Why 2021 is the year for non-technical founders

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There is a longstanding perception that to build a successful tech startup, one needs a background in programming or IT. This misconception is further driven by the renowned success of tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft, all of which were founded by people with technical backgrounds. 

But despite common belief, someone no longer needs to be technical or have a technical co-founder to launch a successful technology startup.

One group in particular — the non-technical founders — are rising to the challenge of being able to creatively solve problems, whilst resourcefully seeking help to get their technology off the ground. The founders of Tinder, Airbnb, and closer to home, Canva and Afterpay, are some examples.

After a torrid year, 2021 is shaping up to be the year businesses start to better understand the shifts and disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. With no end in sight for the global crisis, there needs to be a focus on recognising disruptive opportunities, and re-evaluating how businesses are run and, often, structured. 

Knowing how to build a product, versus running a startup, are two distinct skill sets and the non-technical leaders have several advantages when it comes to this “new world” of work. 

Innovation is no longer just about the tech 

In a world shaken up by the pandemic, a sustained burst of challenges and improvisation have magnified the cracks in existing business models and brought to light a plethora of previously unfelt problems that now require solutions.

In my experience, some of the best ideas for these solutions come from someone with in-depth domain experience.

I’ve always found a good business starts with having a problem worth solving.

These problems already exist in every industry imaginable and are often highlighted by those working in these fields. As these problems intensify, the talented and ambitious domain experts within these fields will be the first ones to spot and attempt to reduce any roadblocks. 

The beauty of being a non-technical founder, particularly one with experience in a specific industry, is that you bring firsthand domain expertise and a niche understanding of the problems found within your industry.

As we continue to work towards pandemic recovery, this knowledge is indispensable.

Non-technical leaders bring in new perspectives

An idea with legs is always a fantastic starting point, but bringing it to fruition more often than not requires the right support.

While non-technical founders may not have been formally trained to write lines of code, their diverse backgrounds offer new perspectives to tackle unresolved problems. 

In the wake of the pandemic, we have seen founders go above and beyond, taking a holistic approach to solutions.

Despite their lack of technical capabilities, non-technical founders offer different strengths. These may include: identifying growth opportunities or new features from evolving customer preferences, defining the product’s value proposition, improving the company’s hiring processes, having a knack for raising capital, or looking after the company’s go-to-market strategy.

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