Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

112. The three stages of start-up teams

A tech start-up begins its life with a tiny team. The founders are either technical or tech savvy, but as the company scales its team has to change. 

Learn about the three stages of start-up team growth here.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • At stage 1, the start-up is focussed on building its first product and getting the first customers. The team is usually tiny, and each team member is either building the technology themselves or is very closely involved in the process. Everyone learns from each other on the job.
  • At stage 2, the start-up has raised Series A or Series B and is focussed on scaling. This is when specialists in non-technical fields start getting hired: HR experts, sales people etc. The gap between the techies and the non-techies widens, and this is where opportunities get lost.
  • At stage 3, the start-up is a late stage venture and is either preparing for a merger or an IPO. At this point, the original founder is very unlikely to be the CEO....
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109. Do this to become a Digital Collaborator today

To lead in the Digital Age, you need to become a Digital Collaborator. The best way to learn anything quickly is to put yourself in a situation where not doing it isn’t an option.

Listen to this episode to learn what you can do to start collaborating with tech teams and take your career to the next level.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • If you work in a corporate, set up a weekly meeting with technologists and your team to discuss what they’re working on and how it impacts scale, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. This public commitment to collaboration removes your choice to delay.
  • For example, if you work in marketing, set up regular meeting with the data science team and begin by outlining your goals for the year and where you see the biggest bottle necks. While the data science team might not have solutions right away, this will lay the foundations for future collaboration. 
  • Another way to do become a Digital Collaborator is to volunteer...
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104. Do things that don't scale

"One of the most common types of advice we give at Y Combinator is to do things that don't scale," says Paul Graham, Y Combinator founder. Recruiting users manually and getting feedback is what lets you build a scalable product.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the start is to recruit users manually. Nearly all startups have to. You can't wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and get them." - Paul Graham

  • A product is always a solution to a problem someone is experiencing. The better you understand the problem and the users, the better the product will be. This often means 1:1 conversations with your customers.

  • This advice doesn't only apply to early stage start-ups. If you are creating products, you are always looking for customer feedback to make them better. Brian Chesky still books Airbnbs to live in so he can experience his product as a customer.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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100. My story: ambition, tech and the camel incident

Today, I’m doing something a bit different. As our smart community grows, I know that some of you might not know much about me, my story or how I got into this tech thing.

That’s why today, I’m sharing a little bit about me.

I’m sharing this with you so that you can see that the confusion you feel about tech, or the fear that your lack of tech knowledge will be discovered, does not have to be your permanent reality. I want you to see from my example that there are many more opportunities for you than you probably think.

You will also learn what not to wear when riding a camel.

Summary notes from this episode:

  • I always wanted to have a great career, but when I graduated in 2005, tech wasn't what it is today. I started my career in the media, then worked in private equity and became a non-technical founder after my MBA.
  • I planned to use my MBA to transition into a career in tech, but this was harder than I thought. Business school gave me business skills...
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97. How I built Make Love Not Porn - with Cindy Gallop

Would you leave a high flying career in advertising to set up an adult content site? Most people wouldn't, but Cindy Gallop is not most people.

After leading one of the world's top advertising agencies, BBH in the United States. Cindy decided to try her hand at tech entrepreneurship. Her venture, Make Love Not Porn, is in the new category of "social sex" and aims to revolutionise how people talk, share and watch sex. 

As a non-technical founder of an adult content business, Cindy had to learn how to work with developers, get users despite being banned by advertisers and create a troll free online environment.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "You don't have to be a tech person to build something absolutely phenomenal in tech," says Cindy. Instead, you need a strong vision, the right team and the determination to keep going. 
  • "You do not need a technical co-founder from the beginning." In fact, delegating your vision to the tech person simply because they...
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87. 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.

 

Listen here...

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85. "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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81. 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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76. From offline business owner to tech entrepreneur

Creating a successful business is a huge feat, but even founders with profitable exits struggle when they first break into tech. Bryan Clayton co-founded Greenpal, the Airbnb for lawn mowing, after he sold his first business. But, his first business was a landscaping company, which meant that even as an experienced entrepreneur, he was a newbie in tech.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Non-technical founders need to know enough to be dangerous before hiring developers. Understand how your business strategy connects to product aims and know how to estimate your development budget.
  • Even badly made first products can show you’re on the right track, as long as you have interest from users. If people want to use your product, but your product sucks, you can improve the product and then scale. If you have a great product and nobody wants to use it, then you have a real problem.
  • The perfect scenario of a tech founder + business savvy founder rarely happens in real life. As long as...
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65. Fundraising For Non-Technical Founders

Many investors view non-technical founders as more risky. Sometimes this is plain silly, but there are legitimate investor concerns that non-techie founders will make costly mistakes that technical founders will not.

The answer is not to learn to build the product with your bare hands, but to know enough about tech to have a product strategy and relate it to business goals. 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • “You can be the ripest juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches,” - Dita von Teese. Some investors don't invest in non-technical founders and they never will. There are plenty of those who do. Spend your time on them.
  • Learn how to connect product metrics to business metrics, for example how does user engagement relate to revenue or fundraising goals?
  • Understand key tech concepts to make the right hires and set the right goals, but you do not have to retrain to become a...
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