So, you have an idea that’s brilliant enough to tackle global problems and eventually buy you an island of your own? The era you live in is digital, but you don’t know the first thing about coding? Unfortunately, for a myriad of ambitious entrepreneurs, yourself included, today’s startup ventures are simply tied together with technical knowledge. The question we’re all interested in is this – is turning our business dreams into reality without any programming background even possible?
Reid Hoffman did it, so did Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Sean Rad, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, Jack Ma and a great number of others. Respectively, these founders, CEOs and visionaries participated in raising global enterprises like LinkedIn, Virgin, Dell, Tinder, Airbnb and Alibaba; not one of them had any kind of technical skills. Instead, each was armed with vision, passion and determination, and from the looks of it, this trait triad is vital for climbing to the top.
Foundation or Segment – How Important Technical Know-How Really Is?
In its core points, every business model is the same. In between a trailblazing idea and a revenue yield, a company needs to establish its core values, develop a marketing strategy, commence a thorough competitive analysis, design a foolproof operations, management, development and financial plan, and ultimately, go through with it all.
Though continually present and indisputably essential, technology is rarely more than an instrument for execution.
True, tech-savviness is an invaluable asset in the business arena, but it’s also a “hard” skill that, unlike its “soft” opposition, can be acquired through education, training and experience. But, what an enterprise really needs is a venturing mind. The road to success is paved with ingenuity and comprehension of corporate dynamics, which is why the first step requires nothing but courage, capability and an inclination to learn.
“Whether a founder has a technical background or not, the opportunity to turn a great idea into a business is becoming a global phenomenon,” explains Steve Guggenheimer, chief evangelist for Microsoft. “There are a ton of resources and services out there for young companies to help you get off the ground—from legal advice and access to free technology services, to incubators and accelerators that take a hands-on approach to mentoring young companies.”
If your vision is supported by passion, and your passion empowered by determination, this wide variety of resources is only a click away.
Here’s what makes tech companies launched by non-tech founders not only possible, but successful as well.
The Challenges You’ll Face & Decisions You’ll Have to Make
Sure, you’re full of doubts. Even without the whole tech conundrum, launching a startup is a serious decision to make, and you’ll have to think it through time and time again before potentially risking it all. Hopefully, these 3 Q&As will make your brainstorming sessions a bit easier.
Do You Need To Learn Technical Basics?
If you’re up to it, by all means. If not in a position, there are ways to work around it.
The most interesting paradox of the digital age is that technological skills are no longer considered a specialty. Online coding courses, night schools for engineers and niche literature are available for anyone with interest and time. Obtaining basic technological knowledge will help you a great deal during the upcoming journey, and no one can tell you otherwise.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you need a degree – as a founder, you can delegate everything technological to a team of engineers and developers, but knowing the basics will undoubtedly enable you to collaborate with them, understand the process, and make swifter and more founded decisions.
Should You Partner Up With a Tech Specialist?
If possible, absolutely!
Industry experts still debate whether non-technical solopreneurship is a viable option or not, but there’s one thing they all agree upon – having a partner, or at least an executive team member with a background in programming, certainly means avoiding the risk. Though highly advisable, co-founding a company with a technical person is, just like in the previous case, not completely necessary.
Technical Support: Outsource or Hire?
Well, it depends.
The first decision you’ll have to make is whether to outsource the technical part of your business or to assembly a team and manage it in-house. Both options have their pros and cons that mainly fall under the budgetary strategy your employ.
However more convenient, efficient and, quite bluntly, better, the second solution is way costlier. The first, on the other hand, is more problematic in the long run, since your product or service will need continual iteration and improvement.
There is, however, a middle ground – Rahul Varshneya of Enterprise suggests that outsourcing your first version and hiring full-time professionals for further progress is probably the best possible course of action.
The Non-Tech Founder’s Guide for Starting Up
Now that you’ve considered the 3 main challenges and determined how to approach them, you can start following the startup guide step by step.
Adjust Your Mindset
If feeling insecure about placing your tour de force into somebody else’s hand, and that will happen once you start picking your technical team, start by re-adjusting your mindset. As mentioned before, there’s so much to building a startup besides engineering, and being a savvy entrepreneur yourself, you certainly have a lot to bring to the table. In order to succeed, tech companies need both sides of the coin, and your non-technical mind is definitely an essential piece of the puzzle.
Embrace Your Non-Technical Side
So, what is it exactly that you are going to need once the first draft of your business plan is ready and presentable? A non-technical co-founder has a long list of responsibilities – raising and managing money, conducting market and product development research, recruiting, developing customer relations, as well as branding and marketing – and you’ll sure have to meet them all.
If uninterested in the coding side of the deal, you’re expected to carry the corporate side of the bargain with the utmost efficiency.
Test Your Idea
Being the brain behind the project, you’ll have to be absolutely certain that your startup idea is an unfailing one, which is why testing the waters before you leap is definitely a clever choice. There are a lot of ways of re-evaluating your future offer, but the most foolproof strategy is to present it to your prospective audience. This will, however, demand some basic knowledge of generating leads – whether you choose to create a landing page, pursuing feedback on social media or blogging about it, try gathering info that you can actually gauge. If the number of people intrigued enough to subscribe is significant, you’re good to go.
Whether you choose to co-found, outsource, or hire, you’ll have to know where to seek the tech talent you need. Even though googling seems like the easiest way, experts advise against it; instead of becoming a victim of impactful SEO campaigns, try alternative routes like niche seminars, forums and blogs. LinkedIn is full of industry leaders, investors, accelerators, connectors and enthusiasts, so be sure to check that out too.
Mingle with the Industry
In addition to the aforementioned trait triad, Josh Chandler suggests that another essential quality for aspiring entrepreneurs is a far-reaching network. Especially in your case, building connections in the industry and following within the tech crowd is paramount, and the only way of acquiring either is social mingling. Try not be shy about and protective of your idea, but put it on the radar instead – at this point, any kind of enthusiasm, interest and feedback is much-needed for understanding whether you’re on the right path or not.
Approach the Right Audience
However paramount, effective networking is quite impossible without knowing your core audience first. Like any other company, tech startups need to put additional effort into devising a proper targeting strategy. Your business idea might seem ground-breaking to you, but ultimately, it is the audience that is going to make the final judgment, which is why getting familiar with their needs, demands, preferences and pain points is the securest way to the top.
Bridge the Expertise Gap
Even if you’ve succeeded in erecting the organisation without any technical foundation whatsoever, you’ll need to stay on top of your team’s ideas. Doing the homework, learning the lingo, and keeping up with the latest industry accomplishments will allow you to comprehend the way cutting-edge technology can impact and improve your business undertaking. Additionally, your awareness will encourage those working under your wing to reach farther and achieve more.
Empower Your Tech Team
In a totally different scenario, your conscious ignorance of anything technological will handicap your tech team, particularly if you choose not to give them the creative freedom and authority they deserve.
If incapable of understanding various implications of resources and tools yourself, you’ll have to let others voice their opinions and act on your behalf. Delegating is all about giving trust – in your specific case, the fastest way of failing is trying to micromanage those who are employed to think and create.
Collaborate Your Way to the Top
Under the right guidance, a team of engineers and developers will surely deliver, and it’s up to you to provide resources, means and instructions. In order to do so, you’ll need to establish your objectives with the utmost clarity, but remain open to creative consultation.
Remember, what software bugs are to a non-tech person, business infrastructure is to an engineer – when compelled to collaborate, the two of them need to find a common tongue and stay focused on the mutual goal.
Pre-Sell To Include the Audience
The tech industry is a quite a unique one – with market gaps being so rare and the competition so fierce, any insight into your audience’s behaviour is more than precious. That’s exactly why testing your business idea before the official launch is of such importance, and why you should never hesitate tickling your potential buyers’ interest with trial versions.
Most usually, such projects take months to develop, which is why pre-selling can only help you realize what you’re doing wrong and what tactics your company needs to employ in order to improve and, ultimately, sell.
If still sceptical, here’s another success story to encourage you. Charles Best, now the executive head of DonorsChoose.org and once a Bronx teacher, started his corporation with nothing but good will and a piece of paper.
Famously, Best hand-wrote his website point by point 14 years ago, and payed $2,000 to see it come to life. Until today, his organization has supplied 12 million kids with the necessary learning resources, thus making its CEO one of the most influential non-tech founders, but not only that; once a startup itself, DonorsChoose.org has succeeded in making a change on nothing else than a global scale.
So, forget your concerns, plan things ahead and start focusing on how to put your brilliant ideas out there. Technology is just an enabler; there is a ton of other, more important things that have to be done. What are you waiting for?
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