A Non-Technical Founder's Guide to Building a Tech Startup: From Idea to Development

Thirty years ago, it went without saying that you needed to have a strong technical background to build a tech startup. It was just too complicated for anyone else to create a new software application or platform. 

But the 90s are gone, taking fax machines and needlessly complicated development with them. Today, anyone with a good idea can build a successful tech startup, regardless of their background. 

More effective development patterns, versatile funding options, and better infrastructure have all made it easier for non-tech founders to get into the startup game. But it is still important to bridge the gap between non-tech founders and the tech experts whom they work with. 
In this article, I will cover the steps you should take before development. In the next article, I will talk about the development proceed itself, as well as what comes after. 

Here are the main steps to consider before development begins:
  • Understanding your target market
  • Building the right team
  • Establishing a technical roadmap
  • Securing funding

Understanding your target market and identifying problems

Having an idea for a startup isn’t just about what you will sell. It is also about who will buy it. 

Before anyone writes a single line of code, you should conduct detailed market research to identify pain points and opportunities. You want to find out exactly what problems people have that they will pay you to solve. 

This involves defining your target audience and understanding their needs. A detailed plan will even create exact mockups and stories for each type of customer you expect to have. Our technical audit program helps founders with this. 

Finally, using your plan, you can validate your idea through market feedback and customer insights. This involves building an MVP to test your product. 

Sometimes, the MVP fails. Time to move on to a new idea. But that’s ok! Better to know now that your plan won’t work, rather than after a year of hard work. And sometimes it just takes a little tweak to get different results. 

Building the Right Team

This step is all about assessing your own strengths and weaknesses. As a non-tech founder, you will have to lean into your non-tech skills, while selecting people who have the right skills to fit the gap. 

You will need to identify the key roles and skills your team needs. At the very least, you, as founder, will be CEO, and you will also need a CTO, or chief technical officer. The CTO is responsible for several important tasks, including:
  • overseeing development
  • selecting the technical members of your team
  • providing technical expertise
You may recruit your team from a variety of sources, including job board, LinkedIn, or word of mouth.

Another option is to take advantage of a fractional CTO program. In this scenario, a part-time CTO is hired out to you until your startup grows to a more advanced stage. 

The advantage of this approach is that you get guaranteed skills and years of experience without having to do any vetting yourself and without having to make serious long-term commitments. 

Establishing a Technical Roadmap

It’s essential to have a clear, realistic roadmap for your development process. But you also need to figure out scalability and flexibility in your plans.

Development frequently goes off track and runs into unexpected problems. Expect to change direction multiple times during a project. 

Fortunately, you can collaborate with your technical team members to outline your product roadmap. Veteran developers will have experience with the pitfalls of development. 

There are also modern development frameworks, such as Agile and Scrum, that emphasize iteration and flexibility over fixed goals. By following one of these frameworks, you will have a better chance of navigating the development process safely.

Securing funding for your tech startup

Money! At the end of the day, the success of your idea rests on your ability to raise funds.

Fortunately, there are more funding options today than ever before:

Bootstrapping, or self-funding, is an option. But only if you don’t mind taking a risk with your own money. You can also try to get small amounts from family and friends. 

Crowdfunding, through a platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, is another option. In this case, thousands of strangers who take an interest in your idea help you fund your project. 

Angel investors have historically been an important force in the tech scene. They are individuals who a lot of extra cash on hand, and who like taking risks on new startups.

Venture capital is the traditional source of funding for startups. They are professionally managed firms that will estimate the odds of your success in order to make a decision. 

For all of these options, you need to create a compelling pitch and business plan. You should leverage your unique value proposition and market potential to attract investors. Focus on what makes your startup special!

Getting to development is half the battle

As you can see, there is a lot that you need to do before development starts. 

This is actually encouraging if you are a non-tech founder. It means that a huge part of running a tech startup is not technical at all. Rather, it depends on other skills, such as managing people and planning. 

In the next part of this series, I will talk about how non-tech founders can handle the development side of the story.
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