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Build the tech and customers will come; it never happens

With the pace of digital transformation continuing to accelerate, disrupt and modernise almost every industry, the role of technical co-founders in a startup’s growth trajectory can be the special sauce.

While some people chart a path where they are the sole founder, a growing trend is emerging for technical experts to partner with business and user experience experts from the conception stage. 

The advantage of taking on a co-founder(s) means that instead of just hiring and paying for a chief technology officer to bring your vision to life, you actually partner with one and ensure their commitment to the vision and their willingness to share the risk and reward with you.  

With a background in computer science, I have been a founder of multiple tech startups since my 20s. I had some great ideas and built some amazing tech, but on one occasion, it was probably ahead of its time, and I naively thought if I built it, customers would just magically come. As proficient as I might be with my technical knowledge and skills, customer acquisition is complex.  

Five years ago, when in my mid-30s, my two co-founders approached me with the idea to bring digital transformation to the TV and film production industry. What was different this time was that they already had a compelling problem to solve, and they had the solution. What they needed was my skill set to help build the technology. 

From the outset, they approached me with a clear go-to-market strategy. I recognised instantly that they brought skills to the table and that together, the three of us could lead separate parts of the business and deliver a solution that could really succeed. 

After a lot of hard work, it is paying off. We are powering TV productions not just across Australia but in the US and UK as well. Many technical founders fall into thinking if we build it, they will come. But that’s a trap. It takes more than technical nous to build a successful business from a great idea.

Success takes much more than just elegant code and a beautifully designed interface. You need to understand your customer and how they will use your product, how they want to work and what tools they value. My co-founder spent 30 years working as a TV producer, so her knowledge and input were invaluable. We built a solution with the advantage of having someone who knows how our user thinks, creates and collaborates. 

In my previous startups, we suffered from people being polite and not tackling issues head-on. As a brother and sister duo, my co-founders constantly challenge each other’s thinking – it is the norm in their relationship – and it works brilliantly to help us quickly pinpoint an issue and correct it. 

Moving from a great idea to a viable product and successful business is about more than being able to develop a great application. It takes wisdom and experience and a diverse range of perspectives from people prepared to challenge each other. My co-founders and I each bring different skills and knowledge to the table. We push each other and, as a result, have created something that none of us could have made individually.

Read more: How to find a great c0-founder for your start-up

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Stuart Campbell

Stuart Campbell

Stuart Campbell is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Lumi.Media. He cofounded Lumi.Media with former TV producer Karen Dewey, CEO and Neil Dewey, COO in 2015 to revolutionise the way screen content is made.

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