How Could Non-Technical Founders Fail Their Tech Startup

.. and why tech operations have the same importance as development.

This is an opinionated blog post and does not apply to all non-technical founders and startups but there is a great number of startuppers I know who shares the same point of view.

Why Could Non-Technical Founders Fail Their Tech Startup?

Because technology is more complicated than they could imagine and I am sure that they are -in many cases- astonished by some complexities that some components of their product could have.

They’re hustling hard to make the successful decisions and establish the long and short-term plan for their success but on the other hand, they become paranoid about their technical teams.. A a crisis of trust is the beginning of the end, especially in small teams !

With the help of product managers and business developers, they are the people who shape the product and have the most important fingerprint on the product.

They may be more aware of features than any important technical detail related to the same features.

We are going to create real-time analytics dashboards because our client X want this feature! These guys are awesome (read: they have $$$). If we could get this the next month, we can deploy the same solution to our important customers. We build “Customer-Centric” product (read: we want more $$$)!

Meanwhile, business developers may find new clients, who are able to pay (more) for new features .. the tech guys should follow in almost all cases.

Sometimes, requested features require more software engineers than a startup have…

The good thing about successful entrepreneurs is that they work smartly: Do less to generate more profits but since non-technical founders are simply non-technical, most of the time, they are not able to estimate the technical capacity of a software engineering team.

With the above scenario being repeated along the year, software engineers find themselves developing the minimum they can do.. While developing an MVP is the best idea to start a startup, it doesn’t apply when a startup reaches a certain stage…

- We need real-time analytics dashboards, within 2 week, it should be deployed to our live systems because our client X want this feature! 
- Have you said real-time, dashboard, deploy and 2 weeks?

Every term used in the last example, imply that everyone in the technical team from front and backend developers, architects and operation engineers is prepared to do this.

Development is not just coding.

It is about:
- learning
- conception
- benchmarks and technical choices
- creation of development environments 
 -and a lot of awesome but sometimes painful stuff!

This why a developer ends up coding without testing, an ops engineer ends up deploying without automating or scripting the deployment without thinking about a rollback strategy…

Is everyone in your technical team really prepared to make your startup richer? Ask this question every time you want something to be done. 
Making a good turnover seems to be easier than making your team happily productive.

Yeah, we need “agile” development, faster “time to market” and an “iterative approach” over a working “prototype”.

For many people, features mean development and feature makers are programmers/developers.

Dear non-technical founder, some features should be conceived, with good specifications, planned, designed from a software and an infrastructure point of view, it could have dependencies, prerequisites, several technical considerations, some technologies that could be tested or benchmarked and probably then it could be developed.

After development, it should be unit-tested and deployed to QA environment where regression, smoke, functional, load .. etc tests should take place at this stage, the product move then to staging and production environments…

Regression: Sometimes, developing a new feature, adding a new functionality could alter the behavior of your old application components and features.

What’s good in creating new features to destabilize old ones ?

Sure, there are better ways to accelerate all of this and create an iterative approach over tasks like testing, deploying .. etc but this requires a pipeline, an automation, a vision, a strategy and some of your engineers time. Your automation pipeline should be developed and needs some time in most cases… The time that you don’t have, in most cases.

I don’t think that a non-tech founder could have a clear definition about containers’ orchestration for instance .. I think that most of the interest of a non-technical person working on technical projects goes to development since it’s about the product .. they may know Javascript, since it’s widely used in tech startups nowadays but do they know everything? I’m not sure .. until they’re trapped.

While methodologies and philosophies like Agile, DevOps are adopted within some startups, I’ve seen a lot of other startups (mostly with non-technical founders) using the waterfall model .. in a bad way!

I noticed that being a non-technical founders helps a lot in ramping up sales, establishing good marketing plans and having a strategic vision… A non-technical founder will delegate all of the technical work and try to compensate his modest technical skills by doing a better work in other fields…
This is common, to the point where, sometimes, business developers, marketing, and sale guys are overstaffed.

This blog post doesn’t explain that non-technical founders couldn’t build a successful tech-startups .. This means simply that they should work more on shaping their technical skills.

The same applies to technical founders who aren’t used to market and sell their products.. but in my opinion, developing non-technical skills seems to be easier.

There are many successful startups founded by non-technical founders but the most successful companies were founded by technical guys: Google, Facebook…

When you’re in a startup, the first 10 people working on your project, will somehow determine the destiny of your vision. If you are not a technical founder, make sure to make good decisions in recruitment..

and please don’t hire a technical co-founder just so you can build your product for free.

Connect Deeper

Generally, entrepreneurs are not afraid of failure but rather of not supporting success. Successful entrepreneur have experienced failure(s) at least once but success may not came frequently.

Success means usually more development, more clients and more features but in the same time, it means more technical operations .. with a growing development team, your startup need more operations and DevOps practitioners.

Iterating over the adoption of Devops in an early stage plays an important part of your success as a non-technical founder.

eralabs helped companies and startups solve this kind of problems by insourcing operations (automation, cloud computing, infrastructure, security and other DevOps practices), we believe that without DevOps, chances for success and handling a rapid growth may decrease.

Feel free to contact us on our website.

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