I have been anxious to get a few minutes to put down some notes about the perils of developing technology for all the aspiring vetrepreneurs out there. I have learned some very painful lessons and hope this blog prevents a few of you from making the same mistakes. When I founded PatriotMove, I had ZERO tech knowledge and thought I would just “figure it out” or find a tech-savvy co-founder. I am sure some of you are of the same mindset. If so, stop what you are doing and read this blog.
After 18 months of grinding with my startup, I have been through three separate development teams and had to buy-out a CTO. Each transition cost me tens of thousands of dollars and precious time. Most importantly, it cost my company momentum. And with a startup, momentum is EVERYTHING.
Anyhow, here are six DON’Ts from my experience building a tech platform as a non-coder:
1) DON’T listen to people who say “Building a website or app is cheap these days” or “You can do it yourself.” They are wrong. If you are trying to do anything innovative or expect any real traffic to your site/app, it costs a significant amount of money and requires a dedicated team of people who live technology.
2) DON’T assume your tech platform will be built quickly. Depending on your requirements, plan for 1 month of pre-development, 2-3 months of development and 1 month of testing and content build-out before you can even consider launching your platform. That’s roughly 4-5 months from signing the contract to launching. And that’s if you are lucky. So, if you have a payroll, plan accordingly.
3) DON’T assume you will find a tech-savvy co-founder. CTO types are more difficult to find than seed funding. Why? Because they are mega-valuable to non-coder businessmen and they are often getting paid good money by a company or have a venture of their own. More likely than not, your beta product will be built by a contractor.
4) DON’T confuse developers with designers. A web or app developer is NOT a creative type. Developers build the requirements for your tech platform. You will get exactly what you ask for. It most likely will not have any style. That is what a designer does. And guess what…..designers cost additional $$$. So, if you would like something other than a cookie-cutter site/app, plan to pay a designer on top of your development team. Otherwise, set your style expectations low with a straight development team.
5) DON’T just have a lawyer review the tech development contract and then sign it. Talk to the development team thoroughly about the scope of work, requirements, deliverables, timelines and contingency plans. Push for a performance based contract where you pay when requirements are built and tested. Not an hourly based agreement. Get EVERYTHING in writing and monitor progress closely.
6) DON’T just become stupid because you don’t know technology. Do some research. Apply some logic. Follow your gut. If you think something is wrong or sketchy, it probably is. You probably didn’t know much about your area of operations when you left for deployment but I am guessing you learned fast on patrol. Same principle.
The good news is that tech development can be very rewarding too. Most founders dream big and development is when that dream becomes a reality. It is your vision coming to life.
Anyhow, just a little after action from the frontlines. Keep fighting out there.
Inspirational quote for the week:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Teddy Roosevlt