How These Non-Technical Founders Built Million-dollar Online Platforms. And You Can Too.
Many entrepreneurs want to start SaaS platforms, but believe they don’t have the technical chops necessary to do it. Luckily, a lack of coding skill doesn’t need to stop you from building a successful SaaS business.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at how 3 non-technical founders built their million-dollar businesses.
Arum Kang, co-founder of Coffee Meets Bagel
In the following video, Arum Kang talks about how she built her online dating platform as a completely non-technical founder. Her company, Coffee Meets Bagel, is famous for turning down a $30 million offer on the TV show Shark Tank. Here’s her story:
How did she do it?
- First, she tried hiring a cheap freelance developer to build her Minimal Viable Product (MVP). She had some initial success with this, but he eventually just disappeared.
Unfortunately, this is very common occurrence when hiring freelance developers, since they do not feel a strong connection to your project.
- She eventually found someone who could work with her full-time and dedicate himself to her project. He became her Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
If you’re a non-technical founder, having someone fully dedicated to your project is essential, and is one of the huge benefits of hiring a CTO or finding a committed technical co-founder.
- She mentions a very common mistake that I’ve seen so many founders make; they put too many features into their MVPs.
Keep it simple! This will keep your costs down and allow you to focus on solving your customer’s problem effectively.
- She emphasizes that it’s easier to attract the right people to work with you if you already have a product to show them. This includes investors, co-founders, and early employees.
Get your prototype or MVP working right away.
Jessica Scorpio, co-founder of Getaround
Getaround is a peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace that lets drivers rent cars from car owners. Here’s Jessica’s startup journey:
How did she do it?
- The first thing she did was test out her idea on real people. She asked 10 people at university to share their cars. Over a 1 month period, 100 people paid to borrow these cars for short trips. Attracting these early users was a completely manual process for her (no coding involved).
This proved that her idea could work, gave her leverage to attract development help, and attracted media attention.
- She focused on building the supply-side of her marketplace, by introducing a service to help car owners manage their rentals.
Having a strong supply side helped build demand. Targeting one side of the market is among the many strategies platform founders use to kick-start platform growth.
- Once the business was more established, she killed any features that distracted from her main revenue maker.
This kept the small company focused, and increased their revenue.
Danae Ringlemann, co-founder of Indiegogo
Indiegogo is a crowdfunding marketplace with over $50 million in funding. Here’s how Danae got it going without coding skills:
How did she do it?
- Originally, Indiegogo was a completely offline venture. It wasn’t until she met her technical co-founders that she put it online.
Save time and money by testing your idea offline. Bring it online once you’ve validated the idea.
So we’ve seen how these non-technical founders managed to get their ideas to take flight.
How can you do it too?
- Contribute more value than just an idea.
All of these founders had something to bring to the table other than just an idea. They hustled and built a viable business. If you have a lot of money, you can pay people with skills to help you. But if you don’t have big pockets, you need to have something else to offer.
- Fund development yourself, at least initially.
These founders worked regular jobs, and saved their money. Some also had family and friends contribute money. This gave them some cash to pay their CTOs to turn their ideas into a real product.
- Test your idea, before you build.
Building a tech product can be a costly venture, so you should be reasonably sure you have a viable business before you invest your precious money and time. Test your idea manually, before hiring a coder.
- Once you’re ready to build, hire a CTO or find a committed technical co-founder.
A dedicated technical expert will take your validated idea and help you build your MVP correctly, which will save you time and money. A good CTO or co-founder will draw on their vast experience to help you avoid issues that you might not have even thought of.