April 6, 2012

A Non-Technical Cofounder’s Day

A Non-Technical Cofounder's Day

Non-technical Cofounder

How does a non-technical cofounder provide value? What does a non-technical cofounder even do? Do you need a non-technical cofounder?

These are common questions cropping up in the startup sphere.

You’ll probably come across answers like “product management, marketing, sales, and community management”. These are all good answers but I think they come up short when you compartmentalize them in categories like that. Instead, here’s a framework that I’ve developed after being the non-technical guy at two previous startups and now as the CEO of Ecquire. I broke it down into two parts, the second is in another post here.

Part I – 3 Situations a Non-Technical Cofounder Must Obtain

Each day I try to make sure that I put our team in the 3 most optimal situations to succeed.

  1. A proactive strategy and position.
  2. An environment where focus, freedom and creativity can flourish.
  3. Options so our options are not dictated to us.

Make the Company Proactive and not Reactive.

Each day that you are more reactive than proactive, you lose a day. When you are reacting, you are allowing your day to be dictated to you. For example, think about if you went to bed last night and didn’t know what you would be working on today. You’re almost robotic when you’re in this situation instead of executing. THIS. IS. BAD.

Your goal is to be in a position where you are proactive the majority, if not all of each day and relentlessly executing on your plan. People confuse busy with productivity all the time. You’re not being productive by answering 100 unplanned emails. You have to execute on the plan before anything. It may take time to get on top of things but find a way – it is a must. The good news is there’s a plan to help you below.

Create an Environment where Focus, Freedom and Creativity can Flourish

One of the largest competitive advantages you can have immediately, other than a significant differentiated product, is creative content that brings traffic and creative engineers that can think on their feet, take risks and move quickly.

After this post was drafted, Mashable released a great article called How to Be Creative: The Science of Genius (I recommend reading the whole article). Two of the many takeaways from the article based on Jonah Lehrer’s book, Imagine, How Creativity Works, are that creativity can be taught and imagination can be improved. This happens when “allowing the mind to invent without worrying about what it’s inventing”.

For content, be it videos, blog posts, or marketing campaigns, we need traffic and traffic comes from things that are different, interesting, funny, and resourceful. It actually does not cost money. The currency needed to create good content is a mind that can freely focus for a period of time to create this content. If you show up in the morning and spend your day reacting instead of putting out creative content, you have lost customers to a competitor that you won’t ever get back.

Peace of mind, creativity, focus and inspiration all at once sounds tough to achieve – and it is. You have to put yourself in this position because you can’t just do one thing everyday that’s different and creative. It has to be a series of creative things done each day that accumulate to create an advantage. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to be in a creative mindset other than give yourself peace of mind so you’re not distracted.

This setting is just as important for our engineers. They are smarter and more resourceful than I could ever be. Why should they be limited to an environment that restricts their ability? There’s a reason you get your best ideas when you’re in the shower in the morning or when you’re on a run listening to music. Creativity comes naturally if you’re not overwhelmed or worried about what you’re inventing. When there’s an environment that consistently allows you to test these ideas without repercussions for trying to make things better, amazing things are created right before your eyes.

Create Options so our Options are not Dictated to Us

Don’t assume that because an option has been presented to you that it will actually happen. There are many ways to get to a desirable outcome or situation. If you don’t have outs or a plan B, you don’t have a plan at all.

If a certain outcome that you are trying to achieve is important, make sure you have a few roads to choose from to get there. For example, let’s say you get a verbal commitment from a distribution partner that they’re going to move your product. When I hear this, I assume the worst and that it’s not going to happen and start to think for new options if it ends up not happening. Unfortunately, being skeptical about verbal agreements until you “see the money in the bank” will actually save your reputation and not have you scrambling when something falls through, because it is bound to.

This is the first part of the “Non-Technical Cofounder’s Job” series. Click here for Part II.

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