How non-technical founders can build incredible tech startups

Building a startup is hard, especially if you are from a non-technical background. You will have a mountain of technical jargon to understand at every step of your journey and without proper direction, it might all seem too much to handle! 

However, mountains are there to be conquered, and with the right idea and a great plan, nothing can come in the way of your entrepreneurial success. Remember, innovation is what drives startups and not code.

For example, Brian Chesky – Co-founder of Airbnb, has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Industrial Design and hasn’t done a single line of code in his life. He is now worth $12.6 billion and is one of the shining examples of successful startup founders from non-technical backgrounds. 

Similarly, Evan Sharp- Cofounder of Pinterest, Sean Rad- Founder and Chairman of Tinder, and Walker Williams- Founder and CEO of Teespring are all founders who do not know how to code but have found success providing innovative solutions.

How did they do it? While technology remains an essential part of growing a company, how you wield it has changed drastically over the years. 

Here are seven ways you, as a non-technical founder, can build an incredible startup:

Good Ol’ way – Learn to code

Learning to code is something that I recommend to anyone in any age group. It helps you look at the digital world in a whole new light and find innovative solutions within it.

Nowadays, you can learn to code from the comfort of your home using online courses and tutorials. Some of the simpler programming languages that I recommend for beginners are:

  1. Python
  2. Java
  3. Ruby
  4. Javascript
  5. C
  6. HTML

As a startup founder, you might not have the time to learn all these entirely. However, gaining a basic understanding of code will help manage your project effectively. This might be while talking to your tech team, allocating resources, quality control, or bringing a tech partner onboard.

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No Code / Low Code platforms

Depending on your expertise and the type of project you are building, No-Code and Low-Code are viable options that you can try. These platforms use pre-existing code to represent a modifiable user interface visually. 

Drag and Drop website builders are a great example of NoCode, where you can create fantastic web pages simply by moving visual blocks instead of having to program them. WordPress (In its recent iterations) and Wix are popular examples of such types of No-Code / Low Code platforms.

Other use cases include making Visual datasheets (Airtable), building mobile apps (Adalo), and application clustering (Zapier).

No-code platforms, however, do lack high customization potential. If you have a unique architecture in mind for your product, getting a template or design for it will be difficult. Similarly, integrating multiple different features might prove challenging as well.

Hire a strong tech team

Building a solid tech team can help you compensate for your lack of technical expertise. 

Start by hiring an experienced full-stack developer and work with him to understand manpower and resource requirements. You can even hire one or two junior developers to assist him in building your startup.

Keep in mind that hiring developers is a costly affair that entails providing them with all the perks and benefits of an employee. If you are running bootstrapped, try bringing people on board in return for equity or a mix of cash and equity. 

Join a Startup Incubator

A startup incubator is a collaborative space that helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses, especially in its early stages. They can be for-profit, not-for-profit, and even institutional (run by Universities or Governments)

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Incubators provide founders a space to set up their business as well as a variety of other resources, including:

  1. High-speed internet
  2. Business and marketing training
  3. Documentation help
  4. Financial assistance
  5. Access to investors
  6. Networking and mentorship

Joining a Startup incubator won’t get you coding or technical help per se. Still, it gives you an excellent opportunity to network with many seasoned developers, entrepreneurs, and tech founders. If you are convincing enough, some of these people might even collaborate with you on your startup.

Startup incubators usually prefer startup teams with tech founders who can develop the product. 

Outsource Tech

If you have a clear vision of what you want to build, outsourcing your technical requirements is a sure shot way to get a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in the prescribed amount of time. Outsourcing is usually faster and less expensive than hiring a similar-sized tech team, and you will be working with people who have multiple years of experience in the field.

While outsourcing, you should have a clear idea of your final product. Learn the art of visualization, and convey your needs with utmost clarity. This will help the developers understand your product clearly and limit any back-and-forth during the final stages of product development.

Tech Co-Founder

Have you noticed that almost all the unicorn startups (valued over $1 billion) globally have more than one founder? Cofounders bring a fresh perspective to your company and prevent any tunnel vision from forming due to the lack of external feedback. They should ideally have skills that complement and accentuate yours. 

non-technical startup founders

In your case, bringing in a technical cofounder will free you up from trying to make sense of the unknown. You can utilize the extra time to focus on things you do best- business, product, or marketing. Pitching to a potential investor will also be easier if you have someone with a technical background alongside you.

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When choosing a cofounder, be extremely picky and look for people who can align with your vision for the company. Try to find someone you know who has a drive for entrepreneurship. You don’t want a partner who will take advantage of your lack of knowledge or run away at the first sign of trouble.

Partner with a Technical Startup Studio

If you want the expertise of a technical CoFounder but with the flexibility of outsourcing, partnering with a technology startup studio can be the right way to go. 

Technical startup studios are ‘parallel entrepreneurship’ platforms that help startup founders build and grow their projects in return for equity. They usually work with multiple startups in succession with various levels of involvement. These include:

  1. Web and mobile app development
  2. Customer acquisition and marketing
  3. Post-product support
  4. Fully-fledged tech team

As payment is made partly through equity in the startups, these studios essentially act as the first investor of your startup and have greater accountability.

Aji Abraham, Co-Founder of Chicago-based startup studio CodeVentures, says, “Many non-technical founders find it hard to convert their ideas into a minimum viable product(MVP) without external help. The technical challenges only increase as they try to scale up and bring the product into the market.” 

He adds that “Finding the right technical partner is pivotal for any startup to succeed. This should be done on priority- as early as possible in the product development. An ideal tech partner not only helps the startup build the product but also scopes out a definitive path towards its success.” 

Understanding these challenges, Startup studios like Codeventures have taken up additional roles as incubators. They want their equity partners to have a solid product and succeed in the market with it. This is done through timely discovery workshops, mentorship and even providing a part-time CTO.

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