There is a common misconception in the startup world that suggests you need to be a technical founder to launch a startup.
Right or wrong, this idea has been promoted by well-known (and respected) investors across the globe — in particular Silicon Valley. While no one doubts that having technical skills can make your startup path easier, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
I often think I was was born five or ten years too early. While there is now an increased focus on promoting STEM skills at a federal level, it was sorely lacking as I came up through the education system.
However, I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. My first business was in retail, my second was in the services sector. But I saw that technology was the future. So, I knew it was where my focus and entrepreneurial energy had to exist moving forward.
But where do you start if you don’t have the technical skills you require to build a 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 want to share three crucial lessons I have learned along the way.
1. Understand the basics
Although you can’t build the entire product or solution yourself, there is no excuse to not understand 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.
2. Get tech advice
As a non-technical founder, 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 asking one or two people for their opinion. That’s not enough. At the very least you should speak with three or four people. Talk about what you want to build and ask how they would recommend you do it.
Start 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 utilize for Task Pigeon. He also put me in touch with another experienced developer. This new contact sat with me for an hour and me helped review all of the developers I was considering.
Not only will this help improve your general knowledge of software development, but it will ensure you have a broad range of advice. It will also prevent you from thinking a certain technology is best because that’s all the developer personally knows.
3. Own the relationship
There are three ways to get a product built as a non-technical developer:
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. It also lets you add and amend the scope based on early feedback you receive.
I’ve found that this creates an environment where the developer knows I value their opinion and expertise. This, in turn, creates a much stronger working relationship which lets you go to market quicker.
At the end of the day, as an entrepreneur you should not let the lack of your personal skills hold you back from achieving your goal. If you are truly committed to your idea, I believe you will find a way.
This article has been edited.
Paul Towers is a 3 x entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Task Pigeon, a simple solution to create, assign and manage the tasks you and your team work on each day. Paul also supports the startup community via his daily newsletter, Startup Soda and provides advice to other early stage founders via Startup Engine. Connect with @taskpigeon on Twitter.