Not all founders are qualified to build the product they plan to sell. That’s where Dave Renz comes in. If you’re a non-technical founder, Renz can help you bridge your knowledge gap and lead the team that will actualize your product idea.
As the co-founder of Tanooki Labs, Renz and his team have helped dozens of startups achieve their technology goals. Tanooki Labs works with companies to help them design and build their websites, mobile apps and other tech products. For non-technical founders, that includes hiring the right developers and creating a management process that works for you.
On Jan. 12, Renz hosted a webinar for Founders Network where he provided what he’s learned about leadership for non-technical founders.
A Non-Technical Founder’s Technical Team
If you’re a founder launching a tech product or service, you’ll need either extensive technical experience or a team of developers who can translate your vision.
For non-technical founders, it’s the latter. That team may include a group of full-time employees, it may be outsourced, or a combination of the two.
“Hiring is a big problem for someone in that circumstance. It’s almost like a chicken or egg scenario. How do I find my first great technology person when I can’t evaluate that person?” Renz explains.
If you make a bad first hire, you’re likely to end up with a team of bad hires.
Renz advises non-technical founders to get solid technical evaluations from sources like a trusted recruiters or adviser. Founders also need to establish a solid process for getting a technical valuation.
He also recommends non-technical founders evaluate what they can. That means ensuring the values of their technical hires are aligned with the values of the company.
When it comes to managing a technical team as a non-technical CEO, it’s critical to acknowledge and understand the conflicting incentives for each party.
A non-technical founder who’s unable to make decisions about things like technology platforms is likely most interested in the product that’s fastest and cheapest.
“Whereas, if you’re the developer in that situation, there’s actually an incentive to try something new that may not be as well understood or well tested or has more risk inherent,” Renz says.
It’s important for non-technical founders to understand that developers are eager to work with interesting new technologies, in part because that experience could help position them for their next jobs.
As a result, a non-technical founder must find a way to align these incentives: the founder’s desire to save money and keep the employees on their team as well as the team’s incentives to grow professionally and personally.
“Lifelong employment isn’t really a thing anymore. So anyone’s next job could easily be somewhere else. Acknowledging that and giving people an outlet for that is important,” Renz says.
The Product Roadmap
Non-technical founders may not be able to create the products they wish to build, but they have to be able to monitor and manage the creation process.
It’s critical to have a product roadmap or a development plan that bridges that gap, Renz says.
“We’re evaluating the work we’re going to do, and we’re going to prioritize how good and how important it is. We’re going to have a reasonable way of understanding the scope of what that is, like, how long is it going to take us? What kind of resource investment are we making?” Renz advises.
He also notes it’s important to develop a consistent way of improving the process over time.
“There has to be some way of evaluating how that process is going. And if there isn’t a process or a framework, then it’s not going to be going well,” Renz says.
During his webinar, Renz covered:
- Translating your vision
- How to hire your technical team
- Managing product development
- Identifying metrics to evaluate development