Did someone tell you that you can’t start a technical startup if you come from a non-technical background?
Clearly, you didn't listen to them, or you wouldn't be here doing your own research. Good on you!
It is not only possible for a non-technical person to launch a startup, but with the right amount of hard work and determination, you can make your startup wildly successful too.
In this blog, we will list out the steps you need to take if you’re starting your tech business without a technical background. But, first, a dash of motivation for you!
Surely you must have heard of Alibaba, the multinational technology company with its fingers in the e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology pies. What about Pandora, the music streaming service that has amassed a net worth of billions of dollars with a subscription-based business model? Perhaps you have used iCracked, one of the world's largest and most efficient on-demand service providers for smartphones and tablets?
What do all these companies have in common? They are all tech startups, yes.
What else do they have in common?
They were all envisioned by non-technical founders. You read that right! Feeling more hopeful about your startup idea now? Read on.
Alibaba is the brainchild of Jack Ma, an English Literature graduate. Pandora was launched by Tim Westergren, who started his career as an award-winning musician. AJ Forsythe, the founder of iCracked, stumbled across his multimillion-dollar tech startup idea when he was still in college.
So, if you are a non-technical person with a great idea for a tech startup, it’s time to put your fears at ease. Just read the list of pointers we’ve compiled for you to go out there and make a difference.
How to Build a Tech Startup as a Non-Technical Person
- Plan Ahead to Succeed
- Research Like Your Life Depended On It
- Talk to Others in the Know
- Reach Out to Your Potential Customers
- Create a Rough Mockup
- Find Yourself a Skilled Team
- Prepare Yourself Mentally
- Lead Your Startup with Confidence
- Find Yourself a Technical Co-Founder
- Indulge in a Continuous Learning Process
1. Plan Ahead to Succeed
Why do you want to launch your startup business?
Your final product or service is aimed at your consumers, right? So, here’s the important question: will your product (mobile app or a web app) make your end users’ lives easier or more productive in some way?
If your answer is yes, then read on. If your answer is no, head back to your idea boards, erase everything, and start over till you get this question right!
It’s not enough to just have a brilliant idea that you can convert into an equally brilliant product. You need to plan your entire startup journey, from the initial ideation to the final product launch. Your end goal is a great product that makes your consumers happy. A good business plan modeled around a solid business model will help you figure out how to get there.
Basically, your business plan precedes your business strategy roadmap. Make sure you are not confused between the two.
A business plan will include the mission, vision, and organisational goals of your business. It gives an idea of the what and when of your business.
What will be the costs involved in setting up and running your business? When should you finish the first stage of your product development cycle? What are the different revenue generation techniques you can implement? When should you start marketing your business idea to your audience?
Now, your strategy roadmap focuses on the how.
How can you optimise your business operational costs? How should you carry out the testing and implementation processes? How can you minimise risks to your tech business from the start?
Your strategy must define paths for all the different stages of your project clearly. It should include the various milestones you need to cross and the strategies you plan on implementing.
2. Research Like Your Life Depends On It
There are no shortcuts when it comes to research. Even if you come from a non-technical background, intensive research will help you get clearer ideas about the technical aspects of starting a tech business.
You need to sit down in a comfortable corner with your reading glasses on and burn the midnight oil. Researching your startup idea helps you validate your idea before you take it any further. It also enables you to develop new ways of innovating your product so that your final product will have several unique selling points to entice your end-users.
You need to research many different critical areas before you finalise your startup’s business plan.
You need to start by researching your startup idea. Is your idea completely unique? Or is it an improved version of an existing product?
Then comes your market research. Will your product be able to find a place in the market? Are you addressing a niche demand in the marketplace of your choice?
Audience research is a key metric you simply must not miss. Will your targeted consumers be interested in your product? Are they willing to spend money to procure your services?
Let’s not forget about cost analysis research. How much money is your end-users willing to spend on your product? Will this be enough for your business to break even and start generating profits?
And finally, your competitor analysis research. Competitor analysis is extremely important. It helps you gauge your competition to have a good idea of what your product will be competing against. Are your competitors doing well in the marketplace? What are their unique selling points? How can you make your startup stand out from the competition?
The research you can do for your startup is endless. It doesn’t end with just one round, either. There are primary and secondary stages of research, followed by more in-depth research as your startup grows.
3. Talk to Others in the Know
You are clearly a brave soul as you are getting ready to charter your own course. It would be good to talk to other experienced professionals who may have words of wisdom to guide you.
There are many other non-technical founders who have taken the path less travelled, just like you. Reach out to them and understand their journeys so that you can map out your journey more clearly.
Why did they choose to start a tech business even though they are from a non-technical background? How did this decision affect their lives?
What are the most common mistakes they made? What were the major challenges they faced as non-technical founders in a technical environment?
You can learn from their mistakes and get inspired by their successes.
What were the strategies they implemented for their startup? How did they acquire technical knowledge over the years? What were the ways they used to find a technical founder who was a good fit for their company?
From one non-technical founder to another. What are the words of advice they have for you?
It’s always good to be humble and ask others for help when you feel overwhelmed. Remember that they have travelled the same roads as you and will be able to tell you where the speedbumps are.
4. Reach Out to Your Potential Customers
It’s a great idea to keep your customers in the loop from the initial stages of your startup development. Your end-users know what they want.
Engage with your customers directly so that you will get a good idea of their requirements from your final product. You can use this data to improve your product through iterative stages until it’s the best version it can possibly be.
In fact, you should not even consider starting your development process before reading your audience and understanding their expectations completely. Send out questionnaires and conduct surveys asking the right questions. Remember that the focus should be on solving your customers' pain points.
Does your idea make sense to your customers? Are you solving a problem that actually exists for a considerable majority of the population you are planning to target?
How can your product improve your customers’ lives? Does it address any challenge that they are facing? Are your customers interested in buying your final product when it’s officially launched in the marketplace? If so, how much are they willing to spend on your product?
Being a non-technical founder, this can fall directly under your range of responsibilities. You will be used to expressing yourself in layman's terms, and not “techie” terms. So, you will be able to communicate with your customers without using any technical terms to complicate the conversation.
The customer insight that you receive is gold in terms of your product development and refinement. Share the collected data with your core team, analyse every bit of the data, and see how you can use it to your advantage.
5. Create a Rough Mockup
You have an idea that has potential. Now, how will you convey this intangible idea to others?
It’s not enough to be able to explain in mere words. Since you don’t come from a technical background, chances are you will be unfamiliar with the technical nomenclature of the different aspects of your final product. This means you will find it hard to explain your idea with just works, and might even convey the wrong idea if you mix up your technical jargon.
After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, imagine how many words you can save yourself if you create a mock-up of your idea?
No one expects your mockup to be your Mona Lisa. It’s a visual representation of your idea that you can show to your technical team and even use to pitch to your investors before you come up with a minimum viable product. A simple and rudimentary version of your idea can be created using a number of tools such as Microsoft Powerpoint or Photoshop.
If you want to take it a step further, you can even engage the services of a techie to enhance your mockup to a more presentable level.
6. Find Yourself a Skilled Team
Your entire business will revolve around the team you put together to join you in your entrepreneurial journey.
They will need strong technical skills and also a passion to drive your business to success. While hiring your team, assess their overall personalities as well.
Are they well-rounded individuals? Do they have a commitment towards their work? Do your developers enjoy coding? Are your managers good listeners and communicators? Does your team have a penchant for perfection and an eye for detail?
In order to assess the technical abilities of your potential team, assign small tasks to your candidates and see how well they fare. If possible, try to get them to work as a team, so that you get an idea of how well they work together as a cohesive unit.
Be judicious with your new hires, as even one bad apple can spoil the entire basket.
If you don’t want to waste time painstakingly putting together a new team one by one, you can avoid the uncertainty factor and outsource to reputed product development companies like NeoITO. This will save you time, money, and effort to build and train a new development team from scratch.
7. Prepare Yourself Mentally
The fact that you looked up this blog is proof that you still have a few lingering doubts, however fleeting they may be.
You must be mentally prepared to take on the many challenges that you will face as a non-technical startup founder for a tech business.
You might have a little starting trouble connecting to your technical team. It may take you a while before you start grasping the technical aspects of your product development cycle. You might sit in scrum meetings and feel left out because it sounds like everyone else is speaking Pig Latin.
You might have trouble convincing investors about the merits of your product idea. You might find yourself working through the wee hours of the night. You might even find yourself feeling demotivated once in a while.
All the above, and more, is part and parcel of taking on such a huge responsibility. You cannot let the bad days faze you, and you must be ready to push forward no matter what.
8. Lead Your Startup with Confidence
Remember the confidence boost we gave you at the beginning of this blog? All those non-technical founders who led their startups to resounding marketplace victories? Just checking!
So, you already know that you are not at any particular disadvantage. Just because you are trying to make your mark in a technical world with a non-technical background, doesn't mean your chances of success are less.
Ask yourself the important questions. Do you have faith in your idea for a tech startup? Yes? Perfect! Do you think you can make the lives of your consumers easier with your product or services? Yes? Keep going! Do you think you have the right team to execute your product idea? Yes? You are doing great, then!
If you are still trying to find a development team that can help you realise your tech startup dreams, look for a reputed technical development company that has a team of technical experts with decades of experience in leading startups to success.
As a startup founder, irrespective of your technical or non-technical credentials, you need to have confidence in yourself and your team.
Are you capable of executing your business plan without any hitches? Can you manage your teams well and help them all coordinate together seamlessly? Are you ready to pitch your idea to potential Venture Capitalists and angel investors to fund your startup? Will you be able to target the right audience to market your end product to?
If you can do all the above, you can do more—soldier on with renewed confidence that you too can make it in a cut-throat technological world.
9. Find Yourself a Technical Co-Founder
You need to find a technical co-founder for your tech startup. Do not see it as getting someone else to do your job. Rather, see it as finding the right technical partner to share your responsibilities and help your startup grow.
A technical co-founder will only boost your startup’s chances of success. They will know their way around the tech world and will be able to show you around their domain.
Start your search for a technical co-founder if you haven't already! Think of it as a long commitment. You can’t simply hire the first Tom, Dick, or Harry that shows up at your door with a technical background. Your co-founder will be an integral part of your company for years to come, and you will have to work closely with them to augment your startup business. This means your candidates must possess not only strong technical skills, but also a passion for your organisational goals. Their personality and energy must match that of your team and your company as a whole.
You need to have a good rapport with your co-founder, as you will have to interact with them continuously for all important business decisions. Your team must also be comfortable with your technical co-founder so that they can work well together on the technical side of your business.
Try giving small project tasks to your co-founder candidates and gauge how well they work with you and your team. Are they able to give you good analytics reports on your startup? Can they coordinate and work productively with your team? Are they good at communicating their ideas and requirements to you and your team?
You will understand that having a technical co-founder relieves a lot of stress from your shoulders. They can handle the technical aspects that you may find complex or boring and leave you plenty of time to handle the other aspects of your business, such as managerial duties, and business operations.
10. Indulge in a Continuous Learning Process
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.”
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi sure had his priorities right! Don't forget to live your personal and professional life to the fullest. But, also make sure you set aside some time daily to learn something new.
You need to make sure you follow a continuous learning process and map out your progress as well. You need not limit yourself just to technical learning, although that would help you run your startup considerably better. Your technical co-founder can even help you learn the ropes and share their knowledge and insights with you. Even having a meaningful conversation with your technical co-founder on a daily basis can help you gain a wealth of knowledge.
If you are not the studious kind and you don’t really want to sit with books and pour over notes, then we have a simple hack for you. Make friends with your development team.
You will interact with your team everyday, so why not get the most out of those interactions? Your team will be more than happy to share their expertise with you. Start being an active member in your team’s technical scrums whenever you have the time to spare.
Learn to listen to your team and be attentive to the topics they discuss. It’s okay to feel a little left out at first, as you may not be familiar with their topics of interest. After all, you don’t come from a technical background.
If you don’t follow something, do not interrupt the scrum to ask questions. But, do take notes and follow up later to clear your doubts. Before long, you will not only understand, but will also be able to throw around technical jargon in casual conversations.
It won’t be easy to thrive in a tech startup environment if you come from a non-technical background, but it can be done. What’s more, it has been done, and done brilliantly to boot!
There is a long list of greats out there who didn’t let an educational qualification stop them from achieving their dreams. Of course, they were smart about it. They took the necessary steps to ensure that their ventures were protected against technical risks.
Are you ready to join this list?
Just keep our tips in mind, and you’re already on your way to becoming an inspiration for non-technical tech startup founders all over the world!
If you’re still worried, you can partner with a reliable software product development company like NeoITO. We act as a complete end-to-end partner and have helped numerous non-technical founders launch successful startups all over the world. Our team of tech specialists will be able to guide you through the entire product development process, from ideation to product launch and everything related to it.