Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

131. Three shows to watch to learn about tech

If you’re feeling guilty about switching on yet another streaming series, here are three shows you can watch to learn about tech in your downtime:

  1. General Magic - tells the tale of how a great vision and an epic failure changed the lives of billions. It is a documentary about the people and the technologies that led to the creation of the iPhone.
  2. Silicon Valley by HBO – comedy series about a start-up called Pied Piper and its founding team. Painfully close to the chaotic reality of running a start-up. Fun and useful for those who want to start a tech venture or invest in one.
  3. How will businesses use the metaverse? YouTube documentary by The Economist. The documentary is one of the very few things that both question the hype around the metaverse, while also showing its promise.

The documentary features interviews with Matthew Ball, author of the excellent The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything.

 

Listen here on Apple Podcasts

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129. To become a Digital Leader, join start-up advisory boards

Joining the advisory board of a promising tech start-up will teach you vital skills, build your network and transform your professional brand.

It is a great way to reshape your career, while still working in your current role.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Remember the difference between boards of directors and advisory boards. The former have fiduciary responsibility and the ability to hire / fire the CEO. The latter do not.
  2. Work out what the start-up needs and give it to them, before asking for an advisory board position. For example, if they need introductions to potential customers, make the introductions.
    • Have the conversation about formally joining the advisory board only after you have proven your value to a start-up founder.
  3. Be aware of the company’s stage: tech start-ups rarely need in depth financial analysis but do need introductions and help with operations. Don’t offer advice based on your experience. Offer advice based on the start-up needs.
  4. Do not view this as...
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121. Five things you can do to Thrive in the Tech Age

If you want to have a great career today, you simply have to Speak Tech. But, taking courses is not enough. You must combine learning with smart actions to make your investment pay off.

Here are five action steps you can take today to thrive in the Tech Age:

  1. Get involved with a tech start-up:
    • if you have specialist expertise, offer to become an advisor to a start-up so you can learn how digital innovation works from the inside.
    • For example, if you are a lawyer, offer your legal expertise in exchange for sitting in product meetings as an observer.
  2. Get involved with an accelerator:
    • this is like point one, but instead of offering your expertise to a specific start-up, offer it to an organisation that helps start-ups.
    • angel investment networks are also another useful route to follow here.
  3. Create your own tech focussed meet-ups:
    • This is especially useful if you want to learn and build your network in a particular niche. For example, if you work in a real estate investment fund,...
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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.

 

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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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