Non-Technical Founders Can Ship Too

My playbook of early stage tactics for non-technical founders

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This week I was inspired by our community fireside chat with Tibo, who recently sold his startup for $10 million, in how he described his process for early stage iteration. Join the community to watch the full recording.

Anyway, his talk made me realize something: Non-technical founders have it pretty rough.

Everyone from Y Combinator to Sequoia has said at one point or another that they prefer to invest in teams with at least one technical co-founder. At the very least, fundraising is more difficult without one.

And it’s a fact that there are more new non-technical founders on the market at any given time than technical ones.

But it turns out there’s actually a lot that non-technical founders can do to drive a startup forward before bringing a technical co-founder or founding engineer onto the team. My last startup reached our Series A before we brought on a full-time engineer.

Here’s 6 things non-technical founders should do instead of sitting on their hands 👇

Early Stage Tactics for Non-Technical Founders

Define Your Mission

You should find and define your “why” on your own regardless of whether you have a potential technical co-founder or not.

This is the step before you look for a specific problem to solve. Let yourself be temporarily consumed by self-exploration to uncover what’s driving you and what impact you want to have on the world.

Think about it — you could end up following the direction you start building in for 5 years, or the rest of your life. It’s worth a bit of time and consideration upfront.

For example, my mission is to grow the amount of startup founders in the world. It’s based in my belief that the best way individuals can quickly impact the world is by building a company.

It’s only after defining this that it makes sense for me to start thinking about what problem is stopping more people from becoming founders today.

Some questions you can ask yourself to help with this process

  • What’s something non-obvious you believed as a child that you still believe today?

  • What do you notice frequently that others don’t?

  • What bothers you about the state of the world?

  • What issues do you find your thoughts consistently drifting back to?

  • What keeps you up at night for no tangible reason?

Uncover the Problem

Once you have your mission, start doing user research. A LOT of it. Talk to as many people as possible who your mission will potentially impact if you’re successful in achieving it. Ask them about what they do, what frustrates them, and what they’d like to see change.

Counterintuitively, I wouldn’t recommend taking copious notes during these chats. Instead, be present in the moment and follow the conversations organically down whatever rabbit holes come up.

After each one ends, jot down the things that stand out and that you remember. I usually do this by texting myself just because it’s most natural, but use whatever tools you want.

Over time you’ll see natural patterns emerge. Patterns are the threads you want to keep pulling on in future conversations. Patterns are your opportunity.

When you find a pattern that isn’t only common, but also solvable and painful, define it in a problem statement. Here’s a useful video from Y Combinator about how to evaluate startup ideas at this stage:

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