Tech Tips for non Techie Founders

So I should be working on my 3 min pitch right now but I foolishly thought “I’ll have a quick look on Twitter”, found this article on TechCrunch and now feel I may have something to contribute. So if you are a non technical founder I am writing this for you…

First of all I have to agree with the article, quality developers have quality jobs and salaries that you as a startup cannot come close to. Those of us who are attracted to the romance of the startup usually have a stack of our own ideas that we never get enough time to work on…so your idea would have to be mind blowing to drop those ideas and pursue yours.

Your idea is probably not that good.

Learn to Code

So the advice is to “learn to code, it’s not that hard”. Completely agree. Learning to code is easy…becoming good at it is hard.

One of my fellow founders on the Founder Institute course had zero technical knowledge yet on the weekend he taught himself how to write and put up the landing page for his site! OK so it won’t win any awards but it is still a champion effort given his starting point and it’s the kind of, “screw you guys, I’m going to build it myself” kind of attitude that will make him a successful founder in the end.

If he can do it…you can do it!

You don’t need to be a good coder, that will take you years (I’ve been coding for 12 years and still feel like there is so much to learn), you just need to be able to sticky tape together a rough and kinda working prototype, get your MVP up and running and validate your idea. Balsamiq looks like a good tool, like Sketchflow the sketch like interface allows you to focus on how the thing will work rather getting caught up on UI specifics…UI specifics are important but not in the early stages and they can be seriously time consuming.

As a founder of a tech start up you cannot have too much technical knowledge.

I know of a couple of start ups where the leaders lack of technical knowledge is definitely damaging their product and more importantly, team morale.

And it is not just about knowing how to code…it’s about have at least some understanding of the software development process. Keep in mind software is never finished, never bug free and never perfect. Oh and there is never enough time or budget to build all the features you want with the quality you need, be aware of the Iron Triangle.


Where to learn? Pluralsight. High quality training videos, 10 hours free, then cheap monthly plans. I haven’t watched them but there are some ‘getting started’ type videos there. Many of the courses are geared towards Microsoft developer tools but there are iOS and Android courses as well.


Where to get the tools? BizSpark. All the tools (and more) you need for free for 3 years!

I primarily use MS tools, so best resources outside of that I’m not the guy to ask. The MS tools are awesome.


So without a technical co-founder it is likely you will outsource development of some or all of your product. When you outsource development you are putting a large part of your future success in the hands of those developers and you do not have the necessary skills to know if the code that is being written is good or terrible. If you are spending thousands to get your product developed I would recommend paying someone you trust or a consultancy to do a code review, fairly early on. Just to make sure the code is of a reasonable standard.

Having said that, there is definitely an argument with Lean principles in mind that suggest, get it built as quickly and cheaply as possible, then if/when it is a success re-write it from scratch and get the quality right then…

I have outsourced some of my development work to someone I have worked with in the past. He was an awesome developer and has started his own web development company, Cyberplex Software. He doesn’t write the code himself, he outsources it but he has done the hard work to find and put together a team of quality developers and designers. I’d recommend at least getting a quote from them, the work I have asked them to do was well priced and they’re easy and professional to work with….and no I do not get any kind of kick back for promoting them, it is simply a service I honestly recommend and am using myself (because I simply don’t have time to build everything myself).


The tools these days are awesome, the training tools are awesome, so get out there and learn all can. Don’t let your lack of technical skills hold you back from turning your idea into a reality 🙂


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