When I created my first tech startup, GoGrabLunch (GGL), I knew next to nothing about programming. In fact, when I came up with the concept that is the reason I gave my brother for not pursuing the business. The conversation went something like this.
Him - "I love this idea. You have to do it."
Me - "I can't do it. I don't know anything about programming."
Him - "The idea is built around networking. You are Mr. Networking. Surely you know some programmers?"
He was right. At the time I was very, very well-connected in my community and I did know a lot of programmers. So, I shared the concept with and asked one of my programming contacts, Frank Podlaha, if he knew anyone that might be interested in helping me build it. I'll never forget watching Frank get excited about the idea and volunteering to be my co-founder.
You should never, ever let a lack of a technical background stop you from building a tech startup. Without question, I wish I had more technical skills when we were launching GGL. But, I didn't. In fact, I had never even done something so simple as hosting my own WordPress website. Nowadays, I host and design all of my business websites.
Instead of focusing on my lack of technical skills at the time, I focused on what I was good at and that was the business side of running a tech startup. I focused on Marketing, Sales, Finance (useful when you are a tech startup that will need to fundraise), and what I would later learn are Product Management skills.
Still, it is helpful to have some technical skills. But it isn't mandatory for success.
There are a lot of ways to build a tech startup without any programming experience.
Ways to build a tech startup without any technical background
Option #1 - find a technical co-founder
This is exactly what I did with GGL. I sold Frank on the vision and offered him equity in the business in exchange for building the first version of the product, the MVP. Once the MVP was built Frank continued to provide technical expertise as a co-founder.
The key to this option centers around finding the right co-founder. Frank and I had our differences. But, in most cases, we worked really well together. I made my mistakes and he made his mistakes. One skill Frank lacked, at the time, was that his programming experience lacked app development. Which meant he couldn't build the mobile version of our business.
There are a lot of ways to find a co-founder. You can network, like I did, in your local startup community, meet them through accelerators or incubators, or even connect with potential co-founders online.
Option #2 - outsource the work
Another way to start a tech startup without any programming skills is to outsource the technical pieces to third-party vendors. There are pluses and minuses to this approach. The pluses include that you are paying the vendor. So, if there is a feature you want to be included it gets included. No questions asked, no begging a co-founder to build it when they don't agree. The minuses include that it can be expensive.
Back in 2010, I didn't have the same kind of discretionary income I have now. That is why I needed a co-founder. If I were launching a startup today I could afford to outsource the build of the product.
Option #3 - use "no-code" solutions
No-code solutions are being promoted like crazy right now. But, they have been around for a while. Just in various forms.
No-code platforms allow founders to create software through graphical user interfaces and configuration. Think of no-code as drag and drop programming. For example, if you host your own WordPress site and use a theme to build the website with you will most likely experience no-code development. Maybe you want an image in the second row of the website. No problem. Just insert an image widget into the second row. Want some text right next to that image? Cool. Change the row to be a two-part row, move the image widget into the left section, and insert a text editor section on the right-hand side of that row. Boom, you are using no-code.
The same type of approach can be used to develop software. In fact, there are companies that specialize in facilitating the creation of software using no-code platforms.
I can't personally tell you which is the best. Because I haven't used any of them yet. But, I can tell you that within one of my Slack groups, Bubble is very, very popular.
The key is not to let a lack of technical skills hold you back. There are all kinds of options available to you. Heck, if you want to learn to program bad enough you could enroll in a boot camp or teach yourself how to code.
We live in a modern business world where it has never been easier to start a business. You are always going to be missing some sort of skill that would be nice to have as a founder. Which means you will always be learning.