Musings From A Non-Technical Founder

I’m using Medium throughout the launch of Stork to convince non-technical people that they don’t need a technical co-founder to launch a business

Work On What You Know

Starting a tech-based business as a non-technical founder decreases your — already slim— chances of success, multiplies your fixed costs, and makes certain that you’ll always be at the mercy of your technical co-founder when it comes to the knowledge of your product.

You’ll probably know exactly what your product does, but you won’t know how it actually works or how it was created. When making future decisions on developing / enhancing your product, your insights will ultimately be business-driven, and seem shortsighted.

Of course there are examples of non-technical people starting tech businesses, but those success stories are few and far between. In my opinion, it’s smarter to build what and where you know.

Stork is not a tech business. It is an eCommerce business that leverages technology. I’m also not saying that I did anything objectively right in starting Stork, but by starting a business like Stork I am giving someone with my skill set a chance to succeed.

Epiphany + Validation + Technology = Potential Business

This is the imperfect mathematical equation of starting a business as a non-technical founder.

Epiphany

Your epiphany doesn’t need to be an actual epiphany, though this was my mine for Stork:

I was running on the treadmill in a sweaty undershirt that was as thin as tissue paper, had tons of holes, yellow armpits, and was severely stretched out. I didn’t understand why I continued to wash it or wear it. I had a million other shirts to wear to the gym that didn’t look this homely. I also always hated how it fit. It was boxy, you could see the v-neck underneath a sweater, and it was too short so it always came untucked. This is how Stork was conceived.

Since pretty much every type of non-technical business exists already, your ‘epiphany’ should leverage existing products/materials/pricing models/packaging and should be combined with some inefficiency/consumer frustration about that specific product, how it’s delivered and/or how it works.

Building the business around an existing product makes the idea seem less foreign when you first introduce it. In turn, people are more likely to try it out.

Validation

If you build it, will they come? Not necessarily, and in general this is a poor assumption for any entrepreneur to make. However, there are certain ways to validate your idea like sending out a market research survey to friends, using Survey Monkey’s survey distribution (paid) tool to make sure you’re hitting the correct demographic, and/or by asking every single one of your friend ‘would you use this product, or subscribe to this service?’

When you ask your friends, expect some of this
…but also some of this

I plan to write my second post on dealing with initial feedback so I won’t dive too deep into this topic. The bottom line is that your business or service isn’t for everyone, and you have to accept that and move on.

Back to validating your idea — I recommend writing a good, unbiased survey and distributing it to your friends on Facebook/Twitter/Email. Here is a solid resource on some tips to writing a good survey from Qualtrics and here is another article about determining the correct sample size for your survey.

That said, your market research can only take you so far. In the end, nothing will validate your idea like sales.

Technology

You will need to leverage technology, but you don’t need to do things the hard way. Use the tools and services that are built for people like you (templates/drag & drops etc.). Here’s what I use for Stork:

  1. Squarespace—Hosting + Commerce Platform
  2. Google Apps—Email + Analytics + Docs
  3. MailChimp—Email
  4. Stripe—Payment Processor
  5. MoonClerk — Third-party tool for recurring payments

Everyone has their own opinions of what is best, but these have been the best options for Stork at this point. To find these tools I used google, Product Hunt, and friends. Nothing earth-shattering here.

Ultimately…

Ultimately, your success will come down to execution and impatience—Kyle Tibbitts covers this nicely in his post. Having a product out in the wild and battle-testing it on the market is a much better than taking years to build something perfect.

Greg is the founder of Stork, an undershirt delivery service that sends you fresh undershirts every few months

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