Can Non-Technical Entrepreneurs Be Successful?

Many successful tech startups have been founded by non-technical entrepreneurs who were computer science majors. You have Google (Larry Page and Sergei Brin), Netflix (Reed Hastings), and Amazon (Jeff Bezos).

However, many others have succeeded without techie founders. For example, former English teacher Jack Ma leads Alibaba; neuroscientist
Rashmi Sinha founded SlideShare, and product design student Evan Spiegel created Snapchat.

A recent study showed that only 35 percent of New York tech startup founders studied computer science or a related field in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Also significant is the difference between a tech company and a tech-enabled company.

Google, which is based on complicated algorithms, is a tech company. Alibaba, which uses web-based technology, is tech-enabled. Founding a startup need not be all about building new ‘tech’; it can also be about making good use of what’s already out there.

Choose A Problem Worth Solving

Start with a problem that is personal to you so that your interest in it does not wane easily. If it already has a solution, come up with a much
better, more innovative one.

Define What You Want To Build

Understand what you want to develop — product or service — to solve the problem. Draft a product requirements document (PRD) to clarify the purpose, features, milestones, and deadlines. Also, create a project roadmap that includes marketing and sales strategy.

Seek Assistance

Share your idea with the industry. Ask for honest feedback, and learn from their insights. Seek help from senior management and technical professionals to help you hire suitable employees.

Hire Great Employees & Be Optimally Involved

Hire skilled employees who are interested and believe in your vision. Listen to their inputs and know when your knowledge and expertise is lacking.

Provide a clear idea of your product/service, the PRD, and adequate resources to your team. You might want to be involved in everything, but don’t micromanage your team. Divide the project into small, timely deliverables to keep track of progress and to fix problems as and when they arise.

Learn New Things

It is all right not to know everything about tech. However, try to familiarize yourself with important concepts, like back-end processes, databases, hosting solutions, web services, and user interfaces. This will not only help you make better tech choices but help you to communicate effectively with your team.

Communicate Your Idea

It is better to show than to tell. Try to create a prototype or a minimum viable product (MVP) to allow people to understand what you’re going after. Find and engage people to test it and give genuine feedback. Change your product/service accordingly.

An MVP and detailed roadmap can help communicate your idea not only to potential users, but also to potential co-founders, and investors.

Build Your Audience

As a non-technical founder, you can use your experiences and connections in non-tech related fields to prepare and implement a marketing strategy. Create a buzz about your product/service and start building an audience. You can get a start by discussing it over various media, initial users, and by seeking input from those you’re aiming to reach.

Start Selling ASAP!

Start scouting for customers even as the product or service is in development. Use the prototype to demonstrate its functions. This will help you to gauge customer responses and even gain some prospective customers. This can be a crucial moment for any business, as the early feedback can often set the trajectory for the company for years to come.

It Will Get Tough — Don’t Quit

Regardless of your background, the only thing that matters is that you persevere. There is no hope if you cannot maintain an optimistic attitude in the presence of setbacks. As Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky says, “failure or lack of interest shouldn’t deter you.” If your product can offer real value to customers, keep going. Sometimes no one gets it until the proof is undeniable.

Analyze Failure And Learn From It

Every successful founder has hit roadblocks along the way. When part of your project fails, analyze what went wrong. Collect customer feedback, course-correct, and use your hard-won insight to fuel your re-launch. By studying the faults in your approach, you can build a strategy that protects you against future mistakes.

Sell Your Story, Rather Than Your Product/Service

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” — Simon Sinek.

Convey your ideas, your vision, and your story, rather than lengthy points about your product/service. Even a product that is far superior and innovative to the competition still needs to be presented to the public in a way that proves you care.

Be cautious with your spending

Don’t buy fancy new equipment or software unless it’s absolutely necessary. Tackle the essentials with used equipment, open-source software, or software with free trial periods. Familiarize yourself with the features and interface of everything before you invest in them. Keep diligent accounts of everything you spend.

Related: How running out of money can kill your startup


Being a non-technical founder can give you a fresh perspective — a competitive advantage when innovation in an industry is lacking. An integral part of entrepreneurship is discovering what unique value and perspective you bring to the table. As a non-technical founder, your perspective is more likely to match that of your customer. With this deeper understanding of their needs, you can be more successful in fixing a current problem they face. That is your doorway to being a non-technical successful entrepreneur!