Entrepreneurship is hard. REALLY hard. But with countless tales of how entrepreneurs made it big with almost nothing, it’s easy for a budding founder to jump into the startup world full of unbridled enthusiasm.
Luckily, Startup Misconceptions is here to clear up the myths, delusions, and fancies surrounding entrepreneurship, with useful advice from experts. So, sorry if we rain on your parade, but we believe a successful entrepreneur is a prepared entrepreneur. You’ll thank us later.
In this installment, we disprove the myth that entrepreneurs need technical experience to launch a startup. While there's certainly no harm that can be done from learning how to code, the truth is that it's not required to build a business.
Myth #1: Technical Experience is Required to Build a Business
Reality: No, but technical experience can’t hurt.
As technology continues to develop, it only becomes easier and easier to build something that potential customers would actually pay money for. At the very least, it’s now more simple than ever for a non-techie to build an MVP of their product, like a mobile app, for example.
Also, having team members who lack technical experience is no great obstacle for running a company, at least in the early stages, as there are plenty of finance, marketing, CRM, and other applications that fulfill everyday business needs that don’t require technical expertise.
The ability to get a company up and running today is just so much easier than it was a decade ago. I can get our customer support system up and running in a day without really needing any technical skills. A lot of the services that it takes to start a company–things that we need for sales or customer support, or for marketing, or getting our payment processor set up and connected to our bank account - really anybody can do that in this day and age.” - Kraig Swensrud, Founder of GetFeedback
However, while the ability to code isn’t necessary for a startup that’s just launched, it’s still a good idea for founders to at least learn the basics, as this makes solving problems without outside help easier, and will be useful when you hire engineers and developers later on down the road. Luckily, learn coding fundamentals is easier than ever, as well, because of the wealth of learning tools and online tutorials that are currently available, many of them incredibly cheap or even free.
Myth #2: You Need a Technical Co-Founder
Reality: No, there’s plenty you can do without a technical co-founder.
While conventional startup wisdom dictates that founding teams must have a technical co-founder, it is entirely possible to launch a company without a technical founding member. There’s actually quite a lot of work that you can do before you bring on someone with technical experience, work that, in fact, will ensure that you get the most out of a tech person.
For example, before hiring a developer or engineer, you should first dedicate considerable time making sure that your idea actually solves a problem before building a solution. Go out and interview plenty potential customers and get a lot of feedback on the facets of your idea that work and those that don’t. Build up an email list of prospective users, attend networking events to establish connections in the industry, and conduct extensive market research.
A great way to get started is to build your product as a side project, while you’re in a job and still earning. When you're starting small, you can really focus on the best basic ways to solve the problem for a customer. Once you have validation of your idea, you can gradually invest in your product's future iterations.” - Rahul Varshneya, Co-founder of Arkenea
While a technical co-founder definitely isn’t required to start a tech company, if you plan on getting venture capital, having someone in-house who’s in charge of tech is a necessity. However, until then your company gets to that point (if it ever does, because, let’s face it, most companies fail before that point), it’s certainly in the realm of possibility to get by without a technical co-founder, or even a part-time tech person.
Myth #3: Products Should Be Built In-House
Reality: No, but again, it can’t hurt.
If you and your first team members lack extensive technical experience and don’t have the time to learn how to write code and build a product or an MVP (minimum viable product), you can always outsource your technical needs until your company has evolved enough to require a full-time, in-house tech person.
One of the benefits of outsourcing your technical needs is that it can be very cost effective, which is especially helpful for early stage startups. Also, having someone else work on the technical aspects of your company gives you and your co-founder(s) more time to focus on networking and growing your company.
In the beginning it’s hard to curate and manage your technology architecture in house. Try outsourcing this piece of the puzzle while you’re getting your feet on the ground. Not only can this be cost effective in the early stages of growth, but it also allows you to invest your time in building connections, as opposed to hopelessly flipping through a Tech for Dummies guide.” - Rob Biederman, Co-Founder and CEO of GoCatalant
However, keep in mind that as your company continues to grow, relying on outsourcing your technical needs will not be conducive to further progress. Eventually, you will have to hire a full-time engineer or developer to update your product’s features and fix bugs as they arise. In fact, giving up some of your company’s equity to hire a tech expert is not a bad idea once your product is up and running.