Here are two things Millennials are known for: their passion for everything tech, and their multi-tasking spirit. You would think that this combination would lead to a dangerous combination when it comes to building new businesses—and it does—but one thing that might surprise you is that, as of 2013, only 3.6% of all businesses were owned by founders under the age of 30. This statistic is further muddied by an additional survey conducted by a Bentley University survey that states 66% of Millennials want to start their own business.
So what’s the deal? Why are there seemingly so many people out there who want to (and are equipped to) start their own business, but have yet to pull the trigger?
As the founder of a Tech Agency myself, I can tell you that the world of technology and enterprise software has left more than a few founders at a loss when it comes to going after funding, organizing product management, and planning a go-to-market strategy. However, one myth I encounter time and again when consulting with young entrepreneurs is that you can’t start a tech company unless you yourself are a techie wunderkind.
I’m glad to report that that’s not the case.
While having a background in tech is never a bad thing, there are plenty of founders that started elite tech companies without first having an extensive knowledge of coding, UX design, or software architecture. It’s in this spirit that I present the three things I believe every non-techie entrepreneur needs to know before starting their own business. Let’s get to it.
You’re going to Have to Learn More than You Ever Thought You Would
When it comes to life mantras, this one is just as true for starting your own business as it is of anything else. The hoops you’re going to have to jump through as an entrepreneur are many. If you’re just starting out you’ll need to put on the hat of a CMO, a project manager, a business strategist—and if you’re working in tech, you’ll at least need to know what your developers are talking about. Otherwise you won’t be able to manage your own product expectations, which in turn will affect your abilities as a leader.
But just because you don’t know a stitch of code now, doesn’t mean that you should pack it in and go work for someone else. Take it from Charles Best, the founder of DonorsChoose.org. When starting the non-profit Best was a school teacher in the Bronx, and didn’t have any coding knowledge. But as his organization grew he decided to take a three-month coding class, which, according to FastCompany, has allowed Best to own a firsthand appreciation for what his developers deal with on a daily basis.
Never Rest on Your Laurels When it Comes to What You Already Do Well
One thing that all successful founders share is that they have multiple specialties. Whether it’s in being able to create buzz on social media, or in opening meetings with new VC opportunities, or in finding the right personnel and bringing people together. Wherever your specialties lie, never forget that these are the tools that will be the driving force behind your company’s success.
When you make your first venture into the tech space, the first thing that’ll hit you (most likely) is how fast everything moves. There are constantly new technologies being developed which means there are also constantly new competitors to monitor as well as workflow problems to solve. What can’t fail you when your start your own tech company, however, are the abilities that have gotten you where you are today. Will you need to develop new skills along the way? Absolutely.
Take a look at it this way: If you plan to develop a mobile app (even if UX and hybrid/native technologies seem mostly foreign to you) you’ll have to learn all you can about every discipline from design thinking, to Mobile Enterprise Platform technologies. But just because you’ll have to become an expert in many new and exciting arenas, doesn’t mean that you can skip on applying the business related qualities that made you a founder in the first place.
Seriously Consider Getting a Co-Founder who Lives and Breaths Tech
When you’re in the early goings of building a tech company, it’s all about proving that you can build a minimal viable product or service. This in turn will help you attract the attention of VC’s as well as startup accelerators (and if you’re interested in applying to startup accelerators I highly recommend reading this article). But the tech space is so unforgiving—read: always changing—that it will be hard to keep your head above water without a dedicated CTO.
As the founder of your own company the burden will always fall squarely on your shoulders to adapt your company’s vision, and to steer the ship through everything from projects with short runways, to starting another series of funding—and you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you try to micro manage your staff every step of the way. That’s why recruiting a CTO should be top of mind for any founder who’s serious about getting their company where they want it to be. If you’re looking to bring on a CTO—or are considering a move to bring one on down the road—Inc.com published an incredible piece all the way back in 2010 that still rings true today, and that can help point you in the right direction.
The bottom line when it comes to building a tech company as a non-techie? Trust your gut as an entrepreneur, but, as with large project, be quick to accept what you don't understand so that you can be that much more prepared to learn what you need to know.