There is a misconception in the market that you need to be a technical founder to launch a startup.
Rightly, or wrongly, this idea has been promoted by well known (and respected) investors from across the globe, and in particular Silicon Valley. While no one will doubt that having technical skills can make your path to launching a startup easier, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
I often think that I was was born five or ten years too early. While now there is an increased focus from governments to promote STEM skills throughout all stages of school, this was sorely lacking as I came up through the education system.
I have however always been an entrepreneur. My first business was in retail, my second in the services sector. But I saw that technology is the future and knew that this is where my future entrepreneurial endeavours laid.
But where do you start if you don’t have the technical skills you require to build the product yourself?
Well, as the (non-technical) founder of Task Pigeon, a task management solution that allows you to create, assign and manage the tasks you and your team work on each day, I wanted to share the three crucial lessons I have learnt along the way.
1. Understand the basics
Although you can’t build the entire product or solution yourself, there is no excuse for not understanding the basics.
As a non-technical founder, I at least wanted to make sure I could communicate with my developer and understand the development process.
There are a number of online and cost-effective course providers that you can check out including: Treehouse, Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy and Code Academy
2. Get advice
As a non-technical founder, you must first acknowledge that you don’t know what’s best. That’s why it’s imperative that you talk to people who do.
Non-technical founders often fall into the trap of just asking one or two people for their opinion. That’s not enough. At the very least you should speak with three or four people about what you want to build and how they would recommend you do it.
A great place to start is by reaching out to local coding schools. Through my network, I happened to know a co-founder of a coding school. He gave me some valuable advice on the technology stack I should look to utilise for Task Pigeon.
He also put me in touch with another experienced developer who sat with me for an hour and then helped review all of the developers I was considering bringing on board.
Not only will this help improve your general knowledge of software development, but it makes sure that you have a broad range of opinions and aren’t just being that a certain technology is best, because that’s all the developer personally knows.
3. Own the relationship with your developer
I have previously written that there are three ways to get a product built as a non-technical developer.
- Find a co-founder
- Outsource to a development agency
- Hire a freelancer
With Task Pigeon I looked at both outsourcing to a development agency and hiring a freelancer/contractor. I am so pleased that I went the freelancer/contractor route.
As a non-technical founder, you simply don’t know, what you don’t know. Working with a contractor gives you more control over the relationship in my opinion and lets you add and amend the scope based on the early feedback you receive.
I have also found that this creates a relationship where the developer knows I value their opinion and expertise. This, in turn, creates a much stronger working relationship and lets you get your product to market quicker.
Paul Towers is a the Founder of Task Pigeon, a web app that makes it simple to create, assign and manage the tasks you and your team work on each day. Paul also founded Startup Soda, a daily network of newsletters that highlight the best articles, blog posts and tactical resources from start-up ecosystems around the world.