Is it impossible to start a start-up as a non-programmer?

A question was asked on the Facebook Web 2.0 (Entrepreneurs) forum: “Is it impossible to start a start-up as a non-programmer?” My response was selected as Best Answer to this question, so I wanted to share.

Question (paraphrased):

My situation is that I have an idea, I’ve been working on planning it for sometime, am finishing off my business plan, and want to start looking for some seed funding in the near future. But. Niether myself, or business partner, have any programming experience. Is it impossible to move forward without any?  Is it impossible to start a start-up as a non-programmer?


I think it’s entirely possible, but there are a lot of potential pitfalls.  Here are a few things I learned the hard way:

  1. Trying to get seed money is somewhat like trying to be an NBA star; most people don’t make the big-time. If you really believe in your idea, make a plan for getting it done that doesn’t require millions of dollars in seed money.
  2. Great ideas are nice, but implementation is what makes money.
  3. If you’re investing your own money, streamline your product down to its core value. Be ruthless in doing so. Getting it out there, and getting some users who are excited about your core value, is much more important than squeezing in a couple of extra features. (And it’s easier on the credit card.)
  4. As many posters have already suggested, there are plenty of programmers out there who’ll work for equity. Also, you can hire very affordable international labor for just a few bucks an hour; you can even get in touch with those resources through these days. In either case, always make sure you have COMPLETE, water-tight product specs and use-cases before putting your developers to work.
  5. Make sure you know *exactly* what you’re building. Technical implementation details excepted: If you need to incorporate a lot of feedback from your devs back into your business plan and/or your product design, you don’t know where you’re going.
  6. Crowdsourcing is emerging as a potential avenue for startups (e.g., I’ve put a couple of projects on Cambrian House myself recently; however, since it’s a public forum, you may not want to give away any singularly brilliant ideas. Also, sites such as are very accessible funding sources.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *