Here are 6 essentials non-tech founders need to know about tech

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If there’s one major hindrance when it comes to entrepreneurs wanting to launch and build successful tech startups, it’s that they lack technical ability, skill and advisory guidance.

Unless you can find yourself a technical co-founder, or even if you have a technical co-founder, not understanding the core basics of technology will halt your progress and decrease your chances of success.

You can argue that the problem can be solved by hiring developers, or outsourcing your initial MVP, but do you really know what you’re doing? Is it cost-effective?

Do you have the right tech stack for your product? Do you have the right security?

You don’t have to be a technical rockstar or coder to understand the core basics around building a strong tech product. Taking these six essentials into account will ensure you know your product better than anyone else, and you know exactly what your developers are doing.

1. Which language? Do I need to know code?

Firstly, if you’re a CEO, you don’t need to know code. However, it’s not a surprise pattern to see that most successful unicorn founders have strong technical ability or were previously developers in their careers.

The real questions that need to be answered are:

  • Do you know what the main languages are for rapid development? (i.e. Ruby on Rails, AngularJs, PHP, NodeJs, Python, etc.) Why do you need to know this? These technologies are pivotal for early-stage startups. These coding languages are super powerful when it comes to prototyping and split-testing for consumer behaviour.
  • Which framework should your product be built with in coordination with the development language? Most of the time, your developer will tell you which one is best. Frameworks have various characteristics in relation to their performance, hence reading about main development frameworks will certainly increase your knowledge.

2. Which architecture?

Planning out the entire technology stack for a new web startup is a process wrought with errors. That’s why developers will plan and highlight the preferred tech platform and technical design to launch a product.

What type of architecture makes sense for my product?

There are numerous architecture frameworks for building products and not knowing every single one of them won’t affect your chances of success. Understanding the differences between MVC, service-oriented architecture, microservices and others, will help for your technical knowledge, but not are vital. It will be important when talking to developers or hiring developers down the track but if you’re someone starting out new or outsourcing, a technical friend will be able to answer this question for you.

3. Servers

Where most non-tech founders get caught up in the cloud is around how they are going to build their product. What happens when the product is finally launched/released?

Which servers do I need? AWS, Azure or Rackspace?

To keep it simple, they all have the same goal: ensuring your product is up to perform for your minimum user base, speed and scalability. They all have various characteristic and are more applicable towards certain platforms, so researching the main servers for hosting your application for global use is essential.

4. Do I need security?

The answer to this is yes. I’m not necessarily talking about someone hacking your product features, or your website, etc – I’m referring to someone hacking your data. In many cases, your data is your IP, and I can assure you that you don’t want that to be hacked.

How can I make sure that no one steals the data that I care about?

Security can be a confusing topic if you aren’t technical. You will need to get a technical advisor for this question. These questions will also come into play once you have a technical co-founder or have hired a developer, but what about if you’re going solo in the early-stage?

Do you need to worry about securing your data from day one? Again, the answer is yes. Technical advisory will be key.

5. Development lifecycle

The answer is simple.

Agile, agile, agile!!

If you’re from the corporate world and have come across digital project development, I’m sure you have heard of the “waterfall method”. In startups, everything must be agile. Rapid, cost-effective and short development cycles are crucial for your startup’s success.

6. Costs

After taking all the above essentials into account, now it’s time to finalise the last argument around building a successful business — cost.

  • What will my idea cost me in time and dollars to build if I use a freelancer, offshore contractor or full time developer?
  • How much do I need to build for my first version?

To give you some rough price points, to build a simple iPhone app can cost you anywhere from $1000-$3000, a medium complexity app around $10,000 and if you’re looking to build something around enterprise, then the price will be north of $25,000.

What it really comes down to understanding is what you need, and this reflects back to your business model. Set your own timeline. Make sure you’ve done the customer research. What did your customers say? What do they really need and why? How much are they willing to pay?

This should answer exactly what you need to have for the first version, and ultimately, how much you need to sacrifice from your pocket.

Dan Siepen is the director of growth & product strategy at Titan Vine. He is also the co-founder of Coder Factory, a coding school based Sydney. He loves everything growth hacking and you can tweet Dan @dansiepen

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