Saying “the geek stuff is your job” is no way to launch a startup

1 minute read

23 Apr 2014

As developers in a time where everyone wants their own side project/startup/the next <insert latest cool company here>, this is surely our time to shine. It’s hard not to notice that developers, designers and general ‘web experts’ are becoming increasingly in demand for these sort of things.

So this is a good thing?!

As a web developer in London, frequently I will meet someone who wants their own NextBigThing startup, and a healthy chunk of geek time along with it.

As people who provide a service (make once, sell once) rather than a product (make once, sell many), the only asset we really have is our time. How we use it, charge for it, or give it away pro-bono is up to us.

This is the way of things, and I guess how things will stay. My issue though, especially after reading this ‘using words like blogsite is unacceptable journalism’ rant, is this scenario:

In a pub:

Them: Hey, so I’ve got this great idea for a music startup. Me: Cool, I love music. Tell me about it. Them: Ok so it’s a bit like Spotify, but does x, y and z differently. I also have these great contacts that will help it get ‘out there.’ Me: Sounds cool, let’s chat about it.

At the first meeting (…probably in a pub):

Them: So yeah, the reason I asked you is because I only want to do this with someone who’s really into music. Me: Definitely. Any thoughts on how we should put this thing together? Them: Ha! No idea, that’s your job. I know nothing about this sort of stuff.


Firstly, the hypocrisy of this whole scenario is a little frustrating. Mandating that you’ll only work with someone who’s into your stuff, when you’re not interested in even dipping a toe into how your potential business partner might work is… suboptimal.

Ambition, aspiration and hard work are (so I’m told) essential when it comes to building a company, but shoulder-shrugging about the very platform you’re building it on seems naive. I understand that most partnerships have complementary skillsets, but surely some overlap is important.

If you genuinely want to launch a startup that is predominantly on-the-web, then wouldn’t it be wise to know a little bit about it?

[This was cross-posted on Medium]