How Can Non-Technical Founders Contribute in the Early Days of a Startup?

I’m really enjoying the “How to Start a Startup” series from YCombinator. Recently, I was listening to Paul Graham’s talk.

During the talk, a question is asked “What can a non-technical founder do to help in the early days of a startup?” While most people assume that the early months of a startup are Redbull-fueled coding marathons, software-development is only one part of the equation.

Even before some degree of “product-market fit” is validated, non-technical founders have incredibly important work to do. In fact, the work of a non-technical founder is as important, if not sometimes more important, than software-development in validating a startup idea.

Here’s a brief list of the critical tasks a non-technical founder needs to accomplish when a startup is in its infancy:

  • Talk to users and get product feedback
  • Figure out what users need in the product to be successful
  • Design product mockups and wireframes
  • Test the product
  • Find users. (Cold calling, attending events, etc.)
  • Build a website to attract users
  • Measure product usage
  • Raise money
  • Manage investors
  • Deal with HR/Legal/Tax issues and to-dos
  • Build marketing content (presentations, demo environments, logos, etc)
  • Blog
  • Manage support for early users

Without users, a product has no direction and no life.  The top priority of a non-technical founder is to bring early users into the product.  Outside of users and product, there are many critical job needed to run and scale the business. Non-technical founders play a pivotal role in creating success in the early days of a startup.