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How to do a tech startup, for the non-technical

June 7, 2012
This is a topic that comes up a lot with non-technical friends, so here is my quick take on how to start a technical company when you have no technical experience.
  1. Meet someone technical, convince them that this is a good idea and let them build it. There are co-founder mixers in most major cities. The problem with this route is that we techies don’t see non-technical co-founders as adding a lot of value (no, a business plan doesn’t count), so the key is to dispel that by doing some actual work. I suggest writing / researching a lot of content, if that’s appropriate to your ideal business model. Otherwise, business development (partnerships, for example) and product development (a strong understanding of the customer’s needs) are very valuable for a new startup. The more tangible your accomplishments, the more luck you will have recruiting technical talent.
  2. The corollary to #1 is to hire a web developer on Craigslist or something. This is not recommended, as it’s very hard to manage a technical person if you don’t understand the technology.
  3. Learn to code, for example with codeacademy, or CS106A. This is probably the least efficient route.
  4. My suggested route, start it yourself. This can range in complexity from starting a blog/tumblr/facebook/G+/twitter, to using a DIY website builder like Weebly, or an easy-to-use CMS like DrupalDolphin, WordPress or others. (I haven’t investigated this stuff in about five years, so I’d imagine that there are new and better alternatives, but basically they allow you to launch and customize a social website without any code.) I’m pretty sure that GoDaddy and other sites will give you an easy way to install Drupal et. al. when you buy a domain and hosting, which again means that you get up and running without code. When (if) the thing takes off, it will be much easier to hire a programmer / recruit a technical co-founder to completely revamp your site (either within the CMS or with a totally new site).
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