Many of us dream of having our own start-up but are deterred by one thing – our lack of technical skills. Due to the high degree of technicality involved, the start-up world has always seemed like a playground for only computer science graduates or anyone equipped with programming skills.
Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were all founders of highly successful technology companies. A common thing between them? There were all programmers.
Does that really mean that the startup world is not a place for non-technical people?
Well, not really.
Ever heard of Arum Kang? The female founder of Coffee Meets Bagel, a dating app that famously rejected a 30 million acquisition offer from Mark Cuban on the popular TV series Shark Tank.
She didn’t understand a single line of code yet was able to build her own tech startup. Amazing huh?
So how did she do it?
(Watch the talk by Arum Kang here for the full story.)
Here’s a quick summary for you:
Arum and her sisters were non-technical business majors.
Yet, that did not faze them when they first had the idea for Coffee Meets Bagel. One shrewd observation by Arum was that many people get caught up trying to find the perfect CTO for their startups. This was challenging because great programmers would only want to work for great companies.
Unless your startup is working on some futuristic machine learning or AR/VR technology, you wouldn’t need a top notch programmer to begin with. All you need is someone with basic programming skills who can build you your minimum viable product (MVP).
With that in mind, they went onto online platforms for freelancers such as UpWork to look for their first programmer and were able to find a really cheap programmer from Indonesia who produced a solid MVP.
With the MVP, they were able to conduct user experience tests with their friends and families to validate their idea. Fortunately for them, people loved their product and it gained traction.
However, one unfortunate thing happened. Their programmer disappeared, leaving them with a chunk of code they didn’t understand. At that point, they had just raised their first round of funding.
It struck Arum that she needed to formally look for a CTO.
To do so, she went to many developer meetups, posted ads on Craigslist, sought recommendations from friends and many more.
One advice she had was to not rush into finding and committing to a CTO and if you want to attract the right talent, you need to be generous with your equity. You can’t be stingy because that person is going to spend the same amount of time and energy and ride the roller-coaster of emotions with you.
She found her first CTO on Craigslist. (Below shows an image of her Craigslist posting.) She didn’t specifically mention that she was looking for a CTO because she didn’t want to set the expectations too high for the other party and it was important for her to work with the person and find out if this person is the right person for the job.
Unfortunately, the first CTO didn’t quite work out. However, she met her second CTO at a Python meetup later on and he is now the current CTO of Coffee Meets Bagel!
Her talk at HustleCon (click here) contains much more details and valuable advice for early-stage founders. For instance, how much equity she had to offer her CTO, her process of finding the right CTO, problems that she faced with freelance programmers and how she managed to obtain her first round of funding.
I highly recommend you to watch the talk. It will definitely be well worth your time!