One of the most significant problems for any technology startup is coding/programming ignorance by the founders. It’s a story that I’ve heard time and time again. One or two business-focused founders seek out an engineer to build their product. Months later the developer stops working on it, and often times all communication ceases. The founders suddenly realize that they gave the keys to the business to the developer, who is now nowhere to be found. Crap!

It doesn’t matter if the developer is a “co-founder”, close friend, or anything else, the worse case scenario happens way too often. You would imagine that the business savvy founders would know how to prevent against this problem but they don’t because they literally know very little about coding.

Rather than go on and on about all the founders who have been screwed by this, let me just give you the easy way to prevent this from happening: have your developer use a github account managed by the founders. Here are the extended rules for protecting yourself:

  1. Use an online revision control system. I tende to prefer github.
  2. Keep administrator access and do not provide it to the developer. If they say they need admin access, create a separate/duplicate project for that developer.
  3. Require that developer pushes their latest code to github daily. This will not only ensure that you have the latest code, but it will also ensure that you can see the progress being made.
  4. You need to have administrative access to all the third party developer tools that the developer wants to use.
  5. Have a clear legal agreement that entitles you to damages in the case of the developer going rogue.

There is no doubt that there are ways for a malevolent developer to still damage your business, however the golden rule is this: (s)he who has control over the code and hosting, has the power. If you break that rule, you may end up in serious pain.