Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

"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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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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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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How I used accelerators to build a tech business

Andi Govindia has gone through three accelerators on her start-up journey. This helped her build a business model, find co-founders and get her first major clients.

Andi leads Riviter, a visual search company that uses AI to predict fashion and beauty trends, and counts L'Oreal amongst its clients.  

If you’re interested in entrepreneurship and how non-technical founders can succeed in tech, this one is for you.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Use Effectual Logic: ask yourself what the simplest and laziest way is for you to solve a problem. The simplest way is often imperfect, but results matter more than perfection.
  • If you are applying for accelerators, link their speciality to your current needs. Andi participated in Chicago Booth's New Venture Challenge, Plug & Play and Founders Factory. Each accelerator has different strengths, and Andi used them for different purposes.
  • Andi collaborated with her co-founders for a year before they...
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How I built a party platform

Put on your party pants! In this episode, you'll hear from Julie Novack, the CEO & non-technical co-founder of PartySlate. PartySlate is a platform that connects event professionals to people planning events.

During the pandemic, PartySlate had to quickly reinvent its offering, but managed to end 2020 with no revenue loss. This is a great story in about resilience, leadership and giving users what they want.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Julie spent a year researching Houzz, a platform for interior designers, to get inspiration for PartySlate. If a company is doing something similar to you, but for different users, study them.
  • PartySlate's content drives users to discover the platform and get inspired. This means that PartySlate will be front of mind when the user is ready to book an event. This is a great example of content marketing.
  • PartySlate makes money by charging event professionals for premium listings. For this, they need to understand those...
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AI, visual search & entrepreneurship with Jenny Griffiths MBE

“The biggest lie told in tech is that you that you need to be a coder. I think that being able to understand the user experience behind tech, being able to articulate technology, and being able to get other people excited about it, is what you really need to run a good company,” says Jenny Griffiths MBE, founder of Snap Vision.

Jenny is the founder and CEO of Snap Vision, a visual search company that works with the biggest names in fashion and publishing.

She has been featured on the World's Top 50 Women in Tech by Forbes lists. She was appointed MBE for Services to Innovation in 2015, and in 2019 was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering's Silver Medal for contributions to UK engineering.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The grass is always greener on the other side. Investors tell technical founders that they’re missing business skills, and non-technical founders that they need tech skills.
  • Snap Vision began as a consumer product, and while the Snap Vision...
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Founder Stories: How I Built IVY, the Social University

 In this episode you'll hear from Beri Meric about how he built a global social platform as a non-technical founder. Beri began his career in banking, has an MBA from Harvard, and is drawn to big picture thinking rather than writing code.

IVY, a global content and community platform, attracts celebrity speakers, works with blue chip clients and has investor backing.

Beri shares how he went from idea to product, how he works with developers and the benefits of being a non-technical founder.

 

Learning notes from this episode:

Beri’s first hire was a designer, not a developer. He found her through via a recommendation. This is the best way to hire product talent.

Beri has never had a technical co-founder, like most of the successful non-technical founders we’ve had on TFNT.

Many people get put off starting work on their venture because they do not have a technical co-founder. We keep seeing that this does not have to get in your way.

Beri has...

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How I Built A Fintech AI Business As A Non-Technical Founder

Sophia Matveeva spoke to Jung Seok Kung (JS) founder of Aizen, a fintech company which uses AI to support decision making and manage risk for banks. JS is a non-technical founder, who now leads a company that processes 10,000+ algorithms in real time.

If you want to learn what AI is in practice and how it's changing business this episode is for you.

We cover how JS went from spotting a market opportunity to creating an algorithm using a spreadsheet, and the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • An algorithm is just a set of instructions that you put into a computer.
  • JS created a prototype of his algorithm using a spreadsheet. The aim of his algorithm was to give out loans to customers. He bought lending data from the Lending Club and tested it against a control group. This means one set of loan applications was assessed by the algorithm and the other was done manually. By doing this, JS proved that his algorithm was making correct decisions....
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What Non-Technical Founders Need to Know About Tech

David Segura is a perfect example of how non-techies can thrive in technology. His first venture, Giant Media, was a native video advertising exchange which David sold for millions to an ad tech company backed by TPG & JMI in 2014. Since then David has invested in almost 50 startups, many of which have technology at their core.

In this interview, David talks about what he had to learn about tech as a non-technical founder, whether you need a co-founder and why learning to code is a waste of time.

 

 

Listen here on Apple Podcasts

Listen here on Spotify.

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Do you have a brilliant app idea and no tech knowledge to build it? Get your FREE guide here.

 

To watch the full session on video and access learning notes, join the Tech for Non-Techies membership community. As a community member, you'll get:

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  • Mini-course on how to go from idea to live app
  • Supportive Online Community
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How I Built A Global Social Network with Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER, the world’s largest brand for LGBTQ women & queer people. Their app is home to 5 million people across the world, with dating and community connections, and their events run in 15 cities, hosting 50,000 people per year.

She is also an alumna of Y Combinator, the prestigious Silicon Valley accelerator, and has raised $2.5 million from investors.

Despite Robyn's Silicon Valley successes, she is not a technical founder. Her background is in branding.

Listen to hear how Robyn:

  • built a global technology company without a tech background
  • made her first technical hires & hear her advice for non
  • technical founders and non-techies working in tech 

 

 

Listen here on Apple Podcasts

Listen here on Spotify.

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Do you have a brilliant app idea and no tech knowledge to build it? Get your FREE guide here.

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There are 2 ways to apply this work to your unique challenges:

For companies:

  • If your...
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