In this new Web-centric economy, code is king. Great you can sell. Sweet, you can market. But if you don’t have a product, what do you sell or market? Social media or guerrilla marketing will not help you. Whether you’re in marketing, sales or biz dev, if you want to build a tech startup, learn to code and build something. Here’s why.
1. Low Barrier to Learning
But my absolutely favorite are tutorials or guides that take you from ground zero to building a working app. For me, the best way to learn is to see progress. I learned Ruby on Rails through Michael Hartl’s online (and free!) book that started me off from not knowing what MVC was to building a Twitter-like app in 11 chapters.
2. Help You Recruit Tech Talent
Are you a business person with no coding experience looking for a technical co-founder? Good luck. You’re going to need it. All odds are against you. There are A LOT of ideas out there. But not enough coders to build them.
The secret is that coders are attracted to other coders. It’s true. And when we meet business people who taught themselves how to code, we respect them a lot. It’s like my caucasian friend who learned how to speak Mandarin fluently. When he went to China, locals were so impressed that they bowed down each time to give him deep respect.
Ben Parr, a CNET commentator and former co-editor of Mashable, said it best in this CNET article – “You have to code, not because you need to be good at it, but because technical employees are far more likely to follow a founder with technical experience.”
3. Work With Team of Builders
First, Parr said it best – “Understanding how difficult a requested feature will be to implement has made me better at prioritizing our company’s time appropriately. The only way to truly know how a feature or a product works is to understand code.” The bane of a programmer’s existence is when business folks over-promise the delivery of a feature in near-impossible timeframe.
Second, Daniel Burka at a talk in Toronto last year told everyone that the role of everyone in a startup is to focus on building. It’s so easy for early-stage startups to start handing out ‘C’ titles like Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Technology Officer. You don’t even have a product yet!
Learning to code will help you contribute to building the product. You don’t have to be an expert. You can contribute in small but key tasks including finding and fixing bugs, implementing small features, manage the site design, understanding how our product works on a technical level
It can help you even in the future. As Harjeet Taggar, a partner at the incubator/seed venture firm Y Combinator, said, ”I’m surprised at how helpful, even now as an investor, being able to code things is to my job.”
Don’t Learn To Code To “Talk” To Programmers
I hear people talking about taking a weekend course on HTML/CSS so they can “talk” to programmers. Whenever I hear this, I get really offended because I’m a programmer myself. They make it sound like coders are like monkeys you have to learn their “language.” I don’t go around saying that I’m taking courses in medicine or law so I can “talk” to doctors and lawyers.
Stop making excuses. Learn to fucking code. It’s not hard. You just need to be smart, determined and resilient – all the qualities of an entrepreneur.
I’m taking this lesson to heart. I’ve encouraged FamilyTales non-technical co-founder, Beatrice, to learn Ruby on Rails. Let me get back to you in a month. I promise you, she’ll be a hacker by then. You should become one too.