There are countless myths and misconceptions in the world of entrepreneurship, just waiting to be busted. One that still holds sway amongst many budding business leaders is that to be a founder of a tech startup, you have to actually be technical.
Surely, if you’re going to create a product or service built on software, you should know exactly what goes into making that software, right? Not necessarily. That’s not to say that developers can’t successfully become company founders, but rather, there are other more important aspects to have as a tech entrepreneur than product knowledge itself.
Let’s take a look into the reasons why it doesn’t take a technical background to build a successful product, and what tech founders should focus on instead.
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Succeeding with a non-technical background
While having a knowledge of how to code and build software has its many benefits when building a business, there are certain aspects that can often prevent developers-turned-founders from seeing the big picture.
For example, developers often don’t have the business skills to understand how to sell and market their product. So, you can make a seamlessly-functioning app, but if you don’t know how to get people to use it, what’s the point?
Founders from a software background also often place too much importance on product specs and features, forgetting that solving a customer pain point is the most important part. In reality, even if the product is one-of-a-kind or has an impressive technical protocol, if it’s not being regularly used by consumers, it’s not going to succeed.
While focus on the product is always important, it’s vital to keep your finger on the pulse of the market around you, as well as consumer demands and competitor activity.
Industry-specific knowledge is vital
After 14 years working in the tech world and dealing with many startup clients, I’ve seen countless companies succeed with founders who might not have possessed a technical background, but did have years of experience and knowledge of the industry they were breaking into.
For example, I’ve seen founders from industries such as drivers’ education, construction and car sales all build successful products without the technical knowledge of coding or software development.
We can see this in action in some of the most successful tech startups in their space: Brian Chesky of AirBnB, Evan Sharp of Pinterest, and even Steve Jobs did not come from a background of coding and engineering. But, they were experts in the industry sector they were jumping into. Having this industry knowledge is vital to startup success, as viability in the market is widely considered the biggest determining factor of whether or not a company will sink or swim.
Hire when the time is right
When first starting out, many non-technical founders think they need to hire a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) straight out of the gate to help them with technical decisions. This isn’t the case, and can actually be a hindrance to company growth. Startups often do better by hiring a senior developer to head up their product development, along with other developers as needed. You can then get to know these team members as they grow with you.
If you do decide to hire externally, make sure your existing team is involved in the hiring process: they’ll be able to guide you on whether the candidates are a good fit.
All of this is not to say that just anyone can go ahead and build a successful tech company, whatever their experience. In fact, quite the opposite: when it comes to startup success, entrepreneurial intuition and a balance of industry knowledge, product quality and attention to the changing market landscape is crucial.
And don’t forget: while a smart leader is vital to head up the business, without a dedicated and passionate team around you, you won’t cross that finish line.