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5 lessons - 5 years in tech as a non-tech founder
Starting from hiring & working with tech people to growth and generating revenue, marketing and building culture.
Hey everyone👋, welcome to the 29th newsletter.
Getting into tech was never my first option. I only find it interesting when I was trying to solve a problem by building my first SaaS. It wasn’t successful but gave me a ton of insights and real-world experience.
It’s a lot different from the startup & entrepreneur books I’ve read.
Reflecting back on how at a point it felt unreachable & unexpected to bootstrap a startup. To, now, how the whole perspective of starting & running it has changed. Especially as a non-tech founder in the tech world.
I’m here putting down the 5 lessons I’ve learned from 5 years in tech.
1. Understanding the development process
As a non-tech founder who is building a SaaS, the biggest hurdle is to understand what it takes to build an app and decisions to make right now that can get along with future expansion.
I can do almost everything without someone’s help & create my own framework quickly with research, user and customer understanding, designing, creative thinking, hiring, strategy & execution. But when it comes to developing, the complete process is confusing and haunting.
The best approach is to understand the framework first that requires for your product by
looking at the competitors, how did they build it, what involves in their development process
talking to a business consultant or a software developer. Get a detailed report on what works best for your product and ask the doubts you have in your mind.
If you aren’t considering coding or developing your product on your own, this is a great approach to clear your doubts. And when you hire someone, you understand the framework & can trust the person.
It took me a lot of time to understand the front-end, back-end, security, and other elements involved in building my product. Still, I can never say that I completely understand coding & programming languages. But it’s enough for me to build my next venture & work with developers.
2. Hiring the tech person
Before you even consider hiring anyone, knowing what work they’ll do will help you create a better job description & get the right candidate.
I was looking for someone to build my product without knowing what kind of job that person will do. “It’s like looking for an answer without knowing the question".
It’s not about hiring the best candidate from the industry but hiring the one you put little investment over to get the job done and they have the same commitment to the product and growth as you.
Here’s how I made it easy for me:
When you don’t know the job all you can do is trust the other person. For that you both need to be on the same page.
Hire someone who has a track record of getting things done or an online presence for you to judge their work. Reach out to them & see if they are willing to work with you on the idea.
As there will be a lot of trial and error methods you’ll only be working with people who are as excited as you to make the idea successful.
I genuinely don’t believe in building a work culture at an early-stage startup because I feel like my team would be bonded to follow it. Everyone is unique and more importantly, I emphasise on having the same values. If we are all towards building a great product & ourselves, the coordination & message becomes clear.
Giving more control to each member towards its role can open up so many unexpected opportunities & better growth. Also, if you’ll run behind building a written-down-work-culture you’ll miss out on great people and won’t be able to close deals.
3. Starting small & building the right thing
If you have a big idea, the probability of it being successful reduces. It will take a lot of investment in terms of money & time.
If you’re starting small and building fast, you’ll be able to make changes & evolve with time quickly. You’ll keep the control and won’t have to go through a long framework to ship the new features. What your focus should be on - to build fast, get initial users, see results and make quick decisions.
If you’re building something that’s already in the market, it will be hard to change users’ habits and ask them to make a switch. To attract them you’ll be selling a different feature that doesn’t necessarily mean a completely different product but one thing that helps you stand out, targeting the problem.
Building a completely full-functioning product has a bigger risk when you don’t even know how long will it take to get the first few users.
The market keeps evolving and to stay with it you’ll need to be at the right time. And startups can do it by shipping the product fast.
4. Spend time 20% on product & 80% on marketing
When we are building a product we completely forget about marketing & it happens with most of the founders. We try to fix errors, add new features, change elements, do fancy UI/UX, announce it once and keep this cycle going.
What we completely forget is building a great product isn’t enough. Marketing is still the biggest factor for product survival. When I was building WorkMap, I didn’t take time to validate the idea, talk to users or build a beta list and didn’t even market the product throughout the production journey.
Then it took me more than 6 months to get a few users only to see I build some unnecessary features.
So, this is the rule I work with now, spending 20% of my time working & fixing the product and the rest 80% of the time I spend on marketing. My distribution channel mostly includes Twitter, community, content & SEO.
You can always start with a landing page, idea, or a Twitter account to talk about the problem or product. Making people aware of what’s coming will create a buzz and build a community. Once you’re ready with something, show them; most of the people will be very happy to even use the scrappy version.
The fastest way to get revenue is to already sell the problem before even building the solution. It’s quite easy to do in today’s time because of the various distribution channels available. But the focus should be on storytelling and delivering the right message throughout the user journey.
If you have good hands on it, you’ll get your score fast & easily.
What I’ve seen:
People will think a lot before becoming paid users. They have alternatives, how good is your product for them, how much they trust the founder/s, etc.
There is a huge difference between reality and assumption with revenue growth.
The paid plan should have enough reasons for users to upgrade and make their work easy. If you see a lot of people signing up for free plan but not for paid, either your message isn’t to the point or you aren’t giving them benefiting reasons to upgrade.
Initially, people won’t trust much on ads, they will trust the solution or the founders.
Launch the paid plan like you’re launching a startup - create the hype, promote it, campaigns or buzz on social media, etc.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Until next time! 👋
👋 PS: I’m Ritika founder, product marketer and advisor for early-stage startups, find more here or connect with her here. If you’re a first-time founder looking for curated resources, download here. If you enjoyed this post, read the past issues here. You can also promote your product in this newsletter.
A big thanks for reading & sharing!