Summary: Whether you’re 15 or 75 – every entrepreneur should take advantage of the amazing tools and platforms available to us and start building her product. You’ll execute faster, recruit better talent, learn new skills and how to deal with constraints. And no matter what happens – you can keep going.
author’s note: This post I’m trying something new. I embedded my accompanying soundcloud “micropodcast” and discussed (see bottom) why I selected this photo. Please let me know if you enjoy – thanks, Kevin
I Can’t…Don’t Have Time…Am Too Old
Enough of the excuses. You CAN start building your product
Entrepreneurs ask me constantly for help finding tech-cofounders who can “build” the product. I usually ask them why they don’t start by building the product themselves. They give me a lot of reasons, most of them not very good1 One time I even had somebody 20 years younger than me tell me she was too old to learn!
I don’t care if you’re 15 or 75 – if you want to be an entrepreneur you should start building your own products.
My Story – Falling Back in Love with Code
How I went from developer … to manager … back to developer
“You’re the founder and have better things to do than sitting at computer coding”
–Someone who gave bad advice 5 years ago
My education (Electrical Engineering) was highly technical and at age 22 I assumed I would be doing technical work for my entire career. I soon found that most employers – particularly the US military where my career started – wanted me to spend more time “managing” and less time doing hands-on work.
By age 28 all of my work was management and I assumed my tech years were behind me. In 1999 I started Soapbox.com with Venture Capital and hired people to build the product – my days were management, meetings, and money.
10 years later I wanted to start my second web company and just assumed I would hire people again. Then the 2008 financial crises hit and there was almost no VC available. The people I wanted on the team all had their own startups. I knew that outsourcing development didn’t work for startups and didn’t have the money anyway.
So I decided to give this “Ruby on Rails” thing a try and start building my own product. In retrospect, it was one of the best career decisions I’ve made.
Coding Makes You Unstoppable
If you can code you can keep…going…even through tough times
“You are a warrior”
If you can code, your startup will never fail as long as you keep working at it. Never.
If you can’t raise money, can’t find a developer, or lose key team members, you can keep going. You may have to take a break from your startup to do some consulting, but you can keep going.
You Will Execute Faster
Quickly take customer conversations and turn them into product
Smaller teams are more efficient (up to a point), and there is no smaller team than 1. If you can hack together a mockup or a product you can start testing, getting it in the hands of people and getting feedback.
No meetings, no paper, no contracts, no phone calls, no specs. Customer input directly to code.
Building products is getting easier every day. What I can do today in 4 hours would have taken me 4 months and $100K 15 years ago. Take advantage of these amazing new tools and platforms.
You Will Attract Talent
The best developers will respect you more for coding
Developers hate working in environments where people don’t understand and appreciate their work. They also know that startups are 10x more efficient if the founding team can use technical terms when making business decisions.
Coding proves you “get it” and are building the foundation for great culture.
Even if Your Startup Fails – You Win
Learn to code and you’ll be in a better position for your next startup
Is this your last startup? Probably not. Even if you’re “successful” you’ll have the itch and probably never be able to get a day job again.
If “new skills” are a goal of being an entrepreneur then you can’t fail.
Put the Minimum in MVP
Coding yourself means making choices – and building less
If you start building your own product you will be forced to make choices. To build less. Serve a smaller niche. Focus.
This problem never goes away, there’s never enough money and time. You’ll be building the foundation of a great product by learning to deal with constraints from the beginning.
Try Not – Do or Do Not
How to Get Started
Programming isn’t something you LEARN – it is something you DO. There is always more to know, more to learn. It never ends and the only way to get started is to get started.
About the Photo
Photo credit: subblue
I picked this photo because it is fractal art. Fractals have always been a powerful visual metaphor for me, symbolic of the beauty and elegance of great software, the power of the simplicity. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
- The one exception to this rule is sales. If you are a sales guy AND you’re already selling the product before built it you’re probably an exception to this rule. But usually these type of people don’t need my help – they’re also great at “selling” to developers as well and can get people to rally around them. ↩