3 top tips for non-technical founders to lead effectively.
Many questions can bog you down when you envision an innovation rooted in technology especially if you are a non-technical founder. “I don’t code, so how do I bring this idea to life?” Or where do I start? Or how is developing a tech product different from developing a traditional one?
Successful Non-Technical Founders of Technology Companies
Talking of non-technical founders, here are my top 3 who have successfully disrupted their industries through technology innovation :
- Brian Chesky – A bachelor in fine arts and founder of Airbnb, now featured among the 100 Most Powerful People in Global Hospitality by the International Hospitality Institute.
- Sean Rad – Enrolled to study business at University of Southern California and Founded Tinder, the popular dating app, that went on to become the highest grosser on Apple App Store in 2017
- Melanie Perkins– a BA in Psychology & Communications and Founder of Canva. She was named “Top Under 30 of the Decade” by Forbes in 2020.
Just like running a traditional business is not limited to manufacturing a product, running a technology business is not limited to writing the code of a website or an app. The success of a tech business will rarely be disrupted due to your non-technical background. In my experience, a technology business founder needs to focus on most aspects of running a business that a traditional business requires. Be it your unique offering, your user insights, your package, your cash flow, or your unit economies these are essentials in every business. However, there are also many areas of divergence and it’s good to be aware of these differences.
3 top tips for non-technical founders to lead effectively
1. Your focus needs to be disruption, not doing everything that needs to be done.
To focus on the crux of your disruptive offering, getting a team that allows you to do so, is imperative. When you strip the frills- what does your product offer to disrupt the current practice? Technical or not, as a business founder, you need to be obsessed with this question. It is unrealistic to keep the strategic hat on as well as talk to your prospective users and investors if you are also writing the code. It is hard to do even for technical founders. Hiring a trusted outsourced team that takes care of the code writing part is a critical sweet spot. It gives you broader perspective and also takes away super time-consuming people recruitment and management responsibility. The question you need to answer is how will you get this team together. Can you recruit friends who share your vision, write code and be your cofounders, or will you outsource a team? Furthermore, can you bootstrap it, till you are ready for beta testing, or do you need to start with raising funds?
2. Think of yourself as a knowledgeable digital collaborator
The onus of transferring the magic in your potion – the crux of your disruption mechanism to the development process is on you. Don’t worry about the jargon, simpler is always better. The only thing critical is that you be that knowledge bridge. Let the coders handle technicalities while you empower them with insights from your users and inspire them with your vision. Holding regular touchpoints with the team is important as it enhances team performance and builds cumulative wisdom. I like to have a living project brief document on Google docs. This is our living, breathing master plan that spells out the project as it evolves and becomes our guiding light at all times to refer to and contribute to. I welcome you to get in touch with me if you would like help in any of these areas. Connect with me through this link or via Linkedin.
3. Be aware that technology innovation is about constant iteration
Unlike traditional products, technology offerings usually take several iterations till they reach readiness to scale. Consequently, the expectation of delivery of a successful product in Round 1 is unrealistic and will rarely happen. Your startup will not pay your bills the moment your first app hits the App Store. The key point here is to budget time and resources accordingly. You should plan to build in small spurts so you can test, fail, iterate and test again until you find unit economies and can scale. Being aware of this reality will also help you be a better digital collaborator. The learnings you take at every point of failure should eventually point you to the path to success or one that goes in a new direction.
About the Author
Bhavna J Mishra is the Founder of Browzly, a London-based, Natwest bank-endorsed technology company. Browzly provides bespoke mobile app development and an award-winning Reading Comprehension Practice App for Primary schools. Browzly is passionate about promoting reading and helping innovation and purpose-led startups build their web and mobile apps. You are welcome to connect to make your big idea come to life.