Technology companies have by their definition been about technology. So, who better to start and build such a company than a technologist? Prior to the internet, though, most pure technology companies had, if not a business/sales founder, a business/sales executive as part of the core team. Why? Because no one would see or use the technology if they didn't. It would still be in the garage where it was first built.
The internet changed the paradigm. Take Google. It too could not exist were it not for stellar technology, but it did not have or need as part of the very early team a face to the business that evangelized and sold Google to the outside world. As the shift to mobile and social really took steam, the recipe for startup success in digital was forever changed. It was all API versus ANI (a bad telephony reference).
Sales people in classic tech companies were never seen quite on the same level as tech, but the new paradigm turned sales people into second class citizens in some firms, a different species at others. There are early Google sales executives worth eight and nine figures, but they were only laughing after going to the bank.
In this paradigm shift was lost a universal truth. Every company needs sales. It's a matter of when, not if. Many companies will fail because they assumed they wouldn't or their "when" was too late.
A handful of businesses can scale without sales. And that number is far higher than ever before. But that doesn't mean they don't need sales, and unfortunately, that some companies can get to scale without sales has caused certain people to assume they won't need sales.
If there is one thing I have learned, in more companies than some tech-minded folks will think, sales beats good technology every day. Like ideas, the best product does not always win. In fact rarely is there a product where a better version doesn't exist. The moat in these cases is based on people - either people who sold that product, or people who use that product. People make the difference.
I remember talking to a company that wanted to get into lead gen. They thought they could buy traffic better and cheaper. They also thought they could optimize how they worked, all because of technology. Six months later, we caught up. They had better tech, but they weren't winning. They couldn't understand how another company was beating them. The answer was sales. The other company made $40/lead where they made $20/lead. Optimize all you want, but even an impressive 20% improvement won't make up for a 2x difference in the starting point.
Time and again, I have seen this scenario. A company I met with recently has a rather average product. Yet, they are the market leader. It is painful how underwhelming their product is compared to what is available. Why are they ahead? Sales.
Sales is not saying one can have or should have a bad product. But, as we know, good sales can certainly sell a bad product. A bad product won't make for a sustainable business, and in the above scenarios, neither are a bad product. They are just far from the best.
If you are a tech company, go ahead and build an equally impressive sales team. You will need it. If you are selling technology or are a tech company but not a Facebook, then you already know that you need the best sales around... or you wish you had known.