Will Techies Always Have the Upper Hand in Startups?

My hunch when I moved here three weeks ago from Hawaii is now confirmed: The tech scene in the Bay Area is all about—well, tech.

This thriving, buzzing industry is built around a culture of code, of devising niche solutions to niche problems. At its center lie the software engineer, who reigns as queen bee in the hives of the tech giants and startups of Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

So what about the rest of us?

What about the marketers, the designers, the writers and editors, the community managers and publishers of content? Do we get a fair shake at shaping the future in a world gone tech?

I’d like to think so. The question is—how?

Leverage Your Non-Tech Talents to Make Things Better

I’ve been networking like crazy since I got here. The buzz in the air is that if you’re a software engineer, you’re set. You never have to look for work (they’ll come to you), you’ll get paid better than everyone else and you’ll fit snugly into the culture of any tech company.

But if I were to take all the startup presentations I’ve seen so far at venues like Lean Back and SFNewTech, there’s a clear need for non-techie types to take the product to market.

For example, Hollrback seems like a great idea in theory: a personal QR code that people scan with their smart phone to download your data. It’s like a contextually-savvy Rolodex for business networking.

Awesome. But who’s going to use it besides the nerdiest of nerds? Aren’t QR codes on their way out? How will this make money?

The point is: you just can’t build it and they will come. You need others to help you sell it, to demonstrate its value and help make it better through user engagement.

Don’t Be Made to Feel Inferior

Non-technical founders of startups can do three things: Partner with a coder and create things, build a community around a niche, or they can do both.

Of course to succeed, you have to do both. The goal is not be a coveted software engineer, but rather to possess an unwavering obsession on a quality product that solves a particular problem. Anyone has the potential to do that.

If you are holistic enough to appreciate the value of a good coder, design, designer, marketer and manager—and you can bring people together on your great idea—there’s no reason why you can’t create a successful startup.

Photo by naus3a01.


  • Charles, couple of things.

    1. Software engineers in general are not in high demand. Certain developers with a few years experience in rapid web application development are in very high demand. But it’s only these people with this particular skillset.

    2. Really good business development people are extremely scarce. There are loads of people who call themselves “bizdev” who, frankly, aren’t very good at it.

    Bizdev people who can show up with the monies don’t tend to have too much trouble finding the technical talent they need.

    Welcome to Bubble 2.0!

  • “What do you do for money honey? How do you get your kicks?”

    I think the line above from an AC/DC song says it all. Are you a professional earning a profit for your toil or are you trying to turn your hobby into a job?

    A simple formula to create a successful start-up. Take a product or service, a market and then exchange that product or service with your market and return a profit. Simple. I have started four successful businesses from scratch and it does not get any more complicated than that.

    Now if we remove the word successful, all you need is a product or service and you can say you have a start-up.

    To create a tech start-up you need someone with the technical skills to create the product or service. And before that you need the concept of the product or service. The problem is that anyone can come up with an idea for a product or service, and most people would rather work on their own product or service than someone else’s. Entrepreneurs and Developers alike.

    The key for the Entrepreneur is to partner with a developer or team or developers to create a buisness that fulfills the requirements of my simple formula above. This means that someone will have to bend and adopt somebody else’s idea as their own.

    Every business idea must go through a torrid evaluation process before any work is done in the first place. If it passes the test and proves itself to be a viable buisness then you can go about putitng a team in place and putting the time and money into making it a success.

    I wonder how many people actually put their ideas through a rigorous enough process before sitting down and starting work on it. Unfortunately, there may be many talented developers and programers spending all of their waking hours on building their dream without properly putting their ideas through the business grinder. And unfortunately there are many Entrepreneurs wasting time learning how to code to give their idea a physical form to present to other people.

    One thing that will not change is that to build a large financially successful company you need many people to collaborate, and the sooner successful collaboration starts in the life of that company the better.

    People who are willing to collaborate in a sart-up are more likely to turn that start-up into a booming business.

    Are you willing to collaborate from the start? That is the question.

  • Having a conceptual knowledge in Technology really helps anybody. Once we understand the concepts, that sits behind the code, I feel we are more in control with the Technology that drives the code and functionality.