Founder Institute Insights
How You Can Build a Startup
as a Non-Tech Founder
By Joe Garza
Startups and innovative technology have become so
synonymous with one another, that many people now think
that you can’t create one without the other. And while it is
necessary to have an understanding of the technology that
you’re building, you actually don’t need to be a developer,
engineer or computer scientist to launch an impactful
You don't need tech experience to launch a meaningful startup.
The Founder Institute can show you how. Apply today!
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to launch a
tech startup but doesn’t have much tech experience, this
presentation will give you the wisdom you need to build
your dream company, featuring insights from Weiting Liu,
the founder and CEO of Codementor.
Can Anyone Start a
● You don’t have to have ANY tech experience
to launch a tech company.
● If your goal is to build an app, your mission
isn’t to learn how to build an app - your
mission is to learn how to get things done.
● Even if you’re an experienced technical
founder, your financial, marketing, or
managerial skills may be lacking, which
means you’ll have to adapt to the needs of
your company and compensate.
Bottom line: not being able to code is no
excuse to not build a company, as coding is
only one of many tasks.
How Do You Build a Company
Without Tech Experience?
● It’s getting easier and easier for someone to create a
tech product without a degree in engineering or
● There are numerous platforms that enable users to
build apps without any coding experience, which is
a great way for budding founders to build a
minimum viable product (MVP).
● At the very least, non-tech founders now have the
resources that allow them to at least build a
mockup of their offering to attract the interest of
those with the expertise to build a more finalized
Do You Need a Technical
Co-founder Early On?
● If you can make changes to your project based on
user feedback on at least a weekly schedule,
recruiting a technical co-founder at this stage is
not necessary (but it can be useful if you do find a
technical co-founder early on).
● Especially since your product is basically the
company itself, doing as much work by yourself
will save you time and money.
● While it may be tempting to outsource your code
to a freelancer, this isn’t recommended, as the
iteration cycle is far too long to make any
meaningful progress on your product.
Learn How to Communicate with
You can’t write good requirements if you don’t understand
the technology of your product.
All modern technology systems consist of a front end and
a back end, so learn how these work as they pertain to
● Front end: what a user sees on a website, software,
● Back end: exists on the servers, and features the
database, the application layers, etc. that process the
data and presents information to the front end.
IMPORTANT: Focus on the primary function of your
product. If your product’s core function is weak, no amount
of flashy features are going to make your product stronger.
How to Build Your First Product
Develop your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), the simplest
thing that you can show to customers to get the most learning
at that point in time. MVPs don’t require extensive tech
expertise, and can help you validate your idea, too. Below are
some MVP examples:
● Landing Page - Craft a landing page. Set-up a Google
AdWords & Google Analytics. Measure the % of visitors
that sign up.
● Concierge - Instead of providing a product, start with a
manual service. The service should have the same steps
a user would take to use your product.
● Piecemeal - In its early stages, Groupon was a
combination of WordPress, Apple Mail, and AppleScript
that generated PDFs manually as orders were received
on the website.
● Wizard of Oz - Set up a front that looks like the real
product, but do all the work manually.
Inhouse or Outsource?
● Try building everything yourself for as long as
possible, or at least keep it in-house for as long
● During the early stages of building your
product, you should directly oversee the core
experience of your product, as you are the one
getting the initial customer feedback.
● However, if you choose to outsource your user
experience, you should only do so if the
freelancer can have meetings with you on a
daily basis and produce product iterations on
AT LEAST a weekly basis.
Should You Hire a Product Manager?
● While this is not exactly common practice among
startups (yet), hiring a product manager early on during
the formative stages of a startup can yield some
● Even without learning how to code, writing
requirements for a product’s front end and back end,
holding regular meetings with developers, planning
product iteration deadlines are difficult tasks, even for
● Hiring a product manager can be a potential shortcut
for early stage non-tech founders.
Starting a company is hard. It’s stressful and unpredictable and daunting. However, learning how
to code is actually one of the easier aspects of launching a tech startup, even if it’s just a little bit.
Technology is constantly changing, so it’s important to constantly keep abreast of current trends
and to learn emerging methodologies.
BOTTOM LINE: If you can keep up with the pace of technology, then you will be better equipped to
keep up with the demands of your company.
Do You Want to Launch a Company?
Most people who apply to the Founder Institute don’t have tech experience,
but still manage to launch impactful companies.
Don’t let a lack of expertise stop you from building the business of your
dreams - apply to a Founder Institute chapter near you!