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It is a popular misconception that founders of technology startups need to know all the ins and outs of tech to run a successful business. Some of the most profitable tech ventures in the world were started by people with little to no technical knowledge. Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs, arguably one of the greatest and most influential minds of our time, did not know where to begin when designing a computer.
So, what should a non-technical founder of a tech startup know about technologies before starting up their own business? While they do not need a thorough understanding of code and so on, such individuals should have a basic level of knowledge regarding technologies. Additionally, they should have a clear understanding of manufacturing and development costs and how much they can sell their product for.
In this article, we are going to consider this question in more depth. To find out whether a non-technical founder can even start a tech business in the first place and what they should know if they do, read on!
It may be hard to believe, but yes, non-technical founders can certainly start tech startups. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, some of the most influential tech business moguls come from non-technical backgrounds. Apple, Airbnb, Dell—all of these companies are proof that non-technical CEOs can start up thriving tech businesses.
Being an entrepreneur is distinct from being an engineer; if you set out to be the latter, then you have no reason to feel bad about not being able to understand coding.
The CEO comes up with the ideas and the ethos of the company. In other words, they provide the foundation upon which the company can be built, bringing on board more tech-savvy co-founders and employees to bring their vision to life.
To that end, when building your tech startup, you should make sure to find a CTO you can rely on. You should know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the decisions your technological assistant makes are for the good of the company. They should also be prepared to break down important design decisions in layman’s terms for you. In an ideal CEO/CTO relationship, CTO will improve non-tech founders’ knowledge about technologies, and CEO would explain the specifics of doing business.
Both technical and non-technical team members are equally important, bringing their own set of diverse skills to the table. You should complement one another in this way and should feel able to give each other advice on how to run particular aspects of the operation.
So, now that we have established that you do not need to be a tech expert to be the CEO of a tech company, what must non-tech founders know about technologies to run a successful tech startup? In this section, we cover the top five pieces of technical knowledge for the non-technical founder.
We briefly touched on this topic above, but the importance of finding a trustworthy tech partner or team really cannot be overstated. A non-tech founder’s knowledge about technologies is much lower than that of their tech team, so you will still have to rely on these people to bring your concept to life. Provided you have found yourself a good partner, this collaborative aspect of the job can be one of the most rewarding things about running a tech startup.
However, given the gap between the non-technical founders knowledge about technologies and your tech experts, it’s absolutely crucial that you can trust them. Otherwise, your lack of knowledge could be used to deceive you.
Being able to work as a team is a fundamental skill in the tech industry. As the company CEO, you should make sure that you take every opportunity to work closely with your tech team, involving yourself in any important discussions or decision-making.
Sometimes it may seem that even non-tech founders must know about technologies, so when you find yourself lacking in this knowledge, it can be tempting to feel intimidated or less authoritative. This can result in you taking a step back from important discussions, leaving them to your tech team instead. Do not give in to this impulse!
Take an active role in the team, and do not be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes. For one thing, this will help you build upon the necessary knowledge of technology for non-tech founders, but it will also show your team members that asking questions is not only allowed but encouraged. It can also be very inspiring to see that even the company CEO knows their weaknesses and is not afraid of working on them in front of subordinates.
While it is good to ask questions and get involved, sometimes you need to know when to step back and let your tech team take the lead. When it is time to make decisions regarding tech functionality, for example, you should let your technological experts take the floor. This will ensure that you do not get in the way or hinder the decision-making process.
This point may seem in direct contradiction to our third point — but that is not so! Rather, it is all a matter of balance. Yes, non-tech founders need to know about technologies so they can be involved with their team, but do not micromanage; ask questions, but do not get underfoot when your tech experts are trying to get important work done.
To make sure you get this balance just right, do not be afraid to ask team members for feedback. For your startup to run at its best, you should take into account your team’s needs as well as your own vision.
Our final tip is to know your strengths — and your weaknesses. It’s okay to have little technical knowledge for the non-technical founder on how to design your product yourself. Instead, remember that the concept for your product would not even exist were it not for your particular skills, knowledge, and vision.
With your tech team focused on the development and other technical aspects of your business, you will be free to attend to your customers and their needs. This work is critical, too — in some ways, even more important than development. After all, if there are no clients to buy your product, what use is tech development.
If you follow all the guidelines laid out in the previous section, you should find that you will flourish as a CEO, and your business will prosper in turn. But in this paragraph, we would like to emphasize once more the importance of establishing a solid base of basic technological knowledge when putting together an IT startup.
While you are not expected to know all the ins and outs of coding and how your product works, there is still necessary knowledge of technology for a non-tech founder. You should at least follow the gist of conversations between your tech experts. Not only does this ensure that no one will be able to deceive you about tech milestones and scope creep, but it also means that you can make better business decisions.
With a better understanding of how your product works, you can have a better idea of who it is for and who would benefit the most from it. This can help you to make important marketing decisions, meaning that you will reach the right customers.
Running a tech startup presents a unique challenge to anyone, especially those without prior experience in tech. Knowing where to get started and how to find trustworthy, talented tech experts for your business can all feel somewhat overwhelming.
Hopefully, our advice on what non-technical founders need to know about technologies has helped. However, if you still find yourself in need of support, get in touch with the Aleph1 team today. We have years of experience in helping CEOs get their startups off the ground and have provided crucial assistance and advice to all sorts of companies.
To see what benefits a partnership with Aleph1 can bring, reach out today to find out more.
To operate at their best, non-technical founders’ knowledge about technologies should at least cover the basics of the tech their company uses. Beyond that, however, how much you learn about coding and development is up to your judgment based on your startup’s needs.
The CEO’s job is not to know everything there is to know about technology. Rather, it is to come up with novel ideas, plan the company strategy, and build a productive and effective team.
By following the advice laid out in this article, you will be able to do just that.
What do non-technical founders do?
With quite a few amounts of things non-technical founders need to know about technologies, they take care of many different aspects of a business. It is the founder’s responsibility to come up with the vision for their business, to hire the right people to bring them to life, and to guide all efforts to get their product out into the world.
Should non-technical founders learn to code?
You might wonder, “Do I need to learn how to code as a non-tech founder? And what is considered the necessary knowledge of technology for non-tech founders?” If you would really like to learn to code, then, by all means, feel free to do so. However, it is not at all necessary for a CEO. In fact, so non-tech founders must know about technologiesmetimes it can be more of a hindrance than a help, with overconfident CEOs making questionable tech decisions.
What do non-tech founders need to know about technologies?
In short, non-tech founders should acquaint themselves with the basics of technology—the type of things one might come across in an entry-level computing course to learn the fundamental concepts and vocabulary / jargon of tech. This will help them keep up with their tech team and allow them to make important decisions.
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