As you may already know it is my intention to start a web-based business but there is one potential sticking point-I am anything but technical. Setting up this WordPress blog has seriously highlighted my inadequacies.
This raises the question- Is it possible, or desirable to start a web-based business without basic programming skills? Is it possible to develop and iterate to get to product/market fit without being able to personally bring your idea to fruition?
It is fair to say that I have been a little naïve when approaching the technical side of the business up until now. I had always thought of it as a decision with two main variables- time and money. I could either spend some money outsourcing the development and get an MVP to the market ASAP or I could look to bring on a technical co-founder which would take longer but cost less money. I had completely ignored the wider impact of this decision on the future of the business.
A few great blogs by Scott Allison and Jason Freedman have recently prompted me to discuss this matter in more detail with business owners who are further down the entrepreneurial path and has made me re-think my options.
I have always believed that I should focus on my strengths and leave the technical side of things to others. However, I have to accept that I cannot effectively manage a process that I don’t understand.
As I see it at the moment, I have few options:
1. I can spend the next couple of years learning the technical knowledge to bring the concept to life myself.
I will never be, and have no desire to be, the CTO of the business.
2. Bring on a technically minded co-founder to work with me to develop the idea.
This will need to happen, the question is just when.
3. Outsource the development of the product offering
If I do this I need to think a lot more about how this affects the potential growth plans of the business. Maybe a technically minded advisor/mentor would be the best option here.
No matter which option I take; in the end the chances of success will be significantly increased by my improve knowledge of the technical elements of the business.
I am currently in the early stages of working with Zendit to get a Minimum Viable Product to take out to the market and start testing. At the same time I am working on developing my own programming skills through Tree House and Codecademy. I like Jason Freedman’s approach to finding a technical co-founder. It is not something that is just going to happen, I must earn a technical co-founder.
Before even starting on the technical development I have a few critical steps I need to go through that will have a bearing on the direction of the product. Hopefully some of the principles of The Lean Startup will help address these issues and by working closely with the team at Zendit I can be successful in bringing a product to the market place.
As with all things in life the more I investigate and discuss the more I realise I don’t know and the more complicated the decision becomes. Whichever option I decide to pursue will have its advantages and potential pitfalls and no one path is right for all businesses. Maybe I should listen to Pinterest co-founder, Ben Silbermann, who recently told the audience at SXSW not to take too much advice from others. Ultimately I must forge my own path and yes I will make mistakes and there will be a lot of uncertainty ahead but isn’t that all part of the fun.
If nothing, I am always up for a challenge and I love learning new things. Who knows I may actually enjoy coding, stranger things have happened.
If you are involved in a startup who is going through or has gone through a similar experience I’d love to hear from you.
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