How to Build a Tech Company Without a Tech Background
One of the speakers at the conference was Dawoon Kang, founder of Coffee Meets Bagel. If you are a fan of ABC's Shark Tank, then you are probably aware of Coffee Meets Bagel. They are the online dating startup that turned down $30 million from Mark Cuban, the largest offer in the history of the show. Kang spoke at the conference about how they started Coffee Meets Bagel without a technical founder. While you wouldn't expect a technical startup to be started by non-techies, the reality is that it is happening more and more, which leads to the question: Do you have to have a technical background to build a tech startup? Simply put, the answer is 'No'.
As Kang pointed out in her presentation, neither her or her two sisters, who founded the company with her, know how to code. The same goes for Lauren Kay and Emma Tessler, the founders of another online dating startup called Dating Ring. Neither of these start-up founders has a technology background. And how about Charles Best, a teacher from the Bronx who started DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that allows anyone to help students in need by donating to projects posted by teachers across the U.S in need of supplies. None of these hustling entrepreneurs had a tech background, but they all had an idea for a product that serves a need in the market. With that, and the ability to find the right resources, they were able to start their tech companies.
So what does it take if you are building a tech company without a technical background? Here are some key things to consider offered by Kang in her presentation.
"There are a ton of resources and services out there for young companies to help you get off the ground—from legal advice and access to free technology services, to incubators and accelerators that take a hands-on approach to mentoring young companies."
Be Clear What You Want
As Kang pointed out in her presentation, one of the most important things to consider before you find a developer to join your team is to be very clear of what YOU want. Charles Best understood this, which is why he hand wrote every page of the DonorsChoose.org website on paper before paying a developer $2,000 to create it.
By having a clear understanding of what you want, the task of finding the right person for the job becomes much easier.
Find A Developer
Once your plan is clear, the next step is to find a developer to work with you. There are many options to finding qualified developers. Freelance sites like Elance, Freelancer.com and Guru can be a great place to start and allow you to not only evaluate the developers experience but receive proposals that fit your budget. As Kang warned in her presentation, you do need to be careful, though. Not everyone you hire from a freelancer site is going to be reliable. In fact, the developer that they started with stopped communicating in the middle of their project. This forced them to start their search again, which led to costly delays. So do your due diligence and check references and test experience to ensure you have a better chance of finding someone who will fit your needs.
Another option for non-techie entrepreneurs looking to launch a tech start-up would be to turn to one of the many development products, such as Microsoft Ventures or Salesforce for Startups. These products provide tools, resources, knowledge and expertise to entrepreneurs that allow them to develop their products and ideas.
"Whether a founder has a technical background or not, the opportunity to turn a great idea into a business is becoming a global phenomenon," Steve Guggenheimer, CVCP and Chief Evangelist for Microsoft. "There are a ton of resources and services out there for young companies to help you get off the ground—from legal advice and access to free technology services, to incubators and accelerators that take a hands-on approach to mentoring young companies."
Partner With a Someone With a Technical Background
While finding a freelance developer or temporary team in the beginning stages will work to create your MVP (minimum viable product), for long term success, you will need to either partner with, or bring on a high level team member, that has a technical background. As your company grows you will need someone with technical know-how and experience to manage the technical side of the business while you manage the day-to-day operations and management.
"If you're starting a technology company and there's no person who really understands the technology on the founding team you could succeed, and there are definitely people who can do that," says Aaron Harris, a partner with Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley-based accelerator. "But to increase your chances, learn to do it yourself or partner with someone who is passionate about what you're doing who can build that side."
As any smart hustling entrepreneur knows, the key to success is not knowing how to do everything that needs to get done, but knowing how to find the right people and resources to help you on the journey. This holds true for any non-techie looking to launch a tech company. Do your homework, develop a solid plan, find the right people and you'll be well on your way to success!