How to launch a tech start-up if you’re not tech-savvy

Lakshmi Singh
@singh_lakshmi

Starting a tech-based business doesn’t have to be restricted to those with the tech know-how and industry experience. There are many entrepreneurs in the tech sector who have risen from non-tech backgrounds – not because of their knowledge, but by virtue of their innate skills and intellectual curiosity. If you’re open to building the right connections, vision and are a good team player – you’re already well on your way.

Skill up

Even though it is possible to delegate the technology decision-making to a knowledgeable and trustworthy business partner or contractor, it’s worthwhile skilling-up, says Erica Stewart, founder of hardtofind.

“It's worth doing a short course on the basics of web development, more to learn best-practice process and tech 'lingo' than actual coding,” she says.

Michael Tutek, MD of Preezie believes it is a good idea to learn the basics “to get a high level view.”

“Start learning, it’s not hard, YouTube these days can teach you anything. This will dramatically improve your ability to make decisions,” he says.

Outsource

 “If your co-founder(s) or team members don't have a background in coding, outsourcing to a digital agency is a good place to start,” says Stewart.

However, it’s important to check contractors’ credentials because cost and quality of work are important considerations in this decision.

Sam Kurikawa, founder of online marketplace GiveGet believes she cannot rely upon contractors and is looking to hire a Chief Technology Officer with the skills, experience and time to dedicate.

“The bigger issue is having someone ultimately responsible for the tech-based decisions of the business, and accountable for those decisions.”

“My tip would be to spend as much time as possible learning the fundamentals. But ultimately, find someone to partner with you and go on the journey with you,” she says.

Find the right partner

To convince someone to go on that journey with you and to become your tech co-founder, Andrea Martins, founder of Australian lawn care startup, GreenSocks, has several suggestions:

  • Pitch to a formal audience, she says. Speaking in front of Silicon Valley VCs at a business pitch event forced her to move faster from "ideas mode" to "acceleration mode".

“The upside of braving the stage is that you are catapulting your start-up onto the radar of potential investors, mentors and tech co-founders much quicker than if you'd arranged one-on-one meetings all across town.”

  • Spend time and effort conducting research and gathering data to convince your tech co-founder of the viability of your concept, she says.

A great piece of advice that Martins agrees with comes from Danny Beck, Director of Product Management at Capital One:

“Going to any kind of start-up or networking event with a CAP [Co-Founder Attracting Product] in your back pocket… will dramatically increase your chances of attracting a co-founder for you and your business. Plus, going through the process of creating a CAP will give you a ton of interesting information to talk to people about."

Create the right team

If you’ve found a co-founder, you may then want to look at creating a team to make your idea a reality. But, hiring employees may not be an option for all start-ups, especially if you can’t afford to pay them at the beginning. Investigate other options, like partnering with students, says Kerstin Oberprieler, co-founder of PentaQuest, a digital gamification platform for workplaces.

“We are currently partnering with software engineering students from the Australian National University, as part of their TechLauncher program. This pairs businesses with students to build something together,” she says.

“While it may not be a sustainable long term solution, it’s a great way to get started and get a Minimum Viable Product that can be taken to investors.”

Leverage your other skills and background

You should never discount your communication skills, natural flair and ability to network, says Matt Melendez, joint director of Dynasty Innovations, a technology consultancy start-up.

“What I lack in experience in the technology field and formal education, I make up for in my ability to connect with business owners on a human level. Being able to conduct consultations to cater for each level of understanding for each client is key,” he says. 

Lakshmi Singh

Lakshmi Singh is a freelance writer across a range of sectors including technology, business, lifestyle and health. Her work has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Sunday Telegraph.

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