Technology is the canvas for our teenagers and 20something to build their vast dreams and ambitions on. Deals like “yo” that get funded further fuels the already maddening gold rush to dive in and be a participant. Outcome: A lot of start-ups trying to solve a lot of problems. That is great.
But, very often the CEO’s of such tech start-ups have never written a line of code. I was the same in 2011. After 3 years of struggling with my tech start-up, finally we reached 1 million people in the last year. We made tons of mistakes and I learnt some hard lessons that every non-tech CEO of a tech start-up can benefit from.
I. Find your CTO:
Don’t outsource. Don’t run after customers. Don’t hire anybody till you find this person. Don’t do anything before this. No seriously! “Find CTO” is task list item ‘0’ – the starting point. She/he should be smart enough that you want to work for her/him, should be excited enough to solve the difficult problems in your domain, and should be willing to stick out the next few years with you. Don’t even draw a business plan or write any checks until you find a CTO. We outsourced in year 1 and suffered. It took us 6 months to find a CTO and build a team under him, which turned out to be the best investment of time ever.
II. Look at your codes:
Look at the codes your engineers write – ask them questions. Make them explain things to you. Make it a weekly affair – don’t isolate yourself – be involved – you will need to build your own instincts about technology, what it can do for your business and till what extent do you want to leverage it. Asking questions will make everyone think, and since you know nothing, chances are your questions will be pushing boundaries of possibility or stupidity. Even if 1 out of 10 question does the former, you nailed it.
III. Make friend with tech CEO’s:
Your tech team tells you what best it can do, but they are too close to the problem. So finding someone a little further away from the problem yet empathetic to start-up needs is the way to go. Start-up CEOs with technology background have served me well here. You will be surprised how much you can leap frog just by discussing your problems, your team’s challenges, technology constraints & trade-offs, team structure and code development and deployment methods with these geeky geniuses.
IV. Follow tech blogs:
Simplest way to surround yourselves with latest trends, news and happenings in technology. It brings you to same field you want to play in, acquaints you with your surroundings and gives you fodder to chat up with your tech team. You are in the stadium now.
V. Technology course:
Hundreds of beginner courses are there on Coursera, edX, HarvardX, StanfordX etc to understand what goes behind the hood of the applications you see and produce. My suggestion, Take CS50 from harvardX – you can do it over a year at your pace, has the best professor ever (@davidjmalan) and is one of the finest courses for beginners.
Technology isn’t going anywhere and is impacting every business and domain, so I see more and more CEOs would need to go through this grind and I hope my learning’s will help some people do lesser mistakes or do the journey faster.
Rishabh Gupta is a die hard optimist and believer in all things cliche. He only talks about change and revolution, and defines them as the guiding light for all ideas. He is about big plans, aggressive revenue targets and beautiful products. Loves yapping about entrepreneurs, sports, fairer sex and backpacking.