The Problem with ‘Techie’ Founders
As an Entrepreneur in Residence at Capria, I’ve worked with a lot of founders, trying to help them build sustainable and investable businesses. If I had to describe the most common founder persona in my cohorts it would be: Software engineer with 4-5 years of work experience, building a SaaS platform. This is an interesting lot, since they come with some peculiar biases that a lot of investors and incubators have to deal with. This blog is about these biases, and how they can be overcome.
When all you have is a hammer..
Everything looks like a nail. The first thing one notices about techie founders is that they are in love with a particular piece of technology, either due to their own background or due to it being the hottest new trend. These founders then become less receptive to other alternatives that could be more effective (or simpler) to solve the same problem. Not everything needs to be solved using AI/ML or blockchain 🙂
When techies founders say, “I’ll build the best product in the world,” they mean they’ll attempt the most complex engineering effort to solve a given problem. They will spend a lot of expensive man-hours in architecting and developing the perfect product with a robust backend, glossy frontend, and zero bugs. This significantly delays the launch date and is a very risky proposition. Early stage startups, especially in pre-PMF (product market fit) stage, have to conduct a lot of experiments to arrive at what their users/customers would like in a product (and pay for). Rapid prototyping on a shitty product is way better than trying to create a perfect-on-day-one product that nobody wants. Eric Ries, in his book The Lean Startup, goes on and on about this.
What it delivers > How it works
Let me ask you a question: Name your favourite cookies (the one you eat, not the one that a website stores on your device). E.g. Oreos. Why do you like them so much? Most probably your answer is: “They taste great!” and not “They have the best cocoa:sugar ratio” or “They have zero Trans Fat”. Now put yourself in your users’ shoes and ask why they would love your product. Users don’t care how the product works or what’s under the hood; they only care about the job they want done. Learn to take off your engineering hat and put on the customer experience hat if you want to build great products that your users will love.
User’s life doesn’t around your product
Extending the analogy used above, your love of oreos probably doesn’t consume more than a tiny fraction of your life/personality. Similarly, techie founders need to understand the limited scope of their product’s existence in their users’ lives. I often find founders assuming their users would be as passionate about their products as they are, and it’s a very unrealistic expectation which leads to incorrect market sizing, and overly optimistic engagement and revenue targets. Let your users enjoy the oreo and move on! 🙂
If you’re a techie founder, leave your comments if you could relate with this (or were triggered by it). Would love to hear your side of the story 🙂