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From Idea to Launch: How to Build a Tech Startup Without a CTO

  • Adam Milne
  • By  Adam Milne
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  • 87D32530-FD6E-468E-BB24-045278513D21 Created with sketchtool. 14 MIN READ
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  • 6BCC25D0-42B3-420B-8C28-C5D7EF3F6856 Created with sketchtool. Updated: May 6, 2021

Starting a tech startup when you aren’t from a technical background isn’t a nightmare. At its heart, entrepreneurship is all about solving problems.

If you can think of a problem that needs to be solved and its solution, you can build a successful tech startup. An entrepreneur is the one who finds a problem, and instead of getting frustrated like others, they try to solve it.

But, then, why do nine out of ten startups fail? Well, there can be many reasons behind these failures, and luckily, founders not having the tech background is none of them:

Top 20 Reasons Startup Fail | How to Start a Tech Startup

Almost half of the businesses fail because of not building the right product that the market needs. Some die because they run out of money, and others because of not having the right team.

Therefore, by having a solid game plan and knowing what mistakes to avoid, you can launch a tech startup successfully backed by a team of diverse industry experts.

Whenever you feel unprepared or dicey in the initial phase of your tech startup, having a CTO or a technical co-founder is always the first line of defense. In fact, the pace at which technology is evolving, modern businesses gain a competitive edge with the involvement and consistent guidance of a CTO.

How CTO Can Benefit a Startup

Every newbie understands how hard it is to create a tech startup in the competitive landscape, as resisting the stiff market competition isn’t a cakewalk.

When it comes to today’s digital world, every startup business- whether technical or non-technical, leverages technology in one or the other form for grabbing the attention of their potential customers. To tackle this, you need a CTO who offers his perspectives on creating a business plan for a tech startup.

And for non-technical co-founders and young entrepreneurs, counting on a CTO can help create the entire technical picture of the project. This helps in clearing all your queries of how to create a tech startup and minimizes all the probable risks of a launch startup failure.

How to run a tech startup that turns out to be a success, in the long run, is solely based on the skills of the CTO. Having the right skillset and channelizing the skills in the right direction throughout the launch startup is what decides the overall success of your tech startup.

Not only this, a CTO can assist you a tech startup in countless segments of your business cycle with a wide skill set including:

A User-Centric Mindset is a Must

Whenever starting a tech startup, it is the prime job of the CTO to get a clear idea of who the final user is because the majority of the people end up developing something that fails to meet the needs of the end customers. So, CTOs need to be clear of their end-users in the first place and outline whom they are developing for and make the strategic planning accordingly. The faster you understand your audience’s pain point and figure out solutions to solve it, the faster you’ll be able to create a user-centric approach.

Prior Experience is Always a Bonus

Tech startups are fast-paced, disruptive, and demand working with limited costs, resources, and skills. Adjusting to this is always a daunting task for newbies.

For a CTO, having prior experience in tech startups will help you navigate the startup world more precisely and foresee the probable challenges on the way. From ensuring secure funding for the business to leveraging the network to expand the business, there are countless benefits accompanied by past experience.

Negotiation Tactics

Apart from holding technical expertise, CTOs regularly communicate with the company executives and communicate with the stakeholders, HR department, and other individuals connected. Unlike the bigger organizations, startup CTOs are more inclined towards these parties and have to negotiate with them regularly for seamless yet productive project development.

Technical & Problem-solving Skills

The CTO of a tech startup is expected to have a stronghold on his technical and problem-solving skills. Whenever any party or team in the organization is stuck, they will approach you and expect the way out from you. CTOs need to have excellent problem-solving skills for the expected and unexpected problems evolving throughout the business lifecycle.

Other skills of a CTO include:

  • Software architecture
  • Leadership
  • IT management
  • Product development
  • Time management
  • Strategic thinking
  • Setting & executing their vision
  • Project management
  • Security & privacy management

As per a Gartner report, the CTO has overall responsibility for managing the physical and personnel technology infrastructure, including technology deployment, network and system management, integration testing, and developing technical operations personnel.

While the CTO and a technical co-founder will portray the technical picture and bring those ideas to life, the non-technical founder acts as a conceptual visionary while handling marketing perfectly. So, if your tech startup doesn’t have a technical co-founder or a CTO, you still have ample tactics to understand how to launch a tech startup and succeed.

Having built many successful tech startups at Net Solutions like Front Rush, Soaq, and Sampleboard, we created this guide to help non-technical founders create a tech startup easily and successfully.

You can use it as a blueprint for starting your own tech venture.

1. Before You Launch a Startup – Do Some Homework

Many people think that starting a tech business is only about coding. But it’s not. Launching a tech business involves planning, managing legal activities, recruiting people, making critical financial decisions, and many more. Here’s how you should start:

a. Collect Customers Insights

No matter whether you are a technical person or not, for an entrepreneur, customers must come first. So, before you fall in love with your tech startup ideas, make sure your target audience loves them too.

The process of finding the scope of your idea is called discovery. Before building any tech startup or product, you must know the following things about it:

  • What is the problem your users are facing?
  • How is your product or services going to solve that problem?
  • Is the problem real? Or, are you trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist?
  • Why will users buy your product or services?

Before you invest in your product or tech business development, you must answer these questions to understand your user’s needs.

Moreover, while conducting discovery, you will collect shreds of evidence on why your product or tech startup will be a hit.

This evidence will give you confidence in your product and help you raise a substantial amount of funding later on. Remember, because you are non-technical, you are the right person to go and collect these customers’ insights yourself.

If you were a technical guy/girl, you might have ended up confusing your potential users with some technical jargon that they couldn’t understand. Though the discovery is a never-ending process requiring many resources when building a technical product or business, you can conduct it yourself when starting.

Here is a complete guide to conducting product discovery to ensure you are building or improvising a needed product that solves a problem.

b. Find a Brand and Domain Name for Your Company

What is there in a name?

The answer is your brand’s first impression which can have a significant impact on your success. The wrong names can do worse than failing to connect with your consumers resulting in many hurdles.

On the other hand, a clear, short, and powerful name can help your branding and marketing efforts. Therefore, your business name should be:

Easy to spell and remember: Leaving all the confusions behind is crucial when deciding your business name. You don’t want people getting confused when finding your business or misspelling it when talking to friends. So, keep it simple and relatable. For example, Airbnb, it is short, clear, and reflects what the brand offers(Air, Bed, and Breakfast).

Doesn’t set the limits: When building a business, every entrepreneur’s goal is to scale it, and if your business name restricts that scaling – it isn’t a good one. For example, suppose Jeff Bezos selected a name like “Online Books” for Amazon. The lesson here is don’t limit your business to a particular city or product.

Short and concise: Because you are building a tech business, the next step would be to purchase a domain name. And when it comes to the length of domain names, shorter is better. A short term is easy to pronounce, remember and spell.

Moreover, the ideal and most common domain names length fall between 10-12 characters..

Distribution of .com Domains Names | How to Start a Tech Startup

Our own brand name Net Solutions, is exactly 12 characters long.

Let’s now see why a domain name is so important:

It creates brand recognition: Your domain name is your branding opportunity. People recognizing your brand is what makes a startup successful. So, select a domain name that increases your brand recognition and drives people towards it.

It affects SEO and ASO: It doesn’t matter if you launch a web or mobile app. Your domain name will be your brand’s name that will affect its visibility. Here is an ultimate guide on how you can improve your mobile app’s visibility with the right ASO techniques.

It is your brand’s first impression: When visitors see your site in SERPs, your domain name should attract them to drive a click. A good domain name can leave a long-lasting impression on your website visitors.

These are some of the reasons why having the right brand and domain name is so important. Before you plan to start a successful tech startup, make sure you select the right brand and domain name for the same. Some of the online tools that can help you generate a good business name include Business name generator by Shopify and Namelix.

c. Find the Right Location

Your startup company’s location can play a significant role in the momentum it enjoys and the profits it makes. Here is why deciding on a good site is so important:

Access to funding: The right location can give you proximity to your mentors and potential investors.

Human resource needs: Before you finalize a location, make sure it meets your staffing needs. See how accessible your site is to the type of talent you are planning to hire. It will decide the network that your company establishes.

Office cost: Whether you decide to purchase an office or want to lease, location will affect property prices and rents.

Tax and incentives: Your location will also have a legal and financial impact on your business. For example, government incentives and taxes are affected by where your company is located.

Even if you are happy to start a tech startup from your own home, it is wise to predict what you will need to really fuel it for the coming years. Find out what your vision for the company is? How will proximity to the investors impact your business positively? Where can you afford it?

However, make sure you don’t skip the lines or forget your budget when choosing an office location to run a tech startup. Simply look for business and investor-friendly places where taxes are low, and you can raise the capital.

d. Invest in Your Business Website

One of the crucial steps to starting a tech startup is building an engaging website.

Along with a physical address, your company needs a web address too. When you have the right domain name for your business, it is time to build a website.

Even if you are a non-technical person, you can create crude mockups of your website yourself to make sure it looks as you are planning.

Now you might be thinking how a non-tech person can create mockups. Well, a mockup doesn’t need to be a coded version of the website or app.

It is merely a presentation of how your product will look and work depending on your customers’ needs that you found while discovering your product. It can be a rough drawing, a PPT, or anything representing your website’s initial version.

Mockups | How to Start a Tech Startup

Here are a few ways you can create mockups even if you are a non-technical person:

  • Wireframes
  • Powerpoint slides
  • Image editing tools

The entire purpose of creating these mockups is to show your stakeholders (potential investors, co-founders, and development team) how you want your product to look.

Once you plan mockups, you can hire a web app development company to build your website. They will help you select the right tech stack for your web app that suits your planned features and development budget.

2. Don’t Overcomplicate — Start Lean

To start a tech startup, you will require money. A lot of money!

If you go by the decade-old formula to make a tech startup successful, you would write a full-fledged business plan, a pitch deck for investors, recruit a team of developers, build a feature-rich product, launch it, and start advertising it as hard as you can.

Well, if you go this way today, odds are more that you will face a fatal setback.

Are you asking why?

To be a Tech Entrepreneur with fewer risks, you need to understand the lean startup methodology. It favors experiments over planning, iterative designs over complex development, and user feedback over intuitions. Plus, it costs less, and you don’t have to spend all your budget at once.

Difference between traditional and lean strategy

In the modern ecosystem, startups that are grown iteratively based on user feedback perform best and yield better results than those built using the traditional approach.

If you are a non-techie or don’t understand everything lean — just focus on building your core product instead of trying to build a multi-billion dollar product with high-end features. You can consider launching your startup the lean way to keep costs down and avoid other expenses before you even have some revenue sources.

If you are willing to learn coding as a side hustle, you can. If you don’t want to, it is also good enough. As a non-tech founder, you can consider finding a CTO for your startup and go ahead with the help of a reliable outsourcing partner.

Here is how to start a tech startup without a tech background using the lean approach:

a. Sketch Your Hypotheses

Putting everything you know about your startup on a piece of paper is called sketching hypotheses in the lead methodology. Instead of creating a full-fledged business plan that answers where your startup will be after five years from now, non-tech founders can summarise their guesses or research data in a framework called the business model canvas. It is a representation of how your startup is creating value for all its stakeholders.

The BMC (Business model canvas) lets you look at the nine building blocks of your startup on a single page:

Business Model Canvas | How to Start a Tech Startup

b. Test the Hypotheses

Lean startups use the “Get out of the building” approach to actually talk to their customers and gather insights on whether what they are guessing is right or not.

Here, non-tech entrepreneurs can easily talk to potential users, partners, or other stakeholders to discuss startup offerings they are providing, pricing, channels, and more to test their guesses.

However, don’t make the mistake of confusing the testing hypothesis step with collecting customers’ insights. In the initial stage, you were just testing your customer’s problems, whereas you will be testing if your solution is development worthy or needs further refinement in this stage.

Using the customer’s input, startup owners should revise their assumptions, retest revised offerings, and continue building the right product for their users with the MVP approach.

c. Build an MVP

Now that you know your business basics and have at least a vision of how your product will look, it is time to get the show on the road by building a Minimum Viable Product.

An MVP is a form of your product that lets you collect the maximum amount of validated insights about users with the least effort. By building an MVP, you test the product-market fit and save time as well as money.

We said the least effort because while building an MVP, you will be focusing on developing only the core features of your product. Everything else shall be kept for later stages.

An MVP gives you validated insights because you can launch it for your users to get their feedback right away. If your users react to your MVP and find it helpful, their delight would inspire you to build a stellar product. Even if things go the other way around, the feedback will help you improve your offerings.

Here is the right approach to building an MVP:

As a non-technical founder, you will undoubtedly face some challenges and hurdles while building an MVP. However, it shouldn’t restrict you from taking action.

You don’t need to know everything about technology to build and launch an MVP. You can consider hiring an outsourcing company or freelancer to do the needful for you. All you need is:

Minimum Viable Product Development Approach | How to Start a Tech Startup

A Clear Product Vision

To get an MVP developed, you need to communicate with the tech people who take immense pride in their tech knowledge. However, that shouldn’t bother you.

All you need to do is some research about the popular app development trends and technologies. It is perfectly fine if you don’t know much about the tech jargons and programming languages, you just need to have a clear product vision.

If you communicate your product vision clearly and know your market’s nitty-gritty, you can win this situation.

The Right Technology Partner

Your technical gaps will undoubtedly come forward when you start hiring the developers to build your MVP. However, this is again not a huge factor.

The number of people who have the tech knowledge or are skilled enough to code a solution is much more than the number of entrepreneurial minds. The fact places you within a set of people who carry a rare skill set.

The best way to tackle this situation is to find someone you know who can help you hire the right team or tech partner. He/She can be a friend, a colleague, a relative, or a friend-of-friends.

If you don’t invest in advice at this time, you may end up with a product that is built cheaply but is not scalable, hard to update, and impossible to maintain. The potential risks of hiring the wrong product development partners are way more than you even realize. And as a budding non-tech founder, you shouldn’t take these risks.

Together with your technical advisors, you can find a long list of tech partners, shortlist the ones you like, interview them, check their portfolio, talk to their former clients, and then consider hiring after double-checking everything.

In between all this, remember, the idea behind starting with an MVP is to start fast. Your MVP doesn’t need to serve a large user base. You are building it for one niche. Just make sure it is robust enough to catch your user’s attention.

d. Validate Your MVP

Since you will be targeting a constrained market using your MVP, performing an elaborated test to validate it will be a waste of time. However, just developing an MVP isn’t enough, validating it is also crucial.

Here are some strategies to validate your minimum viable product:

If your users show interest in your product, it is a win-win. So, calculate the number of user registration requests your MVP receives. The more the new registration, the more validated your MVP becomes.

Conducting online surveys is also a good idea to know how your customers feel about the product. Did they like its user experience? Does it solve their problems? What value is your MVP adding to their lives? These are some questions that will help you understand the scope of your MVP.

To make a product that your target audience would love, it is essential to build and validate an MVP. Here are eight more ways to validate your Minimum Viable Product.

Once you are done collecting the user insights on your MVP, refine it as per the feedback, re-launch your product, and keep iterating to satisfy your users’ needs.

3. Secure Appropriate Funding

Money is the bloodline of any startup. To take your tech startup off the ground, you will require money. A lot of money!
Just because you have a new business idea, nobody will come to you for investing in it.

If we believe statistics, 29% of startups fail because they run out of money. Turning an idea into a revenue-generating business needs a fuel called funding — when you need this fuel depends mainly on your startup type.

But, when you feel the need, here are some ways to fund your startup:

Top Funding Sources | How to Start a Tech Startup

a. Friends & Family

If you are in the early stages of your startup, asking for help from friends and family is not a bad idea. While it may be hard for you to convince investors to fund your startup, people who are close to you and believe in your dreams can help you in need. However, if you take this money as a loan, make sure you get legal advice and make a complete return plan.

b. Angel Investors

Angel investors are people with a massive amount of capital. Thus, they can invest a significant amount of money in a startup they think is disruptive.

They usually invest in return for some equity in the startup. Unlike VCs, angel investors don’t usually demand quick returns and comprehend that growing a startup into a profitable business can take quite a while.

Angel investors are beneficial for new companies who need funds in the startup growth phases.

If you are yet to validate your startup product development idea and need to conduct extensive market research that would require money, the funding raised with angel investors’ help can help you create a strong base for your company. The websites where you can find angel investors for your startup include AngelList, SeedInvest, Tech Coast Angels, and more.

c. Seed Funding Firms

Also known as incubators, seed funding firms help startups grow to their full potential by providing the required funds. These firms fund startups using a standardized process. In some cases, you may work in their office and use their staff. The two most popular seed funding firms are TechStars and Y Combinator.

d. Venture Capitalists

VC funds are overseen by experts that have a sharp eye for searching out startups with incredible potentials. Once there is an acquisition or IPO of the business they have invested in, they take their profits and seek other investments.

The advantageous part of finding a VC for your startup is that they will keep an eye on your startup’s growth to ensure they will get the profits. On the other hand, their expertise will help you run a tech startup effectively. However, VCs would stay loyal to your startup till they recover their profits which usually occurs in between three-four years.

Once you decide you need funds for your startup, proceed carefully while selecting your funding source as giving significant equity in return for funds can cause you loss in the long run.

When you find potential investors, make sure to pitch your idea confidently and effectively.

It doesn’t matter here whether you are a technical or non-technical person. You just need to have your business model on fingertips and show investors how it is beneficial for them. Once you get the funding, you can go ahead and build the startup of your dreams.

Conclusion

How to start a tech startup without a CTO? The question haunts many, but it is not rocket science. To build a tech startup, all you require is the right approach and not lines and lines of code.

Coming up with an incredible idea, fighting against the odds, visualizing a solution, and building a product that makes an impact is not everyman’s job. However, entrepreneurial minds like you, who have a clear vision and passion for attaining the goal, can do so.

If you are willing enough to start a tech startup that is disruptive, lack of technical knowledge, time, and money is hardly a matter of concern. Proper planning and the right execution will help you overcome these problems and launch a successful tech startup.

We Can Help You Take Your Startup Off the Ground


Adam Milne

About the Author

Adam is an experienced project and product manager with 5 years of experience with proven expertise in managing, leading and growing multi-cultural teams. He approaches work to inspire excellence, encourage team members to bring their best to each project. Adam thrives in competitive environments and gains maximum mental and output satisfaction from removing barriers and delivering successful outcomes. In his downtime, he prefer to bike around NYC, read and discover new pizza places.

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