I'm working on a VR tech startup and have a VR tech company (in London as am I) keen to build the MVP for me and to partner up if it helps me show investors there's more to what I'm building than one person with a plan. Certain VCs have told me I must have a VR tech cofounder, others have said I need to recruit a VR tech advisor who help me vet a potential cofounder. Others have said that for the MVP stage contracting out is enough (VR companies themselves have mostly said it's smarter to just use a company independently than bring them in-house). I'm getting a lot of conflicting advice and I'm wondering whether the MVP stage is actually too early for finding a tech cofounder. Thoughts?
UPDATE: Just to engage with comments made below, yep I've done all my market research spoken to exactly the kind of companies I'm aiming it at Accenture, Deloitte, (all the big four) and service oriented tech companies, management consultancies etc -- have been told emphatically that there's a need for the product, have two companies willing to test the product and pay for the testing. So I have customers for the product, I've done that part already. So the product is an empathy oriented VR tech product, it'd be a 3D 360 viewing video, an immersive experience shot on Insta360 or GoProOmni or the like. I've a deep understanding of the market, the competitors, what the problem is I'm trying to solve, that this would solve it etc. So I've validated the market hence my talk of cofounders -- but yes, I appreciate I should have made this clear.
You make it sound like these are rules but really, they are options. The best option is to get a tech co-founder but this is often hard. The next best is a tech advisor. If you can't do that then outsource it which is the least desirable option. The better options mean you are more attractive to an investor. That's all.
Outsourcing an MVP is hard. MVPs are used to learn and validate your value proposition. Typically, you will need to make lots of changes (pivots) as you learn and outsourcing this makes it expensive.
What you actually need are customers. That will unlock everything else.
What is your objective? Why are you doing this? Startups are so much harder than virtually any other possible line of work, similar in terms of stress to ER staff, but with more isolation. You have to be crystal clear on your long term vision for the company. Your job, as founder, is really going to be articulate that vision to others and recruit them. If you can't sell a cofounder on a vision, you're not ready for a cofounder yet.
Forget the tech, for a second.
If you lack the technical skills to build the product yourself, you need to at least have a very solid understanding of the market you are entering, who the customer is, what problems they have that you can solve with VR, what if any competition there is, and how far along those other players are.
Then, you need to go talk to about 100 of those prospective customers, and validate that they do indeed have the problem. When you find a problem that they will be willing to pay for, in advance, even if there is not yet a product, you have a strong enough signal to start shopping for a cofounder.
Now, if you have enough data to justify building anything (and actual checks from actual customers would count as data), then you can decide whether it makes sense to partner with a firm to build the MVP, or to try and recruit an individual to build it as a co-founder.
But before you've validated the market, all of this talk of investors and whatnot is somewhat premature.
That's my two cents, anyway. Happy to discuss it further anytime.
It sounds to me like you've done the right homework and are getting some honest advice. Based on your comment about having a team "keen" to build the MVP for you, I might assume you have those funds already or a non-equitable agreement with this company to get the MVP produced. I'll base my recommendations on that for now and try to take the side of NOT having a cofounder. I'm sure you'll get plenty more input and we will see if anyone wants to take on the other side of having a cofounder at this stage. If not, I can also give you some good cases for having a cofounder prior to your MVP.
Showing investors that there is more than one person with skin in the game is a good thing. Risk aversion is going to be at the top of the list for any investor, especially with a new concept in an emerging market. This doesn't necessarily mean these people or other entities need to be cofounders or equitable partners at this point. I would lean towards the technical contributions and guidance of a solid firm without equity this early on for several reasons.
You definitely want the right technical expertise, but without the pressures or friction of four hands on the wheel. It's your unique vision and insight on how the product needs to develop and progress. How the technical delivery method supports your product could very well change at any time as you discover new and unforeseen challenges or restrictions during your MVP development. You don't want to have an equitable partner that is married into one technical direction or toolset with a possibility of having to redirect or change technology if necessary. This may end up as an uphill battle or at the very least an additional challenge that is completely avoidable at this stage. A partner may also decide early in the process that your vision and direction wasn't quite what they were hoping for or ended up something different that got lost in translation, which could result in a loss of inspiration, confidence or drive in helping you get this MVP to your next stage.
If an investor is hesitant on the fact that no one else currently has skin in the game, you can always communicate or argue that your idea has actually been fleshed out and substantiated into a tangible product and the initial budget and cost has already been absorbed in the MVP. So another benefit here is that the technology can more than likely be transferred or handed off to any other similar technical team, maintaining any proprietary advantages while remaining agile for scalability.
I'll stop here for now and follow up in a bit.
I read some really interesting VR related studies last year on using VR for online classroom development. I was fascinated about how some of the research supported the positive growth of information retention based on a simple idea of being able to look around at other students in a virtual environment. This seemed so novel and simple for VR technology. I'd be interested in learning more about what industry your product is related to if not education. Cheers!
If you have deep understanding of what your are doing, then I would suggest to check how you can bring product to life for MVP. To do that you don't need CTO, you can speak to companies or professional who can help you. If all goes as per your plan then bring tech team on board if needed or continue with existing player.
Thanks David, you raise some very good points, food for thought there!
Just to engage with your response, first thanks for replying and for rather politely outlining the steps one would need to take first. I've actually done all of that -- done all my market research, spoken to exactly the kind of companies I'm aiming it at Accenture, Deloitte, (all the big four), service oriented tech companies, management consultancies etc -- have been told emphatically that there's a need for the product, have two companies willing to test the product and pay for the testing. So I have customers for the product, I've done that part already. So the product is an empathy oriented VR tech product, it'd be a 3D 360 viewing video, an immersive experience shot on Insta360 or GoProOmni or the like. I'm not technical but am well versed in the technical aspects of the product, I've a deep understanding of the market, the competitors, what the problem is I'm trying to solve, that this would solve it etc. So I've validated the market hence my talk of cofounders -- but yes, I appreciate I should have made this clear.