It depends, but in general it's important for founders to have complementary skills.
Someone has to nurture the business side of your business, otherwise it will likely fail. Startups are hard enough as it is, and even when things seem to line up perfectly, you have a high chance of failure.
Our startup faced the same situation you describe. It is just myself and my co-founder, who I also happen to be engaged to. We both have technical backgrounds, I’m a computer engineer and he’s a computer scientist, and no business experience. But we both knew that we needed someone to handle the business side if we wanted a reasonable chance of success. So, as you already noted, the options were for one of us to take that task on, or to find someone else to do it for us. In our case it was an easy choice, and I took on the responsibility of learning business development.
But this doesn’t mean that this is the right choice for everyone. Just because it has worked for us so far doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.
Some words of caution
You must enjoy it. In general, learning business development is a lot easier than learning a technical skill. I think it is much easier for a technical person to pick up business skills than it is for a business person to pick up technical skills (there are exceptions). But just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do. Don’t do it because you can, do it because you enjoy it. In the short term it’s fine to take on a task you don’t enjoy because they need to get done, and in fact startup founders will encounter this a lot. However, in the long run, you must work on something you enjoy. Passion is very important in a startup. In our case, it worked out nicely because I enjoy business more than the technical stuff.
Trust is key. Your co-founder should be someone you trust, not simply someone who can complement your skills. Ideally you want to find a co-founder you have worked with in the past, or have some kind of relationship with. If you know a lot of technical folks, and you think you can learn the business side, as well as enjoy doing it, then it might work if you do the business stuff and bring on a technical co-founder. Who better to trust than yourself with business development and your company’s finances. But only you can answer that.
Learn basic business skills anyways. Even if you decide that you want to be the technical guy, and outsource the business side, it will be to your benefit to learn basic business skills. Especially in the legal, tax, and accounting areas. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should know enough to:
- catch obvious mistakes,
- know if someone is cheating you,
- know what questions to ask, so you are better prepared and can make better decisions.
Know when to ask for help. No matter how good you are, there will be times when you'll need help. Be it because of lack of time, or lack of knowledge. If you do decide to take on the business development role, realize that "the business side" is a very broad category that encompasses a lot of competencies, and you won't be able to do it all. Part of being the business guy is having the discipline to know when you need to bring in a professional.
Other ways to complement each other. Business vs. technical isn’t the only way two founders can complement each other. Before choosing a co-founder, evaluate the individual’s other skills and personality traits. Choosing a co-founder is almost as crucial as choosing a spouse - you need to make sure you can live with this person for many years to come. To continue with my example, in our case we complement each other in other ways as well. I’m extremely detail oriented, whereas my co-founder is a big picture guy. I am a lot more outgoing than he is, so networking is a lot easier for me. Note, there is no right or wrong here.
Also, these other questions may help you:
What skills to look for in a technical cofounder?
How do I find a technical co-founder?
How to find the right co-founder?
What's the best way to find/evaluate a Marketing co-founder?
Questions tagged with co-founder