Tips on building your tech company for non-tech guys

First of all, as I have said many times, I haven’t got a technical profile… I’ve majored in Business Administration and have always worked in Business Development and Product Management during my “short” working life.

One common advice to all of us non-technical profiles that decide to start a new internet business is to “learn to program”… So that is what I did… And after some days of Python and Ruby-on-Rails I can tell you one thing: I am sorry to say but if you take into consideration all the implications and the time needed, that advice is… nonsense.

After attending some developer meetup and telling my story almost every advice I got was in fact the contrary… “Want to learn to program? don’t even try. Go find a CTO co-founder”. And that is what I did, and after a month doing that, I had a big breakthrough. That advice is, also… nonsense.

Now let me explain… Both advice make sense at first, but aren’t practical.

First of all, I really believe it is important to have some basic notion of how the web works, but for that you don’t need to know how to program in Java Script. My advice? Learn to code a basic website in HTML using CSS, understand what is a FTP server and also learn the ABC of database management (if you have used MS Access you have most of the work done)… that’s it. The objective is not to build your business, but to set a framework for your creative approach. Or speaking more clearly, building a framework that avoids the typical response… “that can’t be done” (and actually knowing if it is, sort of, true or not)

Secondly, I completely agree that the best way to get a company from the ground is convincing your neighbor, which grew up with you and was your best man at your wedding, into leaving his job at Google in order to start working with you in your still very green concept of idea, in order to conquer the world. But that, usually, doesn’t happen… The plain truth is that, sadly, most of the time the gap between technical profiles and business profiles is simply too big.

So, if none of the above are the solutions, what is my advice? Master the art of concept design.

There is a middle ground between programming the whole product yourself and going crazy finding some one to work with you. Start building a concept, understand all the implications and find solutions with feedback from the possible costumers. And you know what’s the secret here…  you don’t need to throw your idea into the “big wildlife” (Internet). Not for the time being. After you have massaged the concept thoroughly it is time to get busy and start looking for someone to build it, but not before. And I promise that it will be much easier by then. How do you do it?

1) Build your idea… for that you need to:

  • Find inspiration: It is important to at least have a vague idea of what will it look like once its published and working. It helps you creatively. So start surfing the web and get some webs that you like because they transmit feelings that you would like to transmit (trust, luxury, technical, freedom, whatever)
  • Get paper and pencil… seriously. Designers still use pen and paper because it is the medium that gives them more freedom to create bar none. Really. So draw some boxes and start putting in lines to get an idea of how will your website work. (What happens if you press that button? where does it take you? how does it work?)
  • Once you have drawn the basic frame of your website make some real wireframes. (I use mockingbird, but there are quite a few solutions out there as you can find out here) This helps you polish many problems you wouldn’t find out otherwise. If you get stuck, go back to the pencil.

2) Get feedback… Once you have got it “built”, start testing your idea.

  • Show the wireframes to your close circle of friends. (Do they understand it? What do they think about it? Is is useful for them? Where do they see problems?)
  • Get some technical advice. Show it to people you trust and that have a technical background. Remember, at this point you’re not looking for a cofounder, you simply need feedback.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open… modify as needed. Not only the website “navigation”, but the whole concept if necessary.

3) Build it… You can hire someone to do it or find a partner. In any case I can assure you that after all the work you have done to polish your idea this process will be much more productive. If you are looking for someone to build it, the end result will be something much closer to your idea than otherwise. And If you are looking for a partner it will show that you have the passion, understanding and commitment needed to getting things done, closing the gap.

As always, hope this helps and all sorts of comments are welcome 🙂

Cheers

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2 thoughts on “Tips on building your tech company for non-tech guys

  1. Great post.

    I’m a non-technical guy in the process of starting an internet biz. I know marketing, product and sales but not stuff like what kind of programming language or database to use. This was inspiring.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Chris,

      Glad that you liked it. I truly think that some very basic coding knowledge is needed.
      Take a look at this http://www.codecademy.com (the html course that they have is very quick and gives you a great idea of how things work. The Javascript is a bit more technical but not much)

      All the best,

      Luis

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