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Why you need to learn to code or, doom your tech startup to failure


Learning to code is starting to become an inevitable reality in not only the push for schools to add to their curriculums, but also the scarce resource of technological jobs around the world.

Plus, many within startup industry want to understand coding, to help their businesses search for more innovative ways to learn about code and technology.

In short, learning to code is becoming an extremely important skill.

People all around the world are starting to realise that coding isn’t as “geeky or nerdy” as one may have thought. Many are embracing the code courses offered at Treehouse and CodeAcademy.

There are many great bootcamps out there that cater to people who want to become developers. But, what about people who have founded a tech startup? What is there for startup founders who can’t find a tech co-founder to help build their business? What do you do if you can’t afford to fork out big money just to create a website or app to test the market?

These are all too common questions when someone wants to run a tech startup. The ability to have a clean website is starting to become the major priority in this digital age – perception is everything.

Often, startups hire a contract web developer or freelancer, with the aim to reduce time and be able to say, ‘someone is covering all my technological bases’.

This is a trend that needs to be re-evaluated.

Making any adjustments from slight, to a big re-development of the site, costs big time and big money. And, soon you realise you have very little capital for anything else. Learning code, won’t just save you time and money, but you will also develop a better understanding your product or service and, further enhance your innovative possibilities.

Here are five challenges to your thinking about learning to code for your tech startup.

1. If you don’t understand how technology works how can you expect to be innovative?

Understanding coding and how technology works, allows you to see more possibilities for your idea. In short, this will give you a competitive advantage.

Most tech startups fail due to their founders’ lack of expertise. Some founders appear ignore the importance of knowing about technology and, how apps are built. Most founders assume that these skills can be outsourced to get the job done. While I’m not saying that this shouldn’t be done, I am saying that being one step removed can limit your view of what’s possible.

Think about what you’re building. Could more be done? Could another feature be added to gain a competitive advantage?

If the answers are Yes, then the more you spend paying someone else to test your theories and prototypes, the less capital you will have to really launch your startup.

This, I believe, is the current cycle in where we are stuck as all founders.

Programming is the core skill of the 21st Century. I suggest you try out one of the free programs or, do a part-time course where you can actually build prototypes yourself with the guidance of a great teacher. Negate the need to pay to test every idea you have.

2. If you don’t understand how software is built, you will not get along with technical co-founders or developers

Understanding coding and how software is built helps you communicate effectively with technical co-founders and developers. Yes, it’s that simple.

It astounds me how many people out in the startup ecosystem who are struggling to find a tech co-founder. Surely there can’t be such a shortage of web developers out there not willing to be part of tech startups?

In my personal opinion from what I’ve read and seen, there isn’t. Despite this, why would a developer work with you if you can’t show an understanding of the process, technology and skills they would bring to the table? Plus, many have their own ideas that they can simply build it by themselves. Why do they need a co-founder with an idea? They have their own.

So, if you really need a tech co-founder, here are a few tips on finding one. Attend startup meetups in your local ecosystem. Talk to potential tech co-founders but remember, this is like any social interaction. Don’t get over enthusiastic with your requests to have them join your team. You believe that your tech startup is going to be the next game changer, but you will need to invest time into explaining your vision.

Take it slow. Build a relationship and hopefully an agreement will occur. If you luck out, I suggest doing a course in development. Then, you can create your own minimum viable product (MVP) which is much more likely to get the attention of developers and potential tech co-founders.

3. If you don’t know how to code, you will be ripped off

Being Ripped-off sucks! And, sadly, it happens a lot.

It seems to be on of the inevitable thing that happen not only tech startups, but all startup businesses. I know of stories where thousands upon thousands of dollars has been wasted developing apps and websites. Then, there’s the wasted time and effort.

Often, many founders go into developing their idea being naïve in terms of the technological aspects of their startup.

Before you even speak to a developer, you need to know if your startup is viable. Will it attract customers that become loyal? Will they pay for what you’re offering? Does the investment stack up with a tangible return? These are all questions you must know the answer to before you embark on development.

How do you test you idea before you invest? It all comes back to my favourite method when it comes to building a startup – doing it lean! I can’t stress the importance of validating your tech startup before you pursue the complex and time consuming process of building it. Read The lean startup by Eric Ries. Or, simply just go through his website and gain a better understanding on how to approach the process of building your startup.

However, some founders will continue to make the mistake of building before knowing if the concept is viable. The only way to avoid this is to build, measure and learn. Only then, should you hire someone.

Once you’ve reached this stage, understanding coding will help you know how long something should take to be built. Plus, you will be able to give your requirements to developers in a way that is more likely to get you what you want.

4. If you don’t know how to code, you are at the mercy of the motivation of your technical team

How are you going to keep your tech co-founder or, your development team, motivated? How are you going to make them believe your vision? How are you going to tap into their motivations if you don’t understand what they do?

You need to be able to understand the world from the technology perspective to have common ground and, find ways to inspire your developers. If you don’t understand technology, you can’t do this.

The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future” – Gabe Newell, Co-Founder of Valve.

This is one of my favourite quotes.

Quite simply, knowing how to code means that if you’re tech co-founder bails on you, your startup is not necessarily dead in the water.

Being able to code yourself, at least to get your idea to the MVP stage, should always be a backup plan.

5. If you don’t know how to code, you will be left behind in our technological future

Knowing how to code means that you won’t be one of the people left behind, now that the technological revolution that is upon us. If you think you have such a great business or design skills that you don’t need to know how to code, you’re wrong!

Code is creative. Code is logical. It can make you think outside of the square. It’s like learning another language – it’s becoming universal. Of course, like learning any new skill, at first, it can be difficult. For some, who don’t choose to become full-time developers, it may always be challenging.

However, learning code will not make you think about the technological aspects of your business. Rather, it will make you think about the possibilities of tomorrow.

Now, take a step back. Look on your phone, look on your computer. Ask yourself about how often you use these technologies. The majority of you use these technologies every day. Technology has become a vital part of how we communicate and function in our daily lives. But, the majority of people will not know the question about how these are built.

Don’t be one of them.

Daniel Siepen is the Co-Founder & Marketing Director at The Coder Factory