Girl Geek Academy is at PauseFest 2018 – Australasia’s premier creative, tech and business event. We’ll be sharing our insights & takeaways here, but you can also follow along on Twitter!

Building A Tech Startup With No Technical Founders – How We Did It And What We’ve Learned

Panelists:

You’ve got the idea and you’ve got a team… but what if you don’t have a founder with tech skills? Can you still succeed?  This panel speaks to three founders who worked around this issue and still launched successful startups.

Here’s the highlights from this discussion:

The Startup Muster report says 45% of startups are outsourcing their tech and 22% founding teams don’t have software development skills in-house. How did you work around a lack of tech skills in your team?

Pete: They chose to go through an agency model & raised capital to cover that expense, while the rest of the team focused on the other elements which were built around the skills of the founders – marketing, sales, etc.

Fun side note: the idea for Health Delivered actually came from a hackathon, and 3 of the 5 hackathon team members are still founders today!

Danielle: Their team didn’t have any tech skills – and still don’t have that skill today! Instead they focused on having experience in their industry (healthcare).  For their tech needs they work with Common Code and consider them to be an extension of their core team instead of just an outsourced provider.

Valeria: Interestingly they used a white label product to get an MVP developed quickly and take it straight to market, and she really preached the benefits of this option for those who aren’t tech-skilled because most of the work had already been done and also minimised initial capital investment.

Did you at any point look for a tech founder?

Danielle: No. Early on she was advised not to get anyone in just to build it, outsource it instead and they can manage the whole process for you.

Pete: They also didn’t seek a CTO, simply because there is so much passion required to be a founder it’s not easy to just go out and find anyone who is the right fit.

In closing rounds of funding from investors, did you feel they wanted you to have a tech founder?

Valeria: At one point they were close with an investor but they said they wanted it to be technology first focus, which they didn’t agree with – but once they stepped away they found multiple other funding sources and were glad they didn’t take that option.


Danielle: Another no, their investors were from the healthcare industry so they were more worried about how the company understood the target audience, brand, equity, and ability to scale.

Pete: They were able to raise 50% of the initial $500K capital investment (cash and in-kind) pre-product without having a single line of code written. Every investor has a different idea of what’s important and it’s not right or wrong – but if you’re showing progress and returns the next round will be successful as that is what counts.

 

If you were to start again would you change anything about the founding team?

Pete: So long as your team has the personal motivation and interest in what you’re doing, and they each have a defined role, then each member is valuable. If they don’t have that role definition the individual input can dwindle over time which can cause problems.

Danielle: A sole founder and happy to be one! It’s tough to raise capital and go it alone but has no regrets.  Offering equity to those who are working for you can be a good idea – she still has the same team working with her since last year which started as sweat equity but every single person felt ownership of the company’s success so wants to see it through.

Valeria: Her top tips – sales & marketing are the crucial roles to get into your team first up, don’t waste time doing things that aren’t your forte, and hire slowly & fire fast – if someone’s not the right fit move them on.

 

There’s a gap for developers who are more commercial minded, and in fact there is very few true tech leads in this town. How can we overcome this?

Pete: The top developers are being priced out of the market by large companies – energy, banks & big business.  So from an funding & investor perspective there’s a dissonance between hiring the best and penny pinching. You need to either train a tech to be commercial, or get the funding to entice them away from big corporations.

What about remote or overseas developers?

Danielle: Specifically wanted to stay with Australian developers – didn’t know enough about it so valued being able to sit down in person and work it out, but also their target audience felt strongly about wanting to be and Australian product.

Valeria: After working remotely for the last ten years she’s comfortable with working with remote teams and getting the results they want.

Pete: Another no – there’s a lot of value of being in the same room.  People say overseas is cheaper but his experience from working in an agency himself has been that clients will claim to be able to get quoted work done for a third of the price, but once they go through the process realise that the result is so far below par that they can spend even more than the quote in revisions but still end up with an inferior product. And with the R&D tax breaks which can see every $1 from investment getting $1.43 back the savings and quality just isn’t there.

Thanks to all the panelists for a great discussion!

 

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