Let's face it, in the startup world ideas have less value than the ability to execute them. Given an idea; a techie can build, a designer can visualise, but what can one do with no/few tech skills?
A surprisingly large amount, it seems. We have loads of non-technical founders in TechHub, so we had a chat to them about how to be invaluable to a startup, and how to attract a 'CTO'. Here's 5 things that cropped up repeatedly, and can help make you irresistible.
1. Be technically literate
Unfortunately, there is no getting around this. You don't need to know which language or framework you want to use, and you certainly don't need to win any debates on tech topics. But you do need to understand what a CMS is, the difference between iPhone and Android, and the fact that each browser renders things differently.
So how do you get there? Make a Wordpress blog for yourself, and play around with it. Make a fake Wordpress e-commerce store. Take a (very) short course on CodeAcademy, and buy programming for Dummies. Chat to a technically literate friend. Check out similar projects to yours on o-Desk, People Per Hour etc to see how much you can expect to pay, and how others were built.
2. Understand the market and where your product fits into it
If you know your competitors and, most importantly, why customers should come to you instead, you have knowledge valuable to any startup. Techies tend to be well versed on technical subjects, but may lack industry/market knowledge. To be really invaluable, you need to be comfortable as a 'knowledge center'.
So how can you do this? Research, mainly. Try example searches that your target market might make. Write down the areas where existing products are dominating, and ways that you can beat them. Speak to people with expertise in the industry, and ask how they would solve the 'problem' that you're solving. Know your target market inside out. Read industry reports. It sounds a lot, but it can actually be quite straightforward. Think: the most important school assignment you've ever done. School wasn't so bad, was it?
3. Be well connected, be the person 'everyone wants to know'
Connections can't be overrated. When contemplating your startup, you'll need insider industry knowledge, the right people to rave about your launch, investors to give you cash. The one common denominator to all these things: people. Having a strong network is something that not every techie will have, so make sure that you do.
So how do you go about getting these connections? Family and friends - how many of them have ever worked in the industry/market that you're going after? Odds are, there's one or two leads there. Join a co-working space, or online community, that will give you an instant network. Silicon Drinkabout and other events are great for getting to know the startup community. Chat on Twitter, write a blog, participate wherever you can. If people know you and like you, you've managed to achieve something that not many people can.
4. Make/fake a proven track record
There are a plethora of people with the next 'Big Thing' that Google will buy for �1gazzilion. If you do go to Silicon Drinkabout, you've probably met a couple. Techies are (understandably) weary of these people, and so you need to show that you're battle hardened. If they are too, they'll respect you for it, and if they're not, then you can show them the ropes, and be a mentor.
This one is hard to fake. Downright impossible, even. Find founders and take them out for a coffee. Find out what went right, what went wrong, and what they'd do differently if they started out now. Maybe shadow one for a week, under the guise of an internship. Better yet, bite the bullet, and try building a small business yourself. Wordpress stores, eBay stores, importing through AliBaba all can teach you valuable lessons in a short (and cheap) period. I hate to paraphrase anyone, especially a global corporation, but as Facebook says; "Done is better than perfect".
5. Sell yourself properly; build your personal brand
So now you know what techies look for in a co-founder, the final step is to sell yourself to them. A classic mistake is to appear desperate; running around trying to find anyone that can code and 'pitching' yourself to them. Take the time to find people that would be a good fit for you, and take it slow. A conversation over a coffee will let you know how well someone engages with you. If you approach the process as professional and calm, you will be treated as such.
Finally, just remember: in finding a CTO (or tech co-founder), you are essentially asking someone with highly sought-after skills to work for free. You need to convince them not just that your idea is solid but, most importantly, that you could do it without them. Everyone wants to be part of something great, and if they believe that you will build that, then 'selling' yourself to them will become a lot easier.