Starting A Tech Company Without Technical Experience
Securing office space, bringing 20 employees on board within a year, pitching to investors, running a Kickstarter campaign, and launching a new product or service to potentially thousands of customers can be a daunting task.
Starting a tech company has other challenges. You may have envisioned building a website or app for your startup, without having any coding experience, whatsoever. You wouldn’t be the first.
Bear in mind that the founders of AirBnB weren’t programmers at all; they came from a design background. And they now own a billion dollar tech firm.
Wrike’s collaborative project management software was started by one man, Andrew Filev, in 2007. Filev had some software engineering experience, but he also had a wealth of experience in marketing and product management, and coding wasn’t his forte; but that didn’t stop him from building tools for project management. Today, Wrike’s team scheduling software is the top tool for project management on the market, for startups and established companies, alike. If you plan on being the next great technology company, don’t let lack of technical expertise put you off. You’ll simply need to know how to get around it.
Outsource or have the project built in-house
Once you have accepted the fact that learning to code would take you away from your running of the company, you have a decision to make: whether to outsource or hire an in-house coder.
There are numerous advantages to hiring a developer, as you are able to more easily continue iterating the product as you are building and shipping. The costs would be higher, however, so outsourcing remains an option, depending on your budget. Today, there are numerous marketplaces, such as Freelancer, that provide a user rating system and where developers can provide samples of their work.
Learn coding…to a degree
This may sound contrary to what was advised in the opening paragraph, but learning a small amount of coding is useful. If you don’t understand the subject at all, you won’t know what is and what isn’t possible. By lacking knowledge in the area, you are putting your entire business in the hands of your developer. You will need to be able to speak with him or her in their “language”.
You will ultimately need to hire in-house
When you have reached the stage where your product is serving the market, and you have a true tech start-up, you will need to begin building your in-house team to continue its development. It would also be beneficial to ensure that all product development is in-house if you’re seeking venture capital, as investors like this to be in place to assure IP security.
Bootstrapping offers some definite advantages
Too many start-ups think along the lines of venture capital when planning on how to finance their business. Bootstrapping is often the more appropriate solution, however.
You could begin by building your product on the side, while in employment and earning a regular income. Another advantage of starting small is that you can emphasise the most effective means of solving the customer’s problem. Once you have validated the product, you can incrementally increase investment into further iterations.
While bootstrapping is often the smart move, there may come a time when investment becomes necessary. Wrike founder Andrew Filev self-funded his business close to seven years, before seeking investment in 2012.
Don’t try to win customers on social media
Most startups think in terms of buzzwords and what’s hot right now, as opposed to stripping marketing back to its core essentials. Good marketing practice, however, begins with identifying your target market and then locating those channels where they can be easily found.
While it may be true that your customers will be on social media, they are there to engage with friends and family, as opposed to businesses.
Connect and engage
When you start out, it may be that you hardly know anyone in your industry, save from your colleagues and bosses. Once you have made a definitive decision to commit to your start-up, you should become familiar with your local start-up community. It may not only be connections that could help you in your business, such as technical experts; there are a whole host of other people you could meet. You may come across suitable mentors, meet potential joint venture partners, get feedback on your product, and you may even find potential customers.
Be open and be willing to shout about your business
Attend local seminars and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s a great way to practice pitching your business idea, which will need to be “pitch” perfect, if you ever do decide to seek investment. It’s also good for networking events when trying to explain your product to fellow business owners.
Persistence is ultimately everything
There may be times when you begin to question your idea. You will also have people tell you that it won’t work for one reason or another. You need to have a firm belief in your business’s potential and an enormous will to succeed. It may be that you spend all of the money you have on patents etc. while bootstrapping and spending every last second of your free time on ensuring that it wasn’t all for nothing.