Sunday, April 19, 2015

Startup founders should learn to code

I recently read an article by Steve Blank called “Why Founders should know how to code”, he tells a story about a phone call he receives, while driving home, from a startup owner named Dave. As the phone call progresses it really sounds like Dave has been making all the right moves except for one critical area. Dave's contracted developers “[took]... weeks to make even a simple change.” Upon hearing this Steve Blank is startled, in fact he writes that he almost “rear-ended” another vehicle. Just to be sure that he's actually hearing correctly he says to the founder, “Help me understand.. neither you nor your cofounder can code...?” Whoah!!!

Learning to code opens your eyes to the process

What I didn’t know about how much I didn’t know.
It isn't just about being able to write code yourself. Steve concludes the article by strongly nudging Dave, he says that “[for the sake] of his startup and the rest of career he put his startup on hold and invest his time in attending a coding bootcamp”. It seems he took the advice and as a result gained much needed appreciation for managing web development projects, recognizing good developers, and finding a technical co-founder. Steve goes further to share how Dave sent him a note which stated “Boy, what I didn’t know about how much I didn’t know. Thanks!”

We at Tutorate agree with the sentiments in the article. A startup that revolves around an app should really have app building skills. When this is not the case problems begin to compound. 

Iterations become slower and more expensive when prototyping

Prototyping an application requires the ability to be able to make timely changes to the app based on real feedback. If you can't pull that off it will make your product development process slower and generally more expensive. While every adjustment to an app must be justified against the time and development costs involved, having to deal with outsourced development costs can give you greater pause each time there's a need for a change.

Not able to judge quality or expertise

There's also the issue of not being able to determine whether your developers have delivered a quality product, if they cut corners you don't know and the next developer you hand the project to will have to spend additional time unravelling the mess. We know there are exceptions but, in general, if you have no knowledge of the coding domain space it will be much harder to manage a team of engineers and guide them towards what you want to achieve.


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