Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

What makes platform businesses SO successful

Facebook disrupted the media market forever. The Apple App Store created the app economy, valued at $6.3 trillion today. What makes platforms like these SO successful?

In this episode, you will learn the core concepts behind platform businesses, so you can identify platforms in the making or build them yourself.

This is the beginning of a mini-series on platform fundamentals at Tech for Non-Techies.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Platform businesses have been around for millennia. A market square is a platform business. Technology just allowed these businesses to reach more scale and make more money than ever before.
  • Most traditional businesses are pipeline businesses. A pipeline business employs a step-by-step arrangement for creating and transferring value with producers at one end and consumers on the other. For example, Ford makes cars and sells them to consumers.
  • Pipeline businesses grow and prosper if they have Supply Economies of Scale. If Ford makes lots of...
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How to burn $2 billion

Does having $2 billion in the bank account and celebrity backing guarantee success for a consumer app? Not necessarily.

Listen to how one company burned through almost $2 billion and had to shut down their app after just 6 months. Learn what Quibi did wrong, so you can avoid their mistakes.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Success in one field does not necessarily translate into another, especially without training. Quibi's founders used lessons from launching Hollywood blockbusters to launching consumer apps. This did not work.
  • Follow the product development process, no matter how much money you have. Focus on the user. Do your research. Build in stages. Track user reactions at each stage and pivot if necessary.
  • Only invest in large budget marketing after you've proven user need at small scale. Focus on retention metrics first, then on growth. 

 

 

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You can't be half pregnant

Developers don't work in the same ways as non-technical professionals. If you don't know how to work with developers, you can waste thousands of dollars and get very frustrated, as you'll see from the story Sophia shares on this week's episode.

Learning notes from this episode:

    • A feature cannot be released when it is not ready. It is either ready to release, or it is not. There is no half way line. A feature can't be half ready, just like you can't be half pregnant. 
    • Developers usually work in two-week cycles, when they are focussed on a specific set of tasks. For example, in a two week period, developers may be working on a specific feature for an app. Then they release it, and start on another feature.
    • Since what developers do affects the rest of what the product team does, this lesson is relevant if you want to work with other people in the product team, like designers, community managers and data scientists.
    • Corporate accelerators for technology start-ups, which...
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How to commercialise innovation

Success in tech consists of two parts: making great products and using them to build a business. No matter how brilliant an app or algorithm is, if people do not want to pay for it, it is unlikely to live for long.

This is why all tech innovators need to learn the core skills of commercialising innovation.

Listen to this episode to learn how Salesforce, Starbucks and Xero commercialise their tech products, and so you can apply their lessons too.

The top 3 questions you need to answer to ensure your tech product has business success are:

  1. How will this product help people make more money?
  2. How will this product improve customer experience?
  3. How will this product improve efficiency?

Always focus on the benefits that the product will bring customers, not its features.

Tell Sophia what you’re working on and submit your questions to her on [email protected]

Or reach her on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

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What is coding? The quick guide for non-coders

The terms coding and programming are ubiquitous, yet many non-technical professionals do not know what they mean in practice. Why are there different coding languages? What do developers actually do?

This is what you'll learn in this episode.

Learning notes:

  • Data is information that you can use to do something with. For example, your shopping list is information that you use to remember what food to buy when you go to the supermarket.
  • Technology is what you use to create, store or communicate that data. In our shopping list example, it could be pen and paper, or the notes app on your phone. 
  • In order to make software, you have to tell a computer what to do. You do this via a programming language. All digital technologies are created by using specific coding languages to turn data into useful outcomes.
  • Python Java, C++ and Ruby are the most popular languages  today. But, there are 256 coding languages in use today.
  • Binary code, also known as ...
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"Don't be afraid of the tech," lessons from a non-technical founder

Nasi Rwigema doesn't have a background in software, but that didn't stop him from building his tech platform: Umwuga, a social network for blue collar workers in South Africa. To his surprise, he found that figuring out what people want is much harder than learning about tech.

Nasi is one of Sophia's students from London Business School. He took her course three years ago, and used his knowledge, network and resilience to build his platform.

If you have an idea for a tech venture, as a founder or a corporate innovator, or you want to invest in tech businesses, but don't have a tech background, this episode is for you.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "Don't be afraid of the tech and don't let not having a tech person hold you back," says Nasi. "Instead, focus on the customer and the problem you are solving."
  • Show traction from the start. This doesn't necessarily mean revenue or explosive user growth. It means doing whatever you can to solve the problem for the customer.
  • ...
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What UX designers do and how to work with them

”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it's this veneer — that the designers are told, 'Make it look good! ' That's not what design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works,” - Steve Jobs 

In this episode, you''ll hear from Sarah Doody, a UX designer who has worked for the likes of Vice Media and Dow Jones. Today Sarah runs Career Strategy Lab, a school for UX designers. 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "User experience design is how you interact with a product, whether it's digital, physical or a mix of both," Sarah Doody.
  • When hiring a UX designer, think about the outcome that you want, rather than the process. E.g. Do you want a prototype to test an idea? Then you don't need the same level of attention to graphics as you would for a design you would give to developers. 
  • If you want to transition into a career in UX design, your experience in another...
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How tech companies bring new ideas to life

If you have an idea for a new product in a traditional business, you will probably have to work on an extensive plan before you do anything else.

This is not how it works in tech companies. When the likes of Airbnb and Slack bring new apps or features to market, they use the Sprint Method. It is a methodology developed by Google Ventures to bring new ideas to life and test them quickly and cheaply.

Learn how this works in this podcast.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The aim of a sprint is to test an idea for a new product to find out whether it is worth investing more money in. For example, you can use a sprint to test an idea for an app by creating a prototype. If users like what you’ve made, only then should you hire developers.
  • Each sprint should focus on one idea to test. Do not try to test multiple ideas in one sprint.
  • To figure out where the biggest risks in a new idea lie, ask yourself: if this time in a year, this project failed, why would it have done so?
  • A sprint...
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Intro to agile for non-techies

Agile is now a ubiquitous management term, but few people understand what it means in practice.

For some products, agile is THE BEST system, for others, it is THE WORST.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out what it is, how it works in practice, when to use it and when to avoid it.

You’ll hear how WhatsApp used this methodology to release its first product, and learn how to use it yourself.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • There are two methodologies to make things: waterfall and agile.
  • Waterfall came from manufacturing and construction and emphasises planning in order to release a perfect product. For example, if you’re building a house, you need to plan ahead and only let people move in to live in it when it is complete.
  • Agile methodology is an iterative process, used by software developers. Simple changes get released frequently, in response to user needs or technological changes. The product is by definition never complete, because it is always changing.
  • ...
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Technology is just another business tool. Don’t put it on a pedestal.

It’s easy to put the tech sector on a pedestal, as we’re constantly bombarded with its power and profits. But “technology is just a tool to affect business outcomes,” says prop tech entrepreneur Sebastian Rivas.

Sebastian runs Andes STR, a which uses machine learning algorithms to find property investments for short term rentals. If you want to invest in a property and rent it out on Airbnb, Andes STR will find the investment and manage the rental.

Sebastian started his career in finance, and created a smart plan to break into tech. Listen to this episode to learn how he did it.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Technology is a tool used in business to improve efficiency, user experience and productivity, but it is not an end in itself.
  • Being tech savvy and understanding how technology influences business outcomes is a must have in today’s working environment, almost no matter where you work. Even your coffee shop has an app!
  • “The biggest...
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