To help you move quickly, and strategically, we’ve talked to non technical entrepreneurs and executives to learn what you can do to excel in foreign territory.
Understand your customers better than anyone else can
The top tip is to know your customers inside and out. You can’t properly vet your SaaS ideas, and decide what product to move forward with, if you don’t know your potential customers like the back of your hand. “Technology is not the most important thing,” says Saurabh Jindal, a non technical founder of Talk Travel, a mobile app that helps travelers speak in their native language abroad. “The most important thing is understanding the customer and providing the customer with a value proposition that is worthy enough for them to open their wallet for you.”
Content marketing executive at Centriq Adeel Shabir says, “Entrepreneurs should research the market before making a decision of launching the business. This can be done via social media searches or making the investment to an ad agency, who can provide you details about your business's right market.”
You can get help with the technology part, but as an entrepreneur, your most important task is always to know what your customers want.
Hire the best
Ali Khundmiri, a marketer at lead generation software and CRM Intandemly, says that their startup was founded by a salesperson. “When our nontechnical founder started out, he evaluated his strengths and realized he can't develop the system or the website. So he reached out to his friends and family asking for the best developers.”
Khundmiri continues, “He started out by hiring one lead developer and eventually added a few junior developers. While they're contributing their strengths to Intandmely, he was selling to clients while the system was still being developed. Learning from his experience, I'd recommend non-technical founders to hire the best, give them a team and complete freedom to do their best. In hindsight, it worked out pretty well. After 3 years, we have finally outgrown our initial office and are moving into a newer and bigger office.”
To learn from Intandemly’s example, don’t try to spend your time doing what you’re terrible at. If your sales or marketing or business development or operations skills, utilize those and leave the technical development to someone else.
Bobby James, a non technical founder of EasyTracks took a different approach when building his mobile and web app for helping musicians isolate and remove instruments in their favorite tracks so they can play alongside. Rather than attempt to manage a development team himself (which can be extremely challenging), he went with DevSquad as his fully managed development partner. “During development, we encountered issues that I’m still not sure how DevSquad solved, from a technical standpoint. I don’t need to know. All I need to know is that they understand our vision and can implement it,” he says.
When you work with a technical cofounder, you give up a lot of equity. However, depending on your comfort level with taking on greater risk for more reward, that might be the best move for you.
“If you're a non-technical person but interested in going into the tech world, my tip would be you to find yourself a technical partner that can work with you,” says Daniel Abramovich, CEO of VR Bangers. “People always have friends, and if some people say it's hard to work with friends, it's not true. When I opened my tech company, I had no idea how to create any technology, but my business partner and friend did. And on the other hand, I knew everything about marketing and we created a great team. We grew from two people in the garage into 50 full-time employees. It's not going to be easy at first but never give up, it might take you up to 2 years to really start seeing any income, so stay positive and look ahead for your goals!”
Maybe you’ve been afraid to work with a technical cofounder, and you just need to dive in.
Start with a prototype and build your MVP fast
“My top tip for non-technical founders is to focus on what you're good at and don't worry that you can't code or build your idea. Instead, hire someone to do a low cost prototype, and work on your genius which may be marketing, raising money or gaining traction,” says Stacy Caprio, the founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing.
“Once you've built a large audience or raised more money, you can then hire someone to build your idea out more fully or even bring on a willing technical co-founder at this point,” says Caprio. “Stay in your lane and focus on what you're the best at and you'll do just fine.”
Jindal of Talk Travel agrees. “Never start with building a high tech application. Rather go for a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and see how the customers react to it. And this MVP need not be tech based, you can always use proxy solutions to verify your service or product.”
Mark Thompson, cofounder at PayKickStart, says, “Reach MVP and product-market fit as quickly as possible. Focus on finding your first 10 customers and then listen.”
Become the head of QA
Clayton explains what it takes to become the head of QA. “Test and check everything that your cofounder is building and that will help speed things up dramatically. Test all of the interfaces on all of the different screen sizes such as different mobile phones browsers etc. This will help speed things up for your cofounder and they will appreciate you relieving them of that burden, and it will also help keep you in the trenches on what is being built and how good or bad the progress is going.”
Super smart, right?
Learn no-code development
Depending on what you’re building, it might be possible for you to go the no-code development route. At DevSquad, we mix no-code, low-code, and custom code together to build quality products in as little time as possible to make MVP creation more affordable for startup entrepreneurs.
Non technical founder of Explain.care Renjit Philip shares his viewpoint, “Founders have amazing ideas that could change the world, but they don't have the cash to engage a software house, or they do not have tech skills. Well, there is no need to despair, because the no-code movement is built for them!”
“No-code platforms help founders create user interfaces, perform data manipulation using visual interfaces, without actually coding,” says Philip. “The platforms generate the code in the background and lets you, the entrepreneur, focus on functionality for your customers.”
Here are some of Philip’s favorite sites that teach no-code concepts:
Sites that teach the concepts of no-code:
And here are some additional tools that Philip recommends that non technical founders use, along with his helpful explanations for why to use them:
Airtable (“Online visual datasheet that can replace databases”)
Bubble.io (“Make web apps visually”)
Glide (“Convert spreadsheet to apps, pronto”)
Adalo (“Make Apps visually without coding”)
SaaSbox.net (“Launch a SaaS business, without the hassle”)
Sharetribe (“Create a marketplace business on the double”)
Webflow (“Web applications on the quick”)
Zapier (“Connect applications without code or automation work”)
Document tasks, projects, and conversations
Ready for another not-so-obvious tip from a non technical cofounder? Morgan Friedman from TheMarketingScientist says, “Be obsessive about both writing down and sharing with your team every little thing that happens or you're planning yourself--and enforcing your team writing everything else down. I often tell my teams that if it’s not written down or shared with the appropriate people, then it didn’t happen.”
Knowledge transfer is a huge issue that plagues the tech industry, and too often startup entrepreneurs don’t take it seriously enough in the early stages of their business. “While writing things down and sharing them has tons of benefits in general like documentation and transparency, this is of particular benefit for non-technical cofounders. When a techie tells you technical details, it's easy for a non-tech guy to miss important points but when it's written down, you can deep dive into it and ask questions about it, in a way that's much harder or impossible in real-time conversations. A little writing goes a long way.”