A web startup is a technological endeavor

WARNING: what I’m about to say is heavily biased by the fact that I come from a business background and I love technology.

I’m saying nothing new here, but I’ve found myself making this point over and over when talking with startup founders who have non-technical backgrounds. So I’ll just go ahead and try to spell it out, in the bluntest way possible:

For 99% of web startups, their main challenge is to deliver excellent technology. Delivering excellent technology is not enough to be succesful, but it’s the single greatest predictor of a startup’s success. Everything else is less important.

If you’re a startup founder and you have no technical knowledge, you may be frustrated by the number and weight of the technological decisions you have to take. You may think that this is just during the initial phase of your company and then you’ll just focus on marketing, sales and the IPO. But in fact, technological decisions will be the bread and butter of your reign as CEO. You’ll have to make decisions about sales, hiring and finance as well, but they will be less important than your technological decisions. (Note: decisions about hiring desginers & programmers are technical decisions).

So, if you’re a web startup founder with no technical background, you can do two things:

– Jump into the water and start learning about technology.

– Find a technical cofounder.

Technological consultants may be useful to help you take technical decisions (heh), but you need to learn and care about technology – or team up with someone who does. So let’s sum this up in an equally blunt corollary:

 If you’re doing a web startup, there must be at least someone with equity who knows and cares about technology. You can either become that person or find someone else who will be that person. If you haven’t done this already, it is the single most important action you can take right now.

This knowledge and love for technology translate to a great product in two ways:

– You work with the proper tools, so your product is far cheaper to make, faster to launch, easier to maintain and grow, and more resilent to the future (because, for example, it is not based on a technological dead-end).

– You hire the right designers & programmers. This point is probably more important than the previous one, because if you hire great people, they will help you choose the right tools and approaches.

There are a few exceptions:

– If you’re copying an existing product and launching it in a different niche or regional market (being first is probably more important).

– A business strategy that relies on privileged access to a restricted channel of distribution.

– Selling software to big companies or government institutions.

Here’s my final (and equally blunt) conclusion:

Unless you already feel an inclination towards technology, go find a technical cofounder. Now.