Surviving as a Non-Technical Founder/CEO

My really close friend called me last night to ask my advice on whether he should fold his startup, go home and get a job or should he keep fighting for the immortality of his idea.

A little background. The guy is a MBA graduate, did his engineering in Mining. Has no Software background and had an idea to revolutionize Bespoke tailoring in India.

His path, as he assumed, was simple. Build a team of Engineers, build an online platform where people will come and give away their body measurements and he’d deliver them a Bespoke Shirt in a week to their doorstep. Pretty Neat. But shit always goes wrong!

He, again and again, found himself in this dilemma of how to provide enough value so that he could be a valuable team member to the startup. Though there is no straight answer to this, this is what I told him:

1. You should know how to fundraise.

This is a bummer for 70% founders in India. They think having an awesome Idea is enough to raise, which could be true for second time entrepreneurs or the ones with good angel connections. For the rest of us, we have to hunt to get a recommendation, cold email every duck in the pond and wait to get a reply that doesn’t say, “Sorry. This is not a match.”

To have a beta ready, he needed a certain amount. Usually this comes from Friends and family at the stage he was at. But what his family could give him was 2% of what he needed.

2. You should know how to build a team.

This is the easy part. But god help those who can’t even get this right. I meet around 5 new founders every week and when they pitch me their team, they never forget to mention their friend from college who, with no experience, is a CTO.

My friend tried hard, because everybody does. But the team he built had no experience in executing the model they were supposed to, to atleast validate their market. He then tried to recruit a technical co-founder but who would want to code 12 hours a day when all your non-tech co-founder does is follow up on the status on the website, every hour.

or

3. You should know the strategy. (This is rare)

So you need both of the skills above to survive. You miss one and you’re dead like a chicken who tried to cross the road. But there is an exception.

If you know your strategy, it might just compensate for the two points above. Now I don’t mean your idea alone compensates for strategy. If you think that, you know nothing about strategy.

Strategy (for other than software startups) consists of, and is not limited to, execution. You can very well make SWOT charts all day but when it comes to signing a deal with a vendor, I hear excuses like, “He’s not picking up the phone”, “He is too excited to join the team, but doesn’t want to sign a contract.” and blah blah blah…

If you could provide the team with real deals, if you could anticipate the market needs and run A/B testing to measure the assumptions, if you could help to gather real beta users for the product (Commenting on the UX/Design of the product doesn’t count), then maybe you might be able to stick around till your Series A investors don’t appoint a new CEO.

If you got nothing from this, you should probably join that job at TCS.

Cheers.


Originally published at www.halfindian.com.

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