What Investors Look for in Technical Founders: the Four Archetypes

Most of the companies in which Costanoa invests has at least one technical founder*, often more. I’ve found taking the time to assess each leader’s particular blend of skills is important. It ultimately helps them focus on their highest and best use and helps the company determine who they to hire to complement their skills. I use these four archetypes that categorize their characteristics: Chief Product Officer, Chief Technology Officer, VP of Engineering, and Chief Architect. Most people are a combination of these personas, but the categories are helpful in understanding how to provide guidance — as well as understand some of the growth challenges a technical leader may have to overcome.

When investors assess companies, we look at what mix of technical and product skills the people start with as these represent the technical DNA from which the company grows. Understand the existing skill mix lets us understand gaps and coach on how to help build the team. Rarely do all the technical leadership skills reside in one person. Ideally, all founders have the drive to grow quickly and broaden their range, so reflecting on where your skills are today and where they’re best applied is a healthy and productive practice. A thoughtful investor should be able to talk openly and constructively talk with you about this and help develop a better sense of what skills you should bring onto the team to complement your own.

Teams can make extraordinary things happen when the whole is far greater than the individual parts. This only happens when gaps are acknowledged and filled.

*Defined in this case to include product founder.