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HOT TOPIC Non-Technical Founders: Stop Learning How To Code

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Rickson9

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"People are also learning how to code because of the perception in the tech entrepreneurial realm that in order to start a company you need to write code. Often driven by necessity (when a non-technical person cannot find a developer, she or he resorts to learning how to code), this notion is driving floods of aspiring entrepreneurs to take up a new learning venture. That’s all well and good, and good for you if you want to learn to code. But I’m telling you right now, stop coding."

Non-Technical Founders: Stop Trying to Learn How to Code | @Technori
 

InMotion

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I stopped a long time ago. The experience factor required in this arena is way beyond worth learning for anything but small stuff, IMO. Great article.
 

InMotion

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LOL....I think the only reason there is a debate is because people don't accept the fact that if they don't already know how to code, and your over the age of 25 or so, your wasting time and should get a technical co-founder or hire it out through a CTO or something; if your looking at building something technically complex. Anything requiring over a WordPress site or something simple, should be left to those who already know how to do it; unless you have years under your belt already. If you don't have those years, most opportunities will pass you by without a partner or cash to make it happen. Those with business savvy can provide ample value elsewhere. Just my opinion lol.
 

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Learn to code, don't learn to code...I couldn't give a shit what people want to do with their time. That's their own choice and it's none of my business.

But from a personal level, as a tech-founder, I just have to say that sometimes not knowing how to code makes me feel like I'm walking around without an arm or something. It gets frustrating when I need to get things done....

...but don't take what I said the wrong way, learning to code still doesn't guarantee that the frustration will be removed. I learned math and I still get annoyed when I have to do it.. It's just an observation.
 

dknise

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LOL....I think the only reason there is a debate is because people don't accept the fact that if they don't already know how to code, and your over the age of 25 or so, your wasting time and should get a technical co-founder or hire it out through a CTO or something; if your looking at building something technically complex. Anything requiring over a WordPress site or something simple, should be left to those who already know how to do it; unless you have years under your belt already. If you don't have those years, most opportunities will pass you by without a partner or cash to make it happen. Those with business savvy can provide ample value elsewhere.

Stop Looking For A Technical Co-founder | TechCrunch

There's an article for every opinion and side.

In my experience, this has been entirely true. All of my techy-business friends are focused on their own company and not one is looking to develop some non-technical persons ideas. I think the "technical co-founder" is somewhat like a unicorn or Santa, either they don't exist or only few have seen them. As long as you're not looking to develop some super-coded service or platform, but just looking to make small apps or something, then you should be fine just outsourcing.


Something that hasn't really been mentioned in this on-going debate, is that technical founders in the tech world are the ones that are bringing in the big bucks with their companies. Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook all wouldn't have been possible without guys behind it who were intimately passionate about software and their products.
 

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InMotion

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As long as you're not looking to develop some super-coded service or platform, but just looking to make small apps or something, then you should be fine just outsourcing.

Agreed.
 

James Fake

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My advice: learn enough so you don't get ripped off.

Not everybody will be able to pick up on coding. It's hard work. The learning curve to learn and actually be able to build stuff is fairly steep; and outsourcing your project often times makes the best sense. Advantages and disadvantages to both however.

p.s. - Here's a good read about me learning Ruby on Rails to build my own fastlane app. Maybe it'll help someone..
 

theDarkness

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Could Jobs code?

Sometimes I wonder whether the "looking for a tech co-founder" stuff is a cover for not having a need that the presumed founder is ready to fill. They want someone who's been out programming as a job for years who can tell them what the sticking points are in the industry. Or maybe not. I don't really know. Is it that they simply don't want to pay to hire someone? I think it could very easily become that mythical unicorn that you chase that "prevents" you from ever really knuckling down.

Eventually you'll have to assemble a team to grow past a certain point and detach the rewards from your time, so at some point you have to let go of your own coding skills. I think it's no different than any industry - you have to know a LOT about the industry in general so that you can steer the ship, but knowing how to do every little thing yourself is only really relevant when bootstrapping . . .
 

Skys

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I think somebody does not waste time learning how to code. I think somebody would waste time reading tons of articles about whether he should learn how to code or not. This is an article on the "don't learn how to code" side of the argument, and after reading that, you might not want to learn how to code anymore and quit your Udacity course.
Weeks go by... Maybe even months, and you decide to read a book. It's Paul Grahams, and it's called "hackers and painters". Wow. We do live in a technical era and it would be f*cking stupid to not learn how to code.. I know I am a noob. I know I don't know anything about it..but in reality I am not doing much in building a business now anyway, so... why not learn some code..
There we go... 'dive into python".. this time I stick to it !....... Or should I learn JavaScript? It seems to be the scripting language of the future? Maybe in combination with HTML5? .. Damn, then I should also learn CSS. But wait, I want to make applications.. What do I need for that? Back end? Front end?
I think... Hmm, let's read some articles about that !
Okay, back-end it is...We have choosen, not sure why, here too where lots of pros and cons to be found between back and front. Now we 'only' have to pick a language. We have Python... we have C... We have Objective-C, hm.. that's for the Mac users... I am not sure if I want to build for android or apple... damn. Let's read some articles.
Okay.. we go for android... Python .. it is..Smart choice, MIT uses it in their introduction to computer science.... but I am creative, a very creative person.. should I pick Ruby? If everybody is studying Python, wouldn't it be better to learn a different language?
PhP seems nice... Or just plain old C perhaps? Cobol, what's that? And what's Perl??
... damn, back to the articles.. !
.................... until you find your next "don't learn how to code" article. All tired of doing all the research, you decide to cut the crap and stop coding. You don't need it anyhow to become an entrepreneur... ...... until you read 'delivering happiness', to find out that even Tony was a programmer before he got his billions with Zappos......

This is the time waster, I believe. Not so much the learning how to program. But the analyses if one should learn how to program or not, using a medium with a sea of information that will only lead to paralyses. Make up your mind and learn how to think on your own. What's your goal and what do you need? If you feel it's coding, learn it. Nobody can make a life decision like that for you (yes, it's a life decision, 10k hours, it will be demanding!,..... but maybe you are missing out by not learning it, who knows!). Only you. Reading an article might help, until you get paralyzed by analyses and quit taking action at all. Or worse, fake the action. "I am reading so I am taking action".
To say that you can't become an expert after the age of 25 and that this somebody would waste their time, I disagree. Not because I am learning how to code (i am not, would be a complete time waster for me) but because It's way to much of a generalisation.
Life can't be answered by reading a book or a map (watched the hobbit yesterday..might be a bit influenced by Gandalf here). If you have the strong feeling you want to learn how to code... then nobody should stop you from doing it. If you come to the conclusion it would be a waste of time, then stop thinking about it. Move on. Forever................. until you read your next article.

I do think, after talking with so many people about it, that it's a bad choice to learn how to code only to become an entrepreneur. And that's what this article explains well. But, on the other hand, when is it ever a good time to do something just as a means to an end? Never.
 

AllenCrawley

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I have no desire to learn how to code. That's why I'm looking at working with a startup tech accelerator.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Trying to become wealthy by the internet/apps and not knowing a damn thing about code or technology is laughable.

Likewise, let me suggest that you don't know a damn thing about mathematics or finance when you try to manage your millionaire empire. :smilielol:
 

Skys

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Trying to become wealthy by the internet/apps and not knowing a damn thing about code or technology is laughable.

Likewise, let me suggest that you don't know a damn thing about mathematics or finance when you try to manage your millionaire empire. :smilielol:

Reading your book for the first time went a bit like this: Rentals? Hmm.. Can't see how I can make that work for me. Content... Write a book? Cool ! .. Selling my content seems awesome! Let's do that ! All event.
After that, I thought..Hmm so software... Cool. Learning how to program seems like the way to go!
Distribution? Don't have any money.... Can't build my own store.

Software does seem to be the most appealing. It hit your CENTS the hardest: Problem solving by building a great app. Entry level is low (but not to low, programming is hard, and it should be a process, not an event... ), because you could learn to program from home. Control, yep.. Scale... Most definetely... Time, you are building the product, you can set yourself lose from the equation.

In all honousty, I don't find it weird at all that people that read books like the FLM want to learn how to program. Everything you read about entrepreneurship nowadays is about software.

- Rentals. You can rent out real estate, permission to use your patents, play your songs, etc. Your investment is the effort and cost to product/acquire the product being rented, and then you can collect rental payments without doing a lot of extra work.
- Software. If you put something up online, you implicit get the leverage of having it available all over the world, 24/7. Things that are too niche to work on a local level can be big successes with a global audience.
- Content. When you write a book, create a CD, etc. you can make a lot of money selling your content. Again, the time investment is paid upfront and then you can profit from the same product for a long time.
- Distribution Systems. If you create a system that others use to make money, you can make a lot of money. This includes storefront that wholesalers use (e.g. Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more), Apple’s App Store, franchise creators, etc.
 
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dknise

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Trying to become wealthy by the internet/apps and not knowing a damn thing about code or technology is laughable.

Likewise, let me suggest that you don't know a damn thing about mathematics or finance when you try to manage your millionaire empire. :smilielol:

:thumbsup:

Of course the argument to that would be that you don't need to know anything about mathematics or finance, you'll just hire someone who does. I'm just going to go through life not knowing anything and am going to be super successful! :smilielol:
 

AllenCrawley

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Trying to become wealthy by the internet/apps and not knowing a damn thing about code or technology is laughable.

I'm a little familiar with the debate that raged on in an earlier thread about this. Are you saying that I need to learn everything there is to learn about coding a robust website in order for that business to be successful? If so, do I then need to do the actual coding? These are sincere questions. It's important to research the technology that will be involved and I can understand having some basic knowledge of coding so you know what you want and how you want it done and to know if a programmer is doing it the way you want. When I stated that I have no desire to learn how to code, that's the truth. I don't - but I know I will need at least some basic understanding.

The recent news about Avis buying Zipcar for $500,000,000 was amazing and inspiring.

Zipcar: Two Moms, a Business Idea and $68 in the Bank | Entrepreneur.com

Here's a snippet that raised more questions than it answered:

"It was time to build the reservation and car security technology and to lease the initial cars, which meant time to raise money. Chase began talking up Zipcar to alumni, businesses, environmental groups, and her local networks. In February, she had one Sloan classmate and her husband over for dinner, hoping for a little advice."

They obviously needed money to lease the initial cars and seemingly to have the reservation and car security technology developed. Did these women know how to do that or did they just have some basic understanding of the technology available and what needed to be done and hired out that work?
 

TK1

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Trying to become wealthy by the internet/apps and not knowing a damn thing about code or technology is laughable.

Likewise, let me suggest that you don't know a damn thing about mathematics or finance when you try to manage your millionaire empire. :smilielol:

Amen.

Like Paul Graham said in one article "How do you spot a good coder when you don't know anything about it?"

How do you hire people in this field if you don't know anything about it?

How do you have a technical co-founder if you can't judge what a good or bad technical co-founder is?

And to all the people always using the Steve Jobs example: Jobs was way more into tech than people make him, he was NOT just a marketing-salesguy bla bla, he knew his stuff up into the smallest details on the technical side.
 

Skys

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How do you hire people in this field if you don't know anything about it?


How do you have a technical co-founder if you can't judge what a good or bad technical co-founder is?

Most recruiters/headhunters do a pretty good job at Silicon Valley doing just that. You don't need to learn how to program to 'detect' a good programmer.

"How do you spot a good coder when you don't know anything about it?"

Okay, now give me the quote where he says, literally, that you should learn to program. There are lots of ways you can learn about the tech world, without being a programmer.

But if you want to spend your next 10 years into becoming a ninja programmer, all the luck to you.
I am pretty sure a lot of things that you need to become a succesful entrepreneur are not being teached in your house learning how to code

Learn programming in 21 days
 

theDarkness

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Amen.

Like Paul Graham said in one article "How do you spot a good coder when you don't know anything about it?"

How do you hire people in this field if you don't know anything about it?

How do you have a technical co-founder if you can't judge what a good or bad technical co-founder is?

And to all the people always using the Steve Jobs example: Jobs was way more into tech than people make him, he was NOT just a marketing-salesguy bla bla, he knew his stuff up into the smallest details on the technical side.

But the question wasn't whether he was merely "into tech," was it? Unless someone who knows more about Jobs can chime in, he seems like a great example of consistently knowing "just enough"--or even much more than just enough--without really being elite at any one technical thing.


I think of it like - if you want to make a biz selling pies, you better know a whole hell of a lot about the process of creating and selling pies. The whole process, from raw materials to the baking to distribution to marketing, etc. Know enough that if you had all the time in the world you could go through all the steps yourself and have sold a half-decent pie at the end. But then if you're delaying starting your business because you need to learn to become an "expert baker" - you're probably wasting your time.

I don't think learning anything in itself is a waste of time - only when the learning becomes a way of putting off what you need to do.
 

Skys

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I think of it like - if you want to make a biz selling pies, you better know a whole hell of a lot about the process of creating and selling pies.

This is how I think about it too. If you are in the pie business, you better know a lot about pies.
On the other hand. This might be completely untrue.
Tony Heish, from Zappos, knew nothing about shoes, or ecommerce. He just made it work, with a great team.

I start to believe, maybe completely wrong, that entrepreneurship is way more of a teamsport than most books make it to be.
So, maybe you know a ton about marketing the pie, selling the pie and getting tons of customers,
while your buddy knows everything about baking them.
Focus on your strengths.

I have my doubts about people starting to learn how to program because they read an inspirational book like the Fastlane Millionaire. Why? Because most programmers just get really good at it by, dare I say it, loving programming a whole lot. They spend hours and hours honing their craft. Many of them have done this for over 10 years.
Now, somebody reads a book about entrepreneurship and reads the inspiring story about PayPal. Programming does seem like a logical stap.. but is this somebody doing it for the love of programming? Or for the love of entrepreneurship? or just, dare I say it, because he thinks he will make a ton of money by becoming a very good programmer?

Although I disagreed with a previous writer who said that above 25 it's a waste of time. I disagree when this person really wants to learn it, because of programming. I agree, if it's because he read in a book that you can become really rich with learning how to program.

Since this is the fastlane forum.. a guide to millions, a lot of people come to this site with the dream / goal to become really rich. I might come to the wrong conclusion by saying that most will learn programming for the wrong reasons (= making (lots) of money and therefore will fail, but I do believe it's true.
 

klh6686

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There are many different angles on the topic, you have the typical comparison of knowing absolutely no code vs being a google worthy programmer. There is an in between, you don't have to know how to program in every language there is, but knowing something is better than knowing nothing.

On the flip side, sometimes it is better to just farm it off to somebody else. If you have plenty of money to fund other programmers then by all means let the cash fly and get the program you wanted, but don't complain about how much it cost you since you don't truly understand what you're getting.

I chose to learn programming because I like to tinker and problem solve. I enjoy doing things myself, more as a personal challenge to see if I can complete a challenging task. As a young man, I have more time that I can invest than I do large sums of money, so I operate accordingly.

Because of this I can make a better decision as to whether or not I should pay a guy 500 bucks to install wordpress, or if that theme I'm looking at is really worth a shit, or if my website is down because of hosting or something else vs someone that knows nothing about these things.

There is no clear cut answer saying "All entreprenuers who want to be successful with anything internet related has to be able to code their own web apps."

Ultimately, just like any other decision you make, you need to ask yourself "am I really going to benefit from this" and weigh the pros and cons. If it would take you years to learn to run a basic website, then you're better off finding people that can do that for you.

EDIT: one last thing to mention, In my career, I've always enjoyed my time under bosses who had programming experience vs those that did not. The ones that did not always made life VERY stressful by making unreasonable demands, only caring about timeframes, and they never appreciated any quality of work, therefore most of their projects had the lowest common quality.
 

howandwhy

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I agree with Skys. There are few stories when people started learning new skills at their late stage of life and still made big impact. It is how you look into it. My personal story is: I am from health care background with tons of ideas which involve interfacing both software technologies and health science side. So every time I want to validate an idea I have to keep hiring a programmer. And boy, a good programmer is not cheap. Some of the best programmers make 3x-5x of what I make. So the only way I can test lots of ideas is by learning some programming. Initially I had all the excuses not to learn programming (I have no time, I am old, I can not find good resources etc etc). But as time pass by I feel it is absolutely necessary for me. Hell, it will take me a long time to become a proficient programmer. But I see learning programming has few advantages. Mostly are.

1. As I grow older, it will help my memory muscles stay fit.

2. I will have a realistic idea what features will take how much time and resources to develop.

3. When I will be hiring a programmer, I can go his/her github profile page and stackoverflow profile page, see their quality of work or contribution to the community.

4. The most important thing is that when you think of developing a prototype you think of both sides of the table rather than getting pigeon holed into a single field of thought.

However, these are my personal observations. So take it with a grain of salt.

One more big advantage is

You can work from any part of the world and deliver your project to a client on other side of planet. Never in the history our ancestors have such a work privilege. Heck even most of the todays jobs involve showing up at a office(work place) by 8.00 am.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Trying to become wealthy by the internet/apps and not knowing a damn thing about code or technology is laughable.

Likewise, let me suggest that you don't know a damn thing about mathematics or finance when you try to manage your millionaire empire.

Derek Sivers agrees with me.

Yes, learn basic programming | Derek Sivers

If you heard someone say, ”I have this idea for a song. But I’m not musical, so I need to find someone who will write, perform, and record it for me.” - you’d probably advise them to just take some time to sit down with a guitar or piano and learn enough to turn their ideas into reality.
 

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Every time I see this debate, all I see are clashing personalities and zero correct answers.

If you want full control over your venture, then you must know the bare bones of your enterprise. All of it. Have a Web site? Know what is making the Web site work, even if it's just the Wordpress Thesis theme. Don't rely on a bookkeeper to know your finances, know them yourself. He/she might manage them but you gotta be able to know how to do it yourself in case something happens to him/her. Same with coding. If you can't build your software, that's fine. But if you can't fix your software, or explain to someone else how it works, then there's a problem.

If you don't really care about how much control you have, then outsource everything and take a hefty cut to your paycheck. 4 hour work week baby!
 

klh6686

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I agree with this 100% and It's what I was trying to convey in my post. Mainly this quote from that article:

"You don’t need to become an expert, just know the basics, so you’re not helpless."

I'm not saying everyone should devote years to becoming an expert programmer, but to not even know how to deploy a basic wordpress install on a shared host is something that can be learned in an hour and has a TON of value!
 

AgonI

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Trying to become wealthy by the internet/apps and not knowing a damn thing about code or technology is laughable.

Likewise, let me suggest that you don't know a damn thing about mathematics or finance when you try to manage your millionaire empire. :smilielol:

The king has spoken. // End discussion here
 

Twiki

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I still believe that if anyone is dithering, hemming and hawing about whether or not they "should" learn programming, they have no business developing a product or service that is dependent on programming. Of course, non-technical people can still do well with businesses that depend on technology to some degree, but I bet that is because they are resourceful in different ways and I imagine are not wasting a second anguishing about whether or not they need to learn programming in the first place.

The people who need to be convinced to figure this stuff out, whether it's basic scritping or hosting or database concepts, are not going to be any good at figuring this stuff out. Paul Graham said the number one quality he looks for in a company founder is resourcefulness. From that, we can infer that lack of resourcefulness is the number one quality of the people who never had a chance in the first place.

I think "Can someone tell me whether or not I should learn programming before I build my internet business?" and "Can someone tell me what internet business I should start?" are indicators of the same characteristic.
 

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