Why building a tech startup you should never think of tech too much

Most non-techie founders (me included) tend to be obsessed with the tech side of a startup. That’s exactly why we fail.

I’ve been building my own businesses since I was 23. I’ve built a content marketing agency — and sold my shares to my co-founders 4 years later at a 7-figure price tag. I’ve built a profitable retail chain with >10M revenue. I’ve been running an e-comm side project that I also sold at 6-figure.

Photo by David Pupaza on Unsplash

So, why do founders fail?

There are 2 ways to succeed in the startup industry: do what others do or do something totally different.

Despite the general belief that startups are always about innovation — they actually are not. Well, at least, not every startup is about it. Or, to better put it, not every startup requires innovative technology. When you’re doing just one part of the business better than anyone else — you can already be a startup (even if your A-game is about physical delivery — think, Amazon). So basically, there are two different types of startups:

Why the “copycats” fail?

Becaue a founder has not done the homework properly. When the market research is not done. When I say “market research” — what do you think about? Your competition, right? Who else is doing it. That’s exactly what I was thinking. It is wrong!

  • Doing customer interviews properly! Not like you imagine it should be done and like I did it too (post an idea in a Facebook group and ask: so, you think someone will pay for it?) but actually asking people about their current processes (here’s an article on customer interview rules)
  • Talking constantly to real people trying to figure out that sweet spot that only you will know. The secret that remains a mystery only because no one had actually cared to ask these people how they do something and what the bottlenecks of the process are.

Why do the “disruptors” fail?

Because founders did not have enough business experience or enough connections that would help them get this experience from top-tier advisors. Whatever successful disruptive startup you take (Mailchimp, Apple, Shopify, Tesla, PayPal, Stripe, Amazon, AirBnB) — they succeeded not because the technology they had was so unique or amazing. But because they managed to build a robust business on this tech. Do you see what I mean? I mean, Apple would not have been Apple if another Steve, Steve The Developer, was in charge of business decisions.

  1. If you have a disruptive tech (say, a cancer treatment) you should focus on business side. If you don’t — you have to focus on making a copy of what is already there. Your primaraly goal is to do it a little bit better in one small detail. And to find out what small detail is, you have to focus on customers, not the tech.
  2. You never focus on tech, it’s just not something to be obsessed about.

A search for a tech cofounder

My mistake from the very beginning was that being a non-techie, I was thinking only about the tech side of the deal. I forgot everything I knew — in order to solve something that I did not know how to solve. I desperately wanted to find a tech cofounder to help me “with the coding”.

Help startup founders on marketing while building my own DTC brand and a 3rd startup. Anaspiringfounder.com