The life as a non-tech co-founder during development

we just finished a little over 1 year with zipBoard and you guessed it right, i am the non-tech co-founder in the team. When we started i didn't understand anything about full-stack, client side or service side coding, bootstrap/material design and DB structure. And my co-founder wrote this to explain me all the technical stuff and he just confused me a little more:)

Technology is core to everything what we do at zipBoard. We are a review companion for web products and our aim is to help product teams design, build beautiful products faster!. So, we really have to make it flawless. But, while there is lot of technology behind our product, there were many things which needed someone’s attention in the team. So if you are a non-tech co-founder, and just got started building your product may be there are few takeaways for you in this post.

As usual, let me try to summarize things in 10 bullet points- no more. And these are from idea to beta stage. At a later stage things will get more complex and you’ll find newer areas of contribution. But from my experience, at the least, you should be doing all this -

  1. While the dev(s) will be figuring out about tech stack, you should start looking competitive products. If you believe you are unique in your space then start looking at similar products. You’ll be a big support for the product management. Understand their features, UI/UX , workflows, error messages, Call-to-actions , there will be so much to learn form what exists and you can really help the tech teams with those inputs.
  2. Once the tech stack is finalized and if you pick a new technology like we did (and again an amazing post by my co-founder on this) you will need lot of market research on this. Tech support, forums, similar products using the same technology etc… all this is going to be really important to know your support system. And as a non-techy you should be able to pitch in here and help the team.
  3. Hiring, yes you might not know anything about technology or technical hiring but startup hiring is more about attitude and willingness to learn. Again this is something which took lot of our time and all that is captured here and here!
  4. Customer validation: there isnt enough of this, you might have validated idea before really jumping onto it. But like everything else, you’ll move around, things will change every week, MVP will change every now & then — so go out and validate your thoughts, find more people to validate your vision. There isnt enough of this, talk to potential customers as much as you can.
  5. Next big task which you can really focus and bring in value is Testing/QA/QC, whatever you want to call it. As a startup mostly you’ll have founders, if lucky you’ll have dev team and only 0.1% or may be less of startup teams will have QA so spend a lot of time testing your product, and help in building a robust bug-free product.
  6. Now this task is optional but if you learn it, you will be loved by all. Dev-ops — deployment of you app on some of the cloud service providers can be complex and you will need some digging around. But if you can help the tech teams on this not only you’ll save time for your beta launch but your understanding of tech things will increase enormously. I did it at zipBoard and learned all this.
  7. And if you’ve read above 6 points then you would have realized that one of things which will keep you busy is writing- generate as much content as you can for your startup. Start your company blog from day-1. You do not have to be stellar writer, just capture what you have gone through and what you learned, if not anything else, you’ll cherish these memories few months down the line.
  8. Startup-pitch and accelerator applications — if this is your first startup then getting into world famous accelerator program can really uplift your spirits but its easier said than done. The whole application building process is as complex as to get into a top B-school and you’ll need to apply to couple of them to get your pitch right.
  9. And now that you have a tangible product — its time to start thinking about company incorporation, legal stuff, business plan, market sizing and projections. So spend time in getting your facts and numbers right, this will be super important when you start meeting potential advisors and investors.
  10. And if you have survived all this time then your responsibility is going to increase very soon. You have tested the product, its now deployed so you really need to start thinking of marketing and selling your product. Start with marketing collateral- logos, pictures, video, pitch presentation, list of potential customers, directory listing etc etc the list is endless but from beta on wards your job is getting more fun, more challenging. So tighten your seat belts from here on !

In the grander picture, while the coders and tech founders will take the lead during the product development stage,there is so much for the non tech co-founder to do. Take the pressure away and do your best. And if you were able to contribute in more ways or have more ideas…. let me know.

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