As a founder, there are many things needed to be considered before venturing out as an entrepreneur and starting a business. In our digital era, a coder can make a significant difference when it comes to creating a startup.
Most startups have great ideas or concepts but are unable to bring them to fruition without hiring external help. They are reliant on being able to convey their ideas to the hired programmer and hoping that the finished product matches their vision.
Coder-founders on the the other hand can see their product through from the start and build their own ideas from scratch. They then have more creative control and are more familiar with the strengths and limits of their product.
We looked up 10 startups that were founded by coders and we asked them their opinions on if their background in coding had anything to do with how their startup runs now and if it served any noticeable advantage or made any difference.
SuperCoach is a platform where people interested in coding can hire ‘coaches and trainers’ to help teach them the basics. Founder Mohd Syafiq Azizi has the knowledge himself and he believes that being able to code does give an advantage because he’s clear on what technology to use for a startup.
“We have a better understanding in developing our own startup than other startups who have zero coding knowledge. We know what programmers want and we know what kind of programmer we should hire.”
Although he could do it himself, as an entrepreneur, he believes it is better to hire someone else to do the coding for a startup.
“Try and get a co-founder with very good programming skills and let him or her handle the task. Share the equity. After that, search for funding. When someone does the coding for you, you can focus on other non-technical things,” shared Mohd Syafiq.
EasyStore exists as a platform where sellers are able to sell their products online and create their own-brand online store themselves. No designing skills are required as EasyStore has a variety of pre-designed themes to fit their industry. Dealing with the e-commerce field, co-founder Frost Chen believes the advantage of having coding knowledge is being able to estimate the development cost more accurately.
“Being able to sense which technologies are at sunset and which are at sunrise is very important when it comes to deciding the direction of your business in a long run,” said Frost.
He also states his preference of hiring someone else to code so founders can focus on the higher layer of the business, including architecture direction, keeping up-to-date with the technology and even business strategy.
An app that provides rewards with everything you do at everywhere you go, Beely is a point farming part-game, part-app that allows you to collect beely coins while hanging out at beely locations. Founder Bobby Ong, the person in charge of coding for the app, shared his opinion that having coding knowledge helps in being in total control of the development timeline and ensures he is able to meet the deadlines as he is aware of how much time is needed to complete a module.
When asked if it is better for a founder to know how to code, he said “If you are running a tech startup, it is better to know how to code so that you are able to code the beta or version 1.0 yourself. Only you know your own secret sauce the best so launch your 1.0 and then concentrate on building the business before you hire someone to replace your coding works.”
Biztory is a cloud-based POS with Inventory Management and Reporting access in one click, allowing a business to manage anything in real time so long as there is an internet connection. Founder Bryan Soong mentioned how being a tech person himself, he finds it more comfortable to code himself rather than getting someone to do it.
“Aside from costing issue, having full control of the product is crucial and critical to me. I would want to have the freedom to set the direction of my product and pivot it as dynamically as possible if I have the capability to do so.”
He believes that since tech is a must for most startups nowadays, having coding knowledge enables startups to build prototypes and validate ideas quickly, iterate fast and of course, a better bargaining power when it comes to fundraising.
“I see many startups have great ideas but always face issues when scaling the product simply because they do not have an expert for their tech. Moreover, digital marketing is also the mainstream method now and it is always more efficient to have a tech on board.”
AVANA is a startup that utilises Facebook and a mobile commerce application to simplify the selling and buying process online. Co-founder Luqman Adris says that if you are running a platform company and your edge is in technological innovation, it is best for the founder to know how to code.
“If the founder has no background, they can learn. It is easy to learn nowadays. If the company however is not a tech company, then founders can simply hire people. But I do think that knowing a bit of coding does give founders an edge, both in terms of business and also managing the tech team,” said Luqman.
6) Watch Over Me
Khoo Chen Shiang, who founded the company SECQME and then released an app called ‘Watch Over Me’ tells his story on how for the first year, he did everything himself which included the back end server, database and creating both Android and iOS mobile app. But though he handled a lot of the coding himself, he believes that it should not be a factor when determining a good tech startup or a bad one whether or not a founder knows how to code.
“I think a good founder will leverage on every possible resource he or she has, to quickly roll out a minimal viable product to the market, and to do a quick market validation to grow his or her venture.”
Recite, a Quran recitals app that can be accessed anytime and anywhere, was brought by founder Ahmad Fairiz with a background in coding. He believes that it is always better for a founder to code themselves rather than outsourcing the task to someone else.
“As a founder who codes, you are in that really good position to directly translate your passion into your product. Having someone else to interpret your vision can be quite challenging. However, being a founder means that you will have to also dedicate your time in building the business. That task is already huge by itself. So, a founder who codes will probably find that running the startup is twice as life draining than his partners are experiencing.”
When asked if there is any difference whether a founder knows how to code or not, he says the biggest difference is the speed that startups can iterate to roll out an MVP.
“It is a vital factor for startups to test their ideas early and act on the outcome. Having a founder who codes can significantly boost this process.
Another advantage is when you are hiring your engineering team. You would know exactly what skill sets you are looking for and you can lower the cost by grooming the talents in-house. This is possible because, as the founder, you charted the roadmap of your product and you know where the technical deficits are.”
Tableapp is a booking app that allows users to freely make reservations at restaurants in Malaysia on the go. Founder Benson Chang does admit it is probably better to hire another programmer to code for a startup as it allows him to focus more on the business side.
“Having coding knowledge is a very huge advantage though because when we pitch to potential customers, I can easily answer all the technical question they may have which gives them more confidence in our product.”
Shoppertise is a startup aimed to help smaller entrepreneurs make the most of mobile commerce with better ways to sell their products and services online. Co-founder CK Yap was in charge of coding the website and platform, therefore he believes there is an advantage to it for a founder to know coding.
“As a startup founder, you don’t have to be extremely good at coding but it’s certainly an advantage if you have enough knowledge/ understanding in coding. That’s going to help you communicate better with your developer, if you’re not coding your product yourself,” said CK Yap.
He believes that founders who have coding knowledge are able to have a stronger grasp when creating the prototype of a startup’s product or idea. It also becomes a lot easier when explaining the concept or idea to potential investors, clients, partners, folks at meetups and anyone encountered when evangelizing the potential of the startup.
“As a tech founder, I have the ability to quickly tweak the prototype after getting feedback from the folks that I’ve met. Ideas get better when we share it with more people, from all walks of life. Sometimes it even evolves to a new product or service that we have never thought of,” said CK Yap.
Kakitangan is an online HR system that compiles all related topics in the HR field on one platform.
Founder Effon Khoo, who has used his coding knowledge in his previous startup and has now passed it to someone else, for his current startup, said, “I think it’s good for founders to have technical knowledge—regardless whether it’s as a coder or from a product manager’s perspective. I believe it helps to make better decisions.”
“Not only from the product UX where many people spend most time in, but also from the engineering processes, standards, code review and the release cadence—it is important that at least one of the founders understand this.”
The startup founders were unanimous that it does give an advantage, and most agreed that having coding knowledge of some sort is a practical necessity particularly if your startup is more tech related.
Do you agree? Share your opinion in the comments.
Feature Image Credit: Compiled from Biztory & Beely