was pretty well received and I got a lot of responses from Business Geeks but hadn’t really thought of it that way.  So, as a follow-up to that article, I’d like to now talk about why it is critical for most startups to have at least one of each (a tech geek and a business geek), and why it’s so hard for these people to come together.

First, by way of quick context-setting for purposes of this discussion:

Tech Geek:  Someone with relatively deep technology experience that understands the inherent tradeoffs and subtleties inherent in building a working software product.  Capable of single-handedly creating something that works out of nothing (with just the three Cs:  a computer, a compiler and conviction).  [Note:  Yes, yes, I know, not all development languages require a compiler anymore, so feel free to replace with “runtime environment”, if that makes you feel better].  Key requirement:  The ability to actually ship something to customers within our lifetime and respond to customer feedback.

Business Geek:  Someone with experience and talent in all of the non-tech issues that startups have to deal with, including, but not limited to:  capital needs, finance, sales and marketing, etc.  Basically, this is the “everything else” person in the early-stages of a startup.  Done correctly, the biz geek should be just as busy as the tech geek in the early days.  Capable of single handedly taking a product that sort-of works and figure out how to make money with it while simultaneously keeping the “machinery” running (i.e. power and Internet connectivity).

Summary:  A tech geek is someone who is fundamentally capable of building software that customers are willing to pay for.  A business geek is someone who is fundamentally capable of actually getting customers to pay for it.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, one of the biggest causes for startups going sideways is that the above two people cannot come together.  Here’s a quick (and hypothetical) summary of the situation:

Tech Geek:  I’m a rock-star programmer and have a really, really cool idea that’s going to change the world.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the idiot investors didn’t bang down my door offering me money for a piece of the action.  That’s OK, but because I didn’t really need investors anyway, because I could build my product while living on red beans and rice and put it out on the web.  Now, I’m dealing with the issue that prospects that fail to see how my product can change their world.  I think I know how to fix it – there are just these three to four more features that the product needs, that I can crank out in the next version…  [Eventually, said technology geek rock-star runs out of money or interest or both]

Business Geek:  I’ve identified an exceptionally compelling market opportunity.  It’s large and growing at a compounded annual rate in the double-digits.  Within this market, I’ve identified a go-to-market strategy that is focused on a discrete group of customers that have a common need.   Now, if I could only find a tech. geek that can build the friggin’ product, I’d be all set.  Not sure why all of these tech morons are out building yet another social book-marking or photo-sharing site.  If I could only convince one of them to get a clue and focus on a real problem that will make real money, I’d be set.  But screw that, I’ll just outsource the thing to a contracting firm working for $12/hour in India.  I have in my head exactly what I need, so it shouldn’t be that hard.  I can the use this prototype to attract investor capital and then hire a real (no adult supervision required) tech geek.  [Eventually, said business geek discovers that he spent about $15-$25k and hast little to show for it].

Clearly, the above are somewhat extreme situations – but not that extreme.  The part that frustrates me is that in most situations, both of these people would have been much better off if they could simply have come together and attacked a meaningful opportunity together.  Based on my experience, the business geeks feel the brunt of the frustration, because they generally have a slightly better appreciation for the situation and have at least made attempts at attracting technology geeks to their cause.

One of the primary issues is that each side is overly dismissive and discounts the value of the other.  Technology Geeks might think that biz geeks just wear suits and peddle software once it’s ready.  Biz Geeks might think that technology geeks are now commoditized and products can just as easily be developed elsewhere.  Both would be wrong.   
 
Summary of My Point:  The probability of startup success goes up dramatically if you have both a technology geek and a business geek in the founding team.  They generally have critically important and complementary skills.  Even “uber-founders” (with both technology and business skills) are better served by attracting additional co-founders.

Posted by admin_bnb admin_bnb on Mon, Jun 19, 2006

COMMENTS

Made me laugh in a good way.

It's so very true for most startups.

However, there's a fourth type of individualm besides the business geek, tech geek, and uber geek. It's the gets-sh_t-done-geek. It's a separate species.

;-)

Marc

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 9:47 AM by Marc


Marc, shouldn't the gets-sh_t-done-geek live *inside* both the tech geek and the business geek? :-)

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 10:20 AM by


Zoli: You read my mind. I think the get stuff done mindset should defnitely live inside the tech geek or biz geek.

Tech geek gets all the stuff done that involves the product and otherwise involves technology.

Biz geek gets all the other stuff done.

Once a startup grows, there's an opportunity to bring in a President/GM/COO type.

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 10:36 AM by


So where does one find a "business geek"? In my experience, grabbing an MBA fresh out of b-school is NOT the way to go.

Any ideas?

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 11:36 AM by Dave Churchville


Dave,

We are typically right here next to you, trolling the tech geek sites, like OnStartup.

This was a great post. I thought I had picked the right Tech Geek to compliment by Business Geek, but soon found out that pacing, (one working part-time, one working full-time) became an issue as well as spending, (build everything from scratch versus spend money in areas that you do not have expertise when it effects the customer experience). The two sets of knowledge are important, but there are other areas where you have to match personalities as well.

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 12:49 PM by


> a computer, a compiler and conviction

You forgot the fourth C for a computer geek: caffine.

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 2:08 PM by Adam of xobni.com


As far as I can tell, getting business and tech geeks together is a problem in search of a solution. While VCs may be one answer, they don't seem like the most efficient. Maybe this is a great niche for onStatups.com.

-Darin (actively looking for a business geek!)

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 4:57 PM by Darin Keever


Zoli, Dharmesh,

As you know, not everything can be explained in literal manner.

I used to be a tech geek. Then I became a business geek (i.e. stpped being a tech geek.). So I wouldn't call myself an uber-geek now because while I'm deeply intimate with the science and technology involved and I can understand and analyze the technology (from technical and business angles) and I leverage that knowledge on the business side. In my role now, I work with tech geeks and business geeks to get shit done. The startup I'm working on now has a business geek, a deal making lawyer from the industry, a business savvy tech geek (who you may call an uber geek) but someone has to make the whole thing happen.

There is no one model fits all. Ours is one version of the startup model. There's the more simple tech-geek/business geek model and the under-geek-does-it-alone model. And there is our model, and many other models. The startup does not have to be a partnership between two people or ao one man op. It can be a team made of several solid individuals.

There are different types of startups. At the end of the day, you need a gets-shit-done person in charge to pull it off, be it the business geek, the business/tech geek duo, the uber geek, or the person who rbings it all together.

Variety is the source of nature's strength and wonder.

Marc

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 5:15 PM by Marc



As I said, there are all kinds of viable models for startups.

Marc

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 10:04 PM by Marc


Thanks to everyone for their comments.

A quick policy note: I delete comments that promote a specific product or service. If you are looking to connect with entrepreneurs or other site visitors, please post to one of the discussion forums setup for this purpose.

Had to delete a couple of comments off of this thread, my apologies to the posters.

posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 10:40 PM by


Dharmesh,

Can you provide links to these forums?

Thanks

posted on Tuesday, June 20, 2006 at 9:28 AM by George


The tab at the top of this page labeled "forums".

posted on Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 5:35 PM by


This article really hits home to me, I feel like the Biz Geek who is searching for a tech geek. I have many great ideas for new services, but I am searching for the right "tech geeks" to partner with. If your interested, email me at brentgrif@gmail.com

posted on Thursday, June 22, 2006 at 11:03 PM by Brent


Comments have been closed for this article.