You Don’t Need to be a Techie to Start a Tech Company

Pandora, Nerd Wallet and Tilt proved it.

(Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

(Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

Pandora, Nerd Wallet and Tilt are all technology intensive businesses started by non-technologists. Startups and early stage companies need battle-tested leaders in such positions like chief financial officer, chief marketing officer and especially chief technology officer. Yet few companies can shell out the average salary of $207,000 to get that experienced leader, who can come up with creative, efficient, cost-effective ways to build a product. The best option is to find a quality, outsourced tech lead who can manage the development of your business until it grows large enough to afford a full-time person.

Here’s a few things to consider before making your decision:1. It’s not a necessity: The perceived necessity of having a technical co-founder early on stems from the pressure of angel investors and venture capitalists who want to make sure the technical part of the business is button down. Bringing in a full-time CTO not only costs money, but more than likely stock. And then there’s the issue of personality fit. The rate of change in the beginning stages are often high and that increases the chance of making a significant mistake that the business can’t recover from. Pump the breaks and wait until the founder(s) know exactly what/who they need in the team. This will not only save you money, but time and energy by avoiding someone who’s not a long-term fit. Find people who are as passionate about your company as you are, then search for second-tier help.

2. Product Maturity: At the very early stages of running a startup, the focus is to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to prove the concept and learn what needs to be adjusted. To achieve this goal of creating an MVP/Proof of Concept, the non-techie entrepreneur doesn’t need a heavy hitter, full-time tech co-founder. What the founder needs, assuming that the entrepreneur has the ability to fund the initial development stage, is a reliable, experienced fairly priced outsourced service provider. This will stretch the dollar and be more efficient.

3. Equity factor: Startups and early stage companies that bring in full-time CTO’s have to be prepared to pay significant cash and equity compensation. Therefore deferring the decision to hire a CTO/tech lead could help to give out less equity assuming that the product maturity is reached by the time a decision to hire a CTO is made. Hold off as long as you can before you take the leap to bring in a full-time CTO.

Keep in mind that cash is king and stretching the dollar along with holding onto equity for as long as you can will enhance your chances of survival. The first few years where you’re developing and launching a first generation of your product/service is spent testing to see if the marketing reacts positively.

On top of that, you have to layer in how the technology leader fits in with you — the founder — and your existing team, which is working typical startup hours of 80 to 100 hours a week. Lowest risk is outsourcing. You get the experience you need at the budget you can afford and don’t have to surrender the most important gun powder in your arsenal and that is your company stock.

Gigi Kizhakkechethipuzha is CEO of Offshorent, a King of Prussia, Pa.-based outsourcing company with offices in India. He has 25 years of experience in increasing organizational value and reducing operational costs using innovation, technology, entrepreneurship and outsourcing. 

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