I’m Hira, founder, and CEO of Koi.work, a company that helps businesses hire remote talent internationally like a local. Before starting Koi, I had many experiences where I questioned if tech entrepreneurship is even an option for someone like me.
In 2020, I was pitching my idea to an investor in a clubhouse room and they cut me off during the pitch and said, “Please go and find a technical co-founder, otherwise you’re wasting your time on this,” and immediately turned off my mic.
That hurt me––to an extent that I forgot about the idea immediately and didn’t even think about it until two years later I saw someone doing the same thing as a solo non-technical founder.
Now, two years later, after working with a co-founder for a year, I know that their advice was not total garbage. I now know how difficult it would have been to build that platform without a technical co-founder, but I also know that in 2023, if I could have spent time utilizing the resources we currently have available, I had a shot at it.
Imagine being a solo founder with great business acumen, a nose for opportunity, and a track record of leadership...but absolutely zero interest or experience in coding. That’s me in a nutshell.
Being a ‘tech’ entrepreneur with no technical co-founder, is it a great place to be in? Not really. Sure, I know how to run a business and lead teams like nobody's business, but I might as well be speaking a foreign language when it comes to writing and shipping code.
Many founders foresee this as a problem and do not start a business venture. If they do, many investors see this as a red flag and do not invest. And that's the cycle you get stuck in when you're trying to launch a tech startup without a technical co-founder. Being a non-technical founder isn't all doom and gloom. It can be a superpower.
In this blog, I'm going to share some tips and tricks I've learned on how to turn your lack of tech skills into strength and build a successful business that plays to your strengths. Get ready to make notes on the pros and cons of being a solo founder vs co-founder, as we learn more about how you can do it.
Before I convince you to go and start working on your idea, let me paint a realistic picture in front of you. Let’s start with this: it’s not going to be easy. That investor wanted to say the same thing to me but chose harsh words instead.
Let me give you a few reasons why:
As a solo non-technical founder, it's important to recognize that you don't have to go do it all alone. There is a huge community of entrepreneurs and available resources to help you along the way.
Your first available option is to find a technical co-founder. But how do you find a technical co-founder? Many early-stage incubators or community spaces host networking events where you can meet with other people who have similar interests to find a co-founder.
You can find a local tech community and put yourself out there to see if you find who you’re looking for. What to look for in a co-founder is a topic for another day (or maybe another blog?)
If you have decided to build your business alone, the second option is to consider working with a startup studio.
A startup studio is a company that helps entrepreneurs build a startup MVP or full product from scratch often providing funding, mentorship, and resources to support the development of new businesses. Unlike accelerators or incubators, which typically work with existing startups, startup studios are focused on working with founders who are testing new ideas and bringing them to market.
Many startup studios do this against an equity percentage in your business. It is still a win-win because now you have a full tech team instead of an individual co-founder.
Other than getting the ball rolling on launching the MVP to test the idea, startup studios can provide a range of resources and support to solo founders, helping them overcome the challenges they face and achieve success. Here are some specific examples of how startup studios can help:
You might be asking ‘Well if it’s so good, then why isn’t everyone doing it.’ Like any business decision, some factors make startup studios not a right fit for all founders. Let’s discuss some of them.
The biggest argument industry gurus make against startup studios is equity dilution. Most startup studios provide services to the business against the exchange of equity. This means that the founder may need to give up a percentage of their ownership stake in the business.
While this can be a good tradeoff for some founders who need the product live to get the business off the ground, it's important to carefully consider the potential dilution of equity.
You can also limit this by paying upfront if you have already raised some money through a pre-seed round or angel investment.
When working with a startup studio, founders may need to give up some control over their business. If you are a non-technical founder, your limited knowledge about the tech stack can be a huge reason behind it as well.
For some founders, this loss of control can be a deal-breaker and it can lead to conflict if not discussed carefully in the beginning.
The advice I’d give is to learn as much as you can about the technology you’re building on. You might not know how to code, but as a founder of the business, you must learn enough to not give up control of your business and your vision.
Startup studios can be a great resource for some solo founders, but just like any other business relationship, it is important to ensure that the fit is right and that you are comfortable with the potential tradeoffs involved.
Getting to 1 from 0 as a solo founder is very difficult. If you’re struggling with making the right decision and feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and consider working with a startup studio. You'll be amazed at what you can achieve with a technical team by your side. And who knows, maybe someday you'll be the one getting pitched by solo founders who just need a little boost. I have seen it happen, so hang in there!
Learn more about startup studios!