You have a brilliant idea that can change the world, and believe you have the vision and leadership to build a company around the idea. However there is a small problem, you are non technical and cannot write a line of code to save your life. Next logical step to get your idea off the ground, you start looking for a technical co-founder. Finding someone to write code for a first time entrepreneur is no easy task. Believe me, we tried.
Before deciding to code on our own, we spent about two months meeting up with pretty much anyone who would take up a meeting, and whose current job or skill set involved something remotely to do with writing code. A friend’s colleague who was unhappy with his job, a distant relative whose neighbor was an established freelancer, an engineering student who wanted to be a freelancer, I have met them all and pursued them to turn our idea into reality.
Below are my top 5 reasons on why you, the bootstrapping, first-time entrepreneur should code
1. Good developers are hard to find : Anyone who can develop a complete application is highly sought after, has a lot of job offers and freelance gigs to pick from. Most likely the person has a really high paying job in an established company / well funded startup. The initial equity you offer them might be very high in percentage, but in all likely hood not worth the sheet of paper it is written on. So think from a developers perspective, Why choose you ? If someone claims to be able to develop an application for you and is not being bombarded with offers from all directions, then that someone might not be worth pursuing. Again, you can always find a developer but Good developers are hard to find.
2. Your product will never be complete : Lets consider the entrepreneurs best case scenario. You get an MVP built by the lowest bidder, deploy it, gain your pilot customers. The market loves your product but want a few changes/edits and trust me, there will be changes. No one can get a product offering perfect the first time. Your potential investors want more traction before funding you. Classic chicken and egg story, no funding without product, no product without funding. Then you are stuck and feel helpless. Additionally, your product needs to keep evolving otherwise someone will disrupt you. More often than not, you will be left thinking “Wish I could fix this myself and move on”. I always think how much facebook has evolved since its inception. They would have never launched their product if they were waiting for it to be “complete”. Unless you give up on the product to pursue something else, Your product will never be complete.
3. Coding is just telling a computer to do what you want : It can’t be rocket science if so many people are doing it. As a co-founder, you will be spending a lot of time doing mockups, drawing explaining concepts to your developers. The only step missing is actually telling the computer to do the same thing. Its just a matter of translating, much like learning to speak ( in this case write) a new language. I have a bachelors in Civil engineering, worked in the oilfield all my career ( almost 10 years) in a job that had nothing to do with programming / developing. I did a course in Ruby on Rails and started building our product on our own. My Co-Founder Aman, did a course on Android Development and wrote the mobile app. As things became more and more complex, we added experienced developers to the team. It was much easier to communicate since we knew our stack inside out. No Mockups, powerpoint slides high level discussions, just roll up your sleeves and make the prototype. I keep telling anyone who cares to listen, If I can learn to code at the age of 33, after 10 years of working with a spanner and a hammer, so can you. Remember, Coding is just telling a computer to do what you want.
4. What value did you add to your company today : There will be many days when you have spent the whole day trying to do things, meetings that get rescheduled, appointments that are after a week, customers who want time to decide, paperwork that needs to be filed etc. What do you do during the “in-between” times ? . There will be many days when, at the end of day, you seem to have done everything and accomplished nothing. If you know to code, you can improve your product, which adds value. You can save money and time when compared to getting it done by someone else. Work on your product, it will pay you some day plus you can always answer the question truthfully “What value did you add to your company today”
5. Have fun and enjoy the Journey : Whether or not you make a fortune out of your company remains to be seen. Do not miss out on the joy of building something from scratch and making it work. There are a lot of tangible benefits of learning to code. Cheaper, better product, more respect in the team, faster development cycles and the list goes on. The most significant intangible benefit is the sense of accomplishment that comes out of doing things on your own. You will be able to enjoy entrepreneurship instead of feeling frustrated and helpless. Many startup guru’s have said, entrepreneurship is a journey and not a destination. So learn coding so that you can have fun and enjoy the journey.
One Last Thing : As Guy Kawasaki said, always hire people better than you. If you don’t know tech, you are not setting the bar very high, right ? The more you know, the more picky you can afford to be in choosing your team. People will want to work with you to build on what you have, it will also become easier to get expert advice. We have built our product using this approach and have a motivated team refining the product everyday. Do watch our video on next generation enterprise products that we are building @Syook.