In terms of disclosure – and you couldn't figure it out from this site – I'm a technologist. I always have been and can't imagine being anything other than the Tech Guy sitting at the table. That said, I do tend to have – and share! – business insights and perspective… some of them are even valuable…
Yesterday, my friend and colleague Ann Bernard asked an interesting question in The Tech Guy Vs. The Biz Dev Guy. In fact, I wrote on a similar issue just a couple weeks ago in Managing Technology in a Startup. In that, I focused on making sure there was a Tech Guy at the table in a startup. That technical issues and information were considered on Day One. That the technology was not treated as an afterthought. But Ann's question is a bit different:
Who do you think has the greatest battle to fight and who is best setup for success? The Tech Guy or the Biz Dev Guy??
I think initially the Tech Guy has it easier. He – without any business understanding, experience, or exposure – can build a prototype. He can take a concept and turn it into a project* and a project into a prototype. He can get figure out if it's feasible, put together the first version, lay the framework for the larger system, and generally start showing people their work.
And the fun thing is that the normal Tech Guy doesn't know what he doesn't know… so he just gets coding and building without considering the consequences.
The Biz Dev Guy can't do any of this. They might be able to build some wireframes, they might be able to sketch up some ideas. But at some point, they're done. Building a UI? No. Building the prototype? Not a chance. Even knowing if it's feasible? Maybe…
And the worst thing is that the Biz Dev Guy suspects what he doesn't know… so he has plenty of room to make *terrible* decisions early on. He's going to spend time in market research. He's going to pay to get the best web designer he can find. He's going to pay to get his logo done. He's going to hire the best attorney he can find.
Oh, and did I mention that he still doesn't know if it's feasible!?
The Tech Guy has commited some time and energy and has a prototype to show for it. Sure, it might be ugly. Sure, it will still need some work. Sure, it doesn't have any customers… but the Biz Dev Guy has spent time, money, and energy and still needs to have the whole thing built!
* All of that said… a project is not the same as a product…