Bring your tech ideas to life without a tech background

You’ve got a killer app idea. There’s just one problem: you don’t know a lick of code. What’s a potential founder to do?

You’ve got three choices:

Find a Technical Cofounder

Aside from solving the tech issue, finding a technical cofounder can split the workload and stress of starting a new company. It also looks better to investors. Many VCs are leery of investing in a company with one founder, and many accelerator programs prefer (if not require) at least two founders.

The downside is that it can be time-consuming and difficult to find the right fit and negotiate terms you’re both happy with. That said, it’s still the route most non-technical cofounders take, for the reasons mentioned above.

Resources for finding a cofounder:

  • Websites: FounderDating or CofoundersLab are specifically set up to help people search for cofounders. While AngelList isn’t specifically intended for this purpose, people regularly post there looking for cofounders.
  • Social Media: You can use LinkedIn to find people that might be a good fit. As far as social media goes, there are also Facebook groups—here’s an Austin Startups Facebook group for example. Even if you don’t directly meet your cofounder on social media, introducing yourself to more people can help you find a cofounder.
  • Meetups: In-person meetups are another place to look. Like with dating, sometimes chemistry and personalities are easier to figure out in person. Aside from checking for meetups near you, there are startup weeks all over the country. Find out when your local one is and make sure to get out and mingle.

Outsource the Technical Work

If you’re not interested in finding a technical cofounder, you can outsource the technical work. This could look like:

  • Working with a contractor (or multiple contractors that you’re managing)
  • Hiring an agency or dev shop
  • Working through a talent network like Gigster

The downside to this option is obvious: it costs money up front. If you don’t have savings or the ability to take out a credit card or loan, you might not have that money.

If you’re marketing-savvy, one way to deal with that is crowdfunding via Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. Even then, you’ll still spend some money to get a well-produced video, graphics, or photography to go with the campaign, and possibly for advertising to drive traffic.

A less tangible downside is that not having a technical person in your leadership can damage your company’s credibility if you’re selling a technical product. And if you don’t have a dedicated technical team or person for support and maintenance, that can cause problems as your product scales.

On the other hand, outsourcing your technical work gets you up and running, without having to give away equity or lose control of your idea and business.

Investors and cofounders have their upsides, but once you bring other people (and their money) into your business, you have to take their opinions into consideration. Depending on the project you’re working on, and how much control you want over it, that option could be unappealing.

Working with an outside entity, like an agency, contractor, or dev shop, avoids that issue entirely and lets you retain complete ownership and creative control of the product and business.

Resources for outsourcing your app’s development:

Learn the Skills Yourself

This is usually the last resort. It’s more time-consuming than either of the above options, and can also be difficult, depending on your current technical skill level.

One upside is that if you can manage to learn the skills you need to create the product you’re dreaming of, you can bring the idea to life without having to spend money up front. On the other hand, as already mentioned, investors tend to prefer investing in startups with more than one founder. In the end, your time is probably best spent focusing on things you’re actually skilled at.

Resources for learning technical skills:

  • SoloLearn has tutorials on C++, Java, and JavaScript.
  • CodingFounder gives you a crash-course in Ruby on Rails, Boostrap, HTML, and CSS, via cloning the popular tech site Product Hunt. CodeUpStart has a similar set-up, but with multiple projects you can take on.
  • Swifty is a free iOS app that teaches you how to code in Swift.
  • Lrn covers HTML, CSS, Python, Ruby, and Javascript—currently on iOS, coming soon to Android.
  • 7 Tools to Help You Build an App Without Writing Code: Some of these are oriented to web apps, some to mobile apps, and some aren’t strictly app-related at all. If nothing else, Pixate could be useful in creating an interactive prototype that you can then use for pitching or crowdfunding videos.

Here’s what it comes down to: as a non-technical founder with an idea, your options are to find a technical cofounder, outsource the tech work, or learn the skills so you can build it yourself. Your best choice depends on how much time, money, and energy you have to dedicate to this project at the moment.

If you need help building your tech, we’re here to help. Go to Gigster and tell us about your project to get started.