The 8 Things Every Non-Technical Founder Should Know
As a non-technical entrepreneur, I’ve launched three SaaS businesses without writing one line of code. This is the way to begin a tech-based company without any technical knowledge. I’ve been the founder of three SaaS companies, all without writing one piece of software.
Here’s what I would have could have known at the outset…
The process of raising money for a non-technical company founder was a difficult task. One time I was constantly rejected with politely-worded threats in the form of “you don’t have what it takes.”
Thank you for your vote of confidence, you guys. While I did have an idea, I wasn’t an engineer. Despite my efforts, I didn’t have any technical co-founders.
In the world of technology, Non-technical founders are at risk of being considered unqualified.
I’ve witnessed the same attitudes of potential investors employees as well as advisors, partners, as well as fellow founders who do not have any stake in the company.
You won’t be able to create an online business that is based on software if aren’t able to create software.
Although we have an awful lot to do, however, I’m very satisfied with the progress we’ve made in Groove.
We’ve managed it using an unsourced design, an amazing team, and lots of hustle. And me. An utterly non-technical founder.
This isn’t a plea for founders who aren’t technical to be more respected within the business. Respect is earned and there are plenty of organizations that are criticized more.
This is the third time I’ve had the privilege of being a non-technical founding member, and I’ve learned plenty of lessons in the process.
Learnings that have allowed me to improve my communication together with members of the team I work with. improve the value of our product, and help me become an even better entrepreneur.
The Skills That Can Help You Succeed as a Non-Technical Founder
1) Research and Validation
For Non-Technical Founder, Before my first venture, I began my professional job as an assistant to my brother who was a financial advisor.
Then I started to become annoyed that there was nothing available to help us automatize the customer management aspect of things.
Everything — including follow-ups, nurture of leads, and tracking was done manually.
I was thinking that the reason I was experiencing this issue, was that other people might also be experiencing this issue.
Then I put together a PowerPoint deck of the idea I had in mind as a CRM designed for financial advisors. And I then picked up the phone.
I also contacted another financial advisor within my region and asked for just five minutes.
Then, I inquired about their personal experiences and struggles and discovered that dozens of them had the same intense frustrations we felt.
It was at that point -and only after that, it was that I chose to work with my co-founder in technical and create the product.
This is a method I’ve used throughout my startup ventures as well. The time I invested, in the beginning, has been rewarded in the creation of the best solution we could have otherwise.
The lesson: If you can’t create a working prototype, the most effective way to verify your idea is to speak to your prospective customers first. You’ll be surprised by how many people are ready to share their time and their opinions with you.
2) Building Visuals
For Non-Technical Founder, I was fortunate to join along with one of my most trusted friends who was a developer who had just quit Yahoo! and was willing to join me.
Before he started I tried to talk with him and go over all the features and functions I imagined our app to be able to provide.
After five minutes of rambling After about five minutes, he stopped me.
“We can’t build from a list,” said the man. “Let’s organize your thoughts and map this out so that we know what it’ll look like first.”
I began drawing sketches. They then transformed into wireframes. Finally, I learned to make use of Photoshop and created mockups of the application.
It was able to bridge the gap between thoughts that I had in my head along with my colleague’s knowledge and, as a result, we could save a lot of time for iterations and adjustments at an early stage.
While I’ve gotten rid of Photoshop and moved to Balsamiq to create mockups, it’s my go-to method to communicate with the team precisely what they have to accomplish.
For instance, I could refer to a section of the website that requires repair:
- Fixing Typos
- Then I wireframe up the entire page to aid my team members to comprehend my ideas for it:
- If there’s a problem with user experience I’ll capture the user experience by using the Jing Motion Screen Capture tool and then send it in that manner.
- They’re more valuable to us than a description ever could be.
The lesson: wherever you’re able to demonstrate, it’s more effective than telling. Use good tools to create screen captures and mockups, and use them to demonstrate to your team what you’re looking for.
3) Giving Bulletproof Feedback
For Non-Technical Founder, If you decide to show instead of telling try to make your story as clear as you can.
At the time of my second company we tried to create an account page that would allow our users to log in but it wasn’t going…poorly.
“The form needs to be bigger, and we need fewer navigation links,” I wrote our lead for development.
If you have product development experience, you’re shaking your head in disgust right now.
“No problem,” he’d say. Then, an hour later I’d receive a fresh version that had a large form box, and crucial links not in the header.
We’d been dancing this routine for days, me, barefoot, seeking out slight changes and him slavishly retracing my movements.
“Why on earth would we remove the link to the home page?” I asked him.
“Um, you were the one who told me you wanted fewer links.”So I was.
In the afternoon we had a lengthy discussion that was extremely helpful to me.
I have learned the importance of providing precise, detailed feedback.
For instance, If someone had sent me an article on a blog post back to me with a comment that “needs to be shorter,” I’d be as perplexed.
Instead of the idea of “fewer navigation links,” I’d say “let’s remove the About, Contact, and Features links, and increase the size of the form submit button by 20%.”
Things run a lot more easily.
The lesson is that there’s no reason to provide ambiguous feedback. It can slow down your team, causes confusion, and damage the product. Be concise, and clear.
For Non-Technical Founder, When the startup first started when my colleague was programming, I too was on the phone.
I contacted about 1,000 finance advisers around the country and, as I did in the beginning I asked them to share their concerns.
While I was able to gain incredible insights that assisted us to develop our business but I also learned something that dramatically improved our odds of success after we had launched.
In the conversations I had with them, following having heard about how much the agent was apprehensive about doing their follow-ups manually I’d offer something like:
“Just to let you know that we’re developing tools to automate everything. It’ll do [X, Y, and Z]. If it’s done I’d love to present the program to you and ask for your comments. Is that okay?”
The result was the list of hundreds of highly qualified leads as well as a plethora of customers who pay within a few weeks of the launch.
Learn from this: You could be selling before you’ve even got something to offer. As the product is being developed is one of the most productive opportunities to make the most of your time.
For Non-Technical Founder, I’ve realized that my role as a non-technical entrepreneur, more than anything else, was to market.
Do you want to raise capital? You must connect with investors who are exposed to hundreds of pitches every week. You must convince them that your business is worth investing in.
Do you want to promote your product? You must connect with your clients and fully comprehend their needs, challenges, hopes, and concerns.
Are you looking to recruit the top? It is essential to meet skilled candidates from different backgrounds, know their motivations and demonstrate to them why your business is the perfect choice for them.
Are you looking to establish a lucrative partnership? It is essential to get in touch with the person you’re considering the possibility of a deal with. You need to know the requirements they’re seeking and communicate how you can help.
Do you want to run your business effectively? It is essential to communicate with your team and remain at the top of a myriad of factors such as satisfaction, productivity, hurdles as well as goals and schedules. The list of things to do goes on and on.
However, beyond that one of the main things to do is practice. On the first day, every day you sell becomes simpler than the day before.
From my own experience, as well as from speaking with people who are far more adept at selling than I am. You’ll continue to face new problems and frustrations. However, over time you’ll become more adept at handling these issues and it becomes more simple.
As a non-technical founder, this is where the bulk of your contribution to the company will be when you grow.
Takeaway: The most important task of a non-technical founder is to increase the size of the company through recruitment, customer acquisition, and managing, among other things. Be able to connect with people. It’s something that can be acquired through repetition.
For Non-Technical Founder, In all three of my companies, I’ve run with people who tell me I’m not a good candidate since I’m not a developer. The truth is that naysayers pose an issue that every founder faces. However, they always hurt the most when they make a fuss about the things that you know to be real, such as the fact that you cannot write code. I’ve had to train myself to become my self-motivated cheerleader. To motivate me to keep fighting those battles and to focus on the important things. Through that, I’ve also learned to be an enthusiastic cheerleader for others.
If our developers are focusing on a nagging issue that is slowing the business down and causing problems for the company, there’s not an amount I can do in the technical aspect of things.
That’s why I will be a cheerleader for our clients and help them overcome their issues by providing constant communication.
For our team, taking every win I can to increase spirits and ensure that everyone is satisfied and inspired.
Being the only one who is unable to get into the server and repair things, that’s the biggest contribution that I could contribute.
The lesson is to become a cheerleader to yourself as well as your team and customers. It will keep you in a positive frame of mind and keep your team motivated and keep your customers satisfied and loyal.
7) Knowing the Tools of the Trade.
For Non-Technical Founder, As with everybody else, developers employ tools to assist them in doing their work better and more efficiently.
To ensure that I don’t disrupt people’s workflows and stall the creation of a product I’ve had to figure out how to use these tools.
Every team has its tools, but regardless of the tools your team uses having a good understanding of those tools of the developer can benefit the entire team.
When I find a bug, I don’t send a productivity-crushing email for each little issue. I create a detailed user story, save it into the Pivotal Tracker and then integrate my comments seamlessly into the existing workflow of the development team.
The majority of the programs aren’t much time to master (for instance, Pivotal Tracker has great simple-to-understand video tutorials) However, it’s an effort that’s going to contribute significantly to the performance of your company.
The lesson: Don’t incorporate your development team into the tools you employ. They’re probably not designed specifically for development. Instead, make the process more efficient and make it easier for your team members by getting familiar with the tools they use.
8) Doing “Everything Else”
For Non-Technical Founder, I’ve had to master the art of wearing a myriad of caps. Do we require an Excel spreadsheet to locate contact information for blog participation?
Do we have to do some research and select an application to demonstrate products on screen?
Is a developer required to write to Pivotal Tracker support and ask why our updates don’t sync?
I’m not able to afford to not be as active as I can to make the job of others simpler.
The lesson: Ego has no place here. Your job is to avoid doing everything that’s not a wise way to use the developers’ time. If you don’t, you’re putting your growth in danger.
I’ve been a non-technical business founder for over 10 years and am immersed in learning each day.
However, right now, if you were to ask me what I would have done differently when I began I would say this.
If you’re a Non-Technical Founder(or considering becoming one) I’m sure these suggestions will help you be successful in working with technical people.
If you’re a techie I hope this will help you to understand the viewpoint of non-technical individuals whom you interact with, as well as how to assist them to help you better.
Most importantly I’m hoping you realize that being technical shouldn’t be the sole reason why you do not pursue an idea for a start-up.
Go out and begin however you like and acquire the knowledge you’ll need as you go.