How to Effectively Develop a Product As a Non-Technical Founder

Founders come from a lot of different backgrounds. Some are well versed in the development process. Others lack technical expertise around building products. Oftentimes, these non-technical founders doubt their ability to launch a product due to their lack of technical knowledge. Fortunately, with the help of the right development partner, non-technical founders can bring their vision to life while gaining technical insight along the journey.

This article will help non-technical founders realize what they can achieve with the right development partner. We'll also explore best practices for development partners when working with non-technical founders.

Note: The examples in this article highlight our work with Emily Fagerstrom, Founder of Wisket. The Wisket app gives shoppers a way to save any purchasable items online, from any site to a central location. 

Building Confidence as a Non-Technical Founder

As a non-technical founder, your main challenge when launching a product is overcoming your lack of technical knowledge and the fear of failure. Lack of expertise can cause a lot of doubt and even prevent you from bringing your product to life. And it's common to overcomplicate a process when you don't understand it. 

But lacking technical knowledge shouldn't be a barrier to building your product. If you bring the right development partner on board, they can guide you through the process of helping bring your vision to life. They'll help fill the knowledge gaps you may have while also helping you build a better technical understanding. 

Doubts will naturally arise throughout your journey. But remind yourself that it's okay not to know everything. Focus on what you know and the problem you're solving, and trust your development partner. When you surround yourself with the right resources, you will succeed as a non-technical founder. 

Example: Before deciding to build Wisket, Emily Fagerstrom had a background in retail and an interest in the tech side of e-commerce. But, with her limited expertise in product development, she sat on the idea for years before approaching us. She experienced the many doubts that non-technical founders have but made a choice to believe in her vision. After our initial consultations with Emily, she felt confident that her product could become a reality. She learned that the ideal partner for her was technically competent and one that we would emphasize educating her about the technical side of developing the product.

Qualities of Successful Non-Technical Founders

To gain the most from an engagement with a development partner, you need a willingness to learn and ask questions. In Emily's case, she was like a sponge who truly absorbed the information we presented her and was committed to taking detailed notes. 

Development is a complex process. For someone non-technical, it can be a particularly daunting hurdle. You shouldn't be afraid to ask what you might think are "dumb" questions. There's no such thing as a stupid question! (We know, cliche, but we couldn't resist) The more engaged you are, the more you'll learn. 

It's also essential to trust your partner throughout the development process. 

You have your area of expertise, and your partner has theirs. As a non-technical founder, your main challenge is figuring out the solution to the problem you're trying to solve, NOT how to build it. In our experience, that's where we've seen a lot of non-technical people get tripped up. They get hyper-focused on the technical side and forget some of the other vital aspects of building a business.

There are a lot of steps along the way to building a product. The end goal can often feel miles away. Be patient throughout the process and trust that your partner has your best interests in mind. 

Example: In the early stages of working with a new partner, it's a common sentiment for individuals to want to move faster or cut down the process. Emily echoed similar concerns to us. She had a vision for the end product and always thought about the next steps. 

She had the awareness to recognize this and made an effort to shift her point of view back to the present. Understanding the importance of the smaller milestones we were making would ultimately lead to a better end goal.

Best Practices for Working with Non-Technical Founders

Believe in Their Product and Vision

As a development partner, working on a product that you're passionate about makes the process much more fulfilling for you and your team. It keeps you engaged and makes you feel like you're part of something bigger than simply executing someone else's vision. When you work with a founder that is genuinely committed to bringing their vision to life, it infuses the process with creative energy day in and day out. Vet the partners and clients you choose to bring on as much as they vet you. It's okay to say "no" to a potential project if it doesn't feel like the right fit. Like dating, you want to make sure you're getting into the right kinds of relationships that will work for you long-term. 

Example: Smaller startups are not where we typically dedicate our resources. However, when Emily shared her idea for Wisket, we were excited because she identified a universal problem our entire team could immediately relate to. We weighed the pros and cons of working with a smaller startup and realized this project would be much more engaging for the team. Emily and Wisket embodied the types of people and products our team want to work with long-term. Despite the scale of the product, it was clear to us that this was something we had to be involved with.

Focus on Education

When working with non-technical founders, it's important to help them comprehend the development process and associated deliverables. Emphasize explaining what's happening at different development stages and clearly communicate the purpose of your methodologies. Without this education, non-technical founders won't understand the deliverables and how they tie into the big picture of their product.

You want these founders to feel engaged and involved in the process. You don't want them to simply be spectators who only review things. Through transparency, expectations are clearer, and you empower founders to grow their technical knowledge throughout their journey of working with you. Furthermore, when these founders understand the nuances of their project, they can communicate important details with their customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Helping to educate a non-technical founder sets everyone up for success and ensures a longer product life-cycle.

Example: On top of finding a partner that could deliver a high-quality product, Emily wanted a partner willing to educate her and include her in the development process. Whenever we shared something with Emily, whether it was an integration, wireframe, or design component, we wanted her to truly understand what she was looking at. Having a mutual understanding made expectations around feedback much clearer. Instead of sending things to her and hoping for the best, we held numerous meetings to review deliverables and walk her through the work.

Advice for Non-Technical Founders

When you're a non-technical founder, we always encourage you to grow your technical knowledge base while working with us. However, your primary focus should still be on defining your product and how to find success after the product is built. We see a lot of non-technical founders get hyper-focused on the technical side of development and push other essential aspects of their business to the wayside. Ultimately, you should strive for a balance between learning new things and executing on the product details that you have expertise in. These could include your overall business plan, marketing tactics, and post-launch strategy.

By finding a development partner you trust, you can learn what you can while feeling confident that they will execute things on the technical side. Through a proper vetting process and having multiple conversations with a potential partner before entering an engagement, you'll set yourself up for success.

According to Emily Fagerstrom:

You have to trust yourself. I feel like that's the biggest thing. I sat on my idea for Wisket for two years and was constantly asking myself, is this a good idea? Do people really need this? Even if you aren't an expert on certain aspects of product development, don't talk yourself out of starting a new venture just because you think you might fail. Definitely be willing to do the work, learn, and absorb all the information that you can.

Build a Product as a Non-Technical Founder Today

If you have a vision for a great product, find the courage to work with a development partner who will guide you through the process and deliver a quality end product. Don't let a lack of technical knowledge hold you back. With the right partner, you'll grow your technical knowledge base while bringing your product to life.

If you're interested in seeing if Majestyk is the right development partner for your next product, please reach out to us today.

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