No matter what your skill-set, building a startup is hard and if you’re not technical, taking the first steps and getting a product to market can seem near-impossible.
In his recent post, ‘3 reasons you shouldn’t outsource your startup, and what to do instead‘, Joel Gascoigne finished with a question: “What are your thoughts on creating a startup if you’re not technical?” And as a non-technical founder, this is my response.
1. Get your idea out there
Just because you can’t design and build a product yourself doesn’t mean you can’t validate that there are other people out there who would find it useful.
Take Chris Toy’s approach to building Bindle for example:
“I built a user flow in a PowerPoint deck and showed people. When that got a good response, I built a working prototype using a free tool and showed people. These days you can pretty much validate your product vision with a free prototyping tool, and better yet even mock advanced features that would take you 6 months to actually build and see if people get “wowed”.”
Before writing a line of code — or for us non-technical folk, finding someone to write the code, you can do a lot of the legwork in validating that people actually want your product.
Sidenote: Launch before you’re ready
“If You’re Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late” — Reid Hoffman
You can keep a product under wraps for months, even years, until you think it’s ready to launch. But without any real-world usage it’s hard to know how your product will be received and who will use it.
A great byproduct of being a non-technical founder is that you often have little choice but to launch something that’s not quite ready. This opens up a ton of opportunity to learn about your market.
Great co-founders aren’t sat around waiting to help you bring ideas to life and your potential customers aren’t sat around waiting for your product to be built. You need to get out there and network: speak with people, join Twitter chat, go to Meetups.
Whether you’re looking to find a co-founder or find your first customer, in order to be successful, you have to first put yourself in the right places to meet the right people.
3. Make the most of your skills
You might not have the skills to build your website, but that doesn’t mean your skills are useless in the early stages of your startup journey.
Non-technical skills are just as important as technical in a startup. While you can’t write the code, there are a myriad of ways you can start getting your startup off the ground.
As Joel mentioned in his post:
“What it takes to create a successful product is eliminating all the unvalidated aspects, and finding something that users or customers truly want, that has product/market fit and can get traction. The interesting part about this, is that coding is actually not at all required to achieve this.”
I first launched Nudge as a one page site a friend of mine built in a couple of hours. This version was enough to generate sign ups (initially just a Campaign Monitor mailing list).
Once I had these email addresses of people who were interested in Nudge I was able to speak with them to find out what piqued their interest and how they’d like to use a product like Nudge for their business.
These learnings were invaluable when it came to building our MVP.
4. Share your story
Start a blog, podcast, vlog. Choose whatever medium you’re most comfortable with and start sharing your story with the world as you build.
Many successful startups were created as blog first startups, including Groupon, Mattermark, and Moz. These startups were able to build a loyal audience of early adopters before building out their products.
Focus your content around your startup’s pain points and you’ll quickly be able to find out who cares about what you’re building. If people start sharing your posts, leaving comments and signing up with email then they’re into what you’re doing and could even become your first customers.
Recommended reading: check out Ryan Hoover’s post on building in public.
Thanks for reading. If you have any tips for finding co-founders or building startups as a non-technical founder, please leave a comment below.
Check out Joel’s post: ‘3 reasons you shouldn’t outsource your startup, and what to do instead‘.
P.S Want to help shape an exciting, early-stage startup?
At Nudge, w’ve built and launched our MVP and I’m looking for an enthusiastic technical co-founder, to join our journey as we build, test and iterate our way to product market fit and beyond.
Photo Credit: Jordan McQueen / Unsplash
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