You don’t have to be the geek to start a technology-based company. Plenty of high tech companies have been started by people from all walks of life, without having an advanced programming certification.
At South by Southwest, this was the subject of “How to Run a Startup Without a Tech Cofounder.” Suzanne Xie, founder of Weardrobe, and Sahadeva Hammari, founder of several start ups, shared their experiences at having the passion without the coding skills.
Because this was a Core Conversation, there was a lot of audience participation. Based on the discussion, here are the top three sources for tech help.
You can use computer science students from a local university for programming. Another audience member offered a caution. Students do not yet have real-world experience. Their code probably reflects that. Don’t expect elegant, simple code from people who are still learning.
If you have a compelling enough vision, you can build an online community to assist with development. Basically, you are asking people to volunteer to help with your coding.
Check their work
No matter where you get your tech help, have a qualified programmer review their work. From the audience, my friend Erica Douglass, offered her perspective as both an entrepreneur and an expert level PHP coder. She said you can’t do an adequate job of being both. However, she does have an advantage because she knows how to check the product of coders working for her. You may have to try two or three freelancers to find a good one.
In a different presentation, Ross Kimbarovsky of crowdSPRING said they made a mistake by not learning what they needed to know to supervise code development. At least find the right advisors, who could help you. Look for your local programming groups. Don’t assume that because you are working with someone who *should* know what they are doing, that they do know what they are doing.
If you want to take a different approach, the group had two suggestions.
1. Design your site as an app first. Distill the idea down.
2. Do the idea without using a website. Think of other ways to make it work.
Finally, don’t try to make your idea perfect before seeking your programming help. You’ll probably have to adjust your idea to fit what’s possible.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.