It’s coding new literacy – for years people have called programming the X factor that guarantees future success.
It’s no surprise that in the startup world there is a widespread perception that anyone who doesn’t know how to code should forget to create something. After all, Silicon Valley, which has historically been to software engineering what Hollywood is to acting, has built its reputation as the birthplace of world-changing technology companies.
But the reality is that great talent is everywhere, and technical talent isn’t all that matters. Silicon Valley is by no means the only thriving technology hub in the world — in 2013 there were unicorns in just 37 cities; by 2021 there were unicorns in as many as 170 cities.
Having a technical background is not a requirement for a founder to build a great business no matter where they are located. We work with many technical and non-technical people, and we encourage founders with a non-technical background to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Why do we feel so strongly about this?
The proof is in the data. In his book “Super Founders” venture capitalist Ali Tamaseb collected 30,000 data points which found that unicorns’ founding CEOs were split in the middle: half came from a corporate background; half had a technical background.
And there have been many non-tech founders who have built massive tech companies, such as Canva’s Melanie Perkins, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd, and Pinterest’s Evan Sharp.
Coding is “ONE” new literacy, not “THE” new literacy and is just one of many ways to achieve great results.
When we meet an applicant who does not have a technical background, but who brings drive, guts and some other specialized knowledge, we will almost always want to work with them, connect them to our ecosystem and jump start their entrepreneurial journey.
While this may sound encouraging, it doesn’t change the fact that every company with an MVP should go to market. How do you build one without coding skills?
You should always try to have at least one technical co-founder on your team. It simply makes for faster build and iteration, easier turning, consistency throughout the life of the product, and fewer headaches or incompatibilities down the line.
While we don’t recommend starting a business solo, if you haven’t found a tech co-founder or freelancer to build your MVP, here are four principles that can help you in the meantime.
Principle 1: Non-technical is OK; non-product is not
People often confuse technical knowledge with product knowledge, but they are not the same. Each requires different educational backgrounds, team structures, areas of focus within the enterprise, and the types of questions to be asked.
Product knowledge is about being able to articulate what your thing does at the most basic level. Even if you have no idea how the technology works, you should be able to explain its function in a clear and concise manner. On the other hand, technical knowledge is about building the thing itself.