I started off as a half ass-ed technical founder. I was decent at building static websites but all I’ve ever really built with Rails was a shopping cart with code I duplicated from a book. Within a few months of building Zestyl, I’ve settled into the role of a technical founder and now spend most of my waking hours building the product.
So you must be thinking, “What? A non-technical founder who learned how to code is asking me not to? WTF is this shit?”. Now now… let me explain. I’m bringing this up because there are people who advocate learning to code so as to gain respect from potential technical co-founders. That’s utter nonsense so stop wasting your time.
2 Main Functions of an Early Stage Startup
A startup needs to carry out 2 functions really well in the early stage. We need to build a good product and we need to build traction. These are the very basics of execution we need to get right at the beginning. Whether you’re going lean, mobile first, test driven, agile, social or whatever… Just get those two things right first. Those will get you to product / market fit and that is the first real check point in your journey.
If you ask most startups, they’ll tell you that building a product is way easier than building traction. Seriously, coding your product up is the easy part. Actually getting people to know about it and to use it regularly is tough. You need some serious hustling skills to move the needle every single day. (Building a product that people love is another story altogether, but it’ll still require you to get Product and Traction right)
Please Don’t Waste Time
As a technical founder, I really couldn’t give two hoots about whether you have any technical chops or not. Yes, there should be mutual respect but what will help you gain my respect is your ability to acquire users. You’ll gain my respect if you’re able to execute the most efficient plans that will help as many people know about and use the product as possible.
If you’re going to take up the role of the non-technical founder, please do not waste time. Time is one resource we will always be short of and you will have way more on your plate than you will know how to deal with so keep your mind focused on gaining traction.
Lucky for me, Jalen who’s my non-technical co-founder has taken up the challenge of moving the needle so that Zav and I can concentrate on building the product. It’s a major burden lifted off our shoulders as ding dong-ing between product and traction WILL waste a lot of time. Focus is key.
P.S. One caveat: The only time you should ever be spending time learning to code is if you are the one who’s building the product.