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Startup Super Headache: Business and Tech Culture Clash

Many startup companies require both a tech founder and a business person (ideally a market person as well). Business person runs the ship, including company operations and marketing. At the early stage, since the company is small, the biggest part of work is marketing.

In startup, what kind of partner you should stay away from no matter how interesting and promising?

The tech founder wants to be the CEO and wants more shares. What can you do?

MBAs are from Mars, Tech founders are from venus.

Many tech founders are proud of technical skills and achievements. Without them, no one can build a product and make an offering. In deed, their contribution is the starting point of the startup.

The shortcomings of technology founder, is that they have very limited view of three aspects:

  1. they don't understand the marketing long march;

  2. they don't understand the importance of relationship - team, supply chain and ;

  3. they don't care about competitors. They are super competitive themselves technically but does not realize business competition is the second half of the ball game.

As such, they have a clash. The MBA knows that marketing is important, but the tech person does not agree. The tech person thinks that he can hanle the marketing and sales if he has time.

The way MBAs can lay the arguments include:

  1. marketing is 90% of the journey - it is man-made trap avoidance, not logical and sensible.

  2. marketing is 90% of the price of the product - you need to pay fees to access customer.

  3. value proposition is a hypothesis until proven.

However, the tech person will not agree with any of that. His arguments are:

  1. I can do anything including sales and marketing;

  2. Great companies such as Google, Oracle and Microsoft are all started by tech people. Tech is obviously more important.

  3. I came up with the idea, and I don't want to share AND lose my secret.

To be honest, an MBA is only a business STUDENT, not a practitioner or veteran. The MBA are definitely business inclined but business for a startup include deals, hustle, salesmanship, vision, leadership, investment, and marketing.

Unfortunately, the technical person only knows about technical things. Because he knows nothing outside, he thinks he knows everything.

It is unwinnable argument. The tech person is not entirely wrong to demand more share and the lsfty CEO title, a C suite job in a s-corp is important for a 16 year old coder, but the tech person forgot the importance of team work, trust, and market work.

A first time tech founder makes bad judgement from lack of experience, which is deep knowledge not broad knowledge. Nothing can teach that, except for the failure itself.

A good team should talk openly. The MBA should be very carefully because (1) the technical person does not understanding business; and (2) will not understand it.

An MBA person should lay down the following argument:

A market working is full time job.

A investment work is full time job.

Watching for competitors is a full time job.

Defeating dirty copy cats is a full time job.

Look, I know you are very very good, that is why we are working together. But you need help at least, without which the company AND the product would be pointless.

But overall, avoid working with someone that fit ALL following traits:

  1. it is his first startup;

  2. he has spent entire life in schools, either as a student or a teacher;

  3. he is overwhelming young (and hence might be naive, cocky, and lacks big picture)

  4. he is technical and has no business direct experience (this include high school students, college professors, and engineers from companies;

  5. the technical person has no money and does not want to quit job. It is only his hobby.

  6. the technical person demand bigger share which does not contribute to cash just because he think his part of work is more essential.

An engineers who thinks he can do anything and harness business success. Well, no stories or argument would work. Only a failure experience will change that. So just walk away.

Never try to change anyone. Only experience can change someone, not preaching.

A engineer typically excelled in school or has a knack for technology. They don't know what they don't know, so they think they know it all. They don't know what life is, don't know what business, don't know what relation is with a customer. They just think that mysteriously people would buy his stuff and make him rich.

Engineers don't know that in school you learned broad knowledge, and you need to work with someone who has DEEP knowledge.


A fallacy that many people have, is that "Bill Gates is a technical guy, I am a technical guy", "Technical guys started great business without much marketing experience, and I am a technical guy".

It is as ludicrous as "Bill Gates is a man, and I am a man". Unfortunately, everyone is entitled to their opinions.

Never try to teach a young person about life, or a technical person about business. They don't know what they don't know.

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