You don't have to have a degree in computer science to get your tech business off the ground, as one 'low-tech' founder explains.
By Kali Rogers (Founder, CEO & Janitor, Blush)
I’m no tech whiz. I didn’t go to MIT. My immediate prior job was bartending in Dallas (don’t judge). I’m not business-oriented. I don’t have an MBA or even a BBB. And I’m one of the girliest girls you’ll ever meet. Does that make me any less eligible to start a tech company? No way. In fact, it makes me even more qualified.
Basically, I had a simple idea. I wanted to coach girls using a technology platform to help them manage the normal but difficult issues of everyday life. Technology is cool. It breaks down barriers, localizes the entire world and eliminates stigmas. I realized that through technology, I didn’t need an office with a plush leather couch for girls to lay back and tell me their problems. And while I may not know Java or C++, I knew my idea by heart. So I followed her, loved her, developed her and obsessed over her. My passion made me more qualified than anyone else to run my company. And that’s what it’s all about.
Just Keep Learning
Of course, I’m green with envy over the tech whizkids and Excel junkies, and sometimes I wish the blueprint for my company didn’t look like ancient hieroglyphics (or modern Wingdings). But then again, if I had gone to school for computer science or corporate finance, I wouldn’t know how to be a counselor so I wouldn’t have even had this idea in the first place. And while I’m still playing catch up on technology, finance, marketing, coding, etc., I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could during these past six months!
So to all the newbies out there, here’s a reminder that we’re all in this together. Let’s support each other. To the experienced vets—thanks for blazing the trail and encouraging the rest of us. And for all you aspiring entrepreneurs, here is my advice to you based on what I’ve learned thus far:
Criticism is your Frenemy
Criticism is a huge brat. The first time a Blush blog went viral, I was severely nauseous for five days. Some of the comments were really personal and really mean! And I’m sensitive! People attacked everything from my writing style to my business model. (Why does everyone expect everything to be free??)
Over time, I learned that if your work is worth a dime, it will receive criticism. Plus, for every mean comment you receive, you will be rewarded with an exponential amount of positive counter-posts, productive dialogue and incessant attention. Free press! Yay!
Sometimes haters actually have legit points, too. I have tweaked a few areas of my work based off of a complete stranger’s comments, and it was definitely for the best. So even though it hurts, allow criticism (of you—ouch) to be part of your daily routine. The more you deal with it, the less it will sting and the more dynamic you will become! (But make sure to vent about it to your friends because they’ll want to punch those Internet trolls in the face.)
Let’s be real here—there is WAY more that I don’t know than I do know. Frankly, it’s scary. I am always asking the “experts.” Why the quotes? Because I don’t have the thousands of dollars it takes to hire every amazing firm available for budding startups. Cue my business friends, my lawyer friends, my developer friends…you name it, they were pinged. And don’t forget my boyfriend Google.
Be flexible and scrappy even if it terrifies you. You’ll panic, get hot in the face and want to question every fiber of your judgment, but listen to others. It’s ok if their opinions don’t line up with your MVP. (i.e. minimum viable product—thanks Wikipedia!) It’s ok if you can’t afford the mobile app for your site today. Just listen. Be open. And prepare to build for tomorrow. I received the most help in areas I thought I had a handle on because I opened the doors for other opinions. I trust my own judgment, but my judgment tells me to trust others too.
Play With Trial and Error (And Be Nice To Error)
You won’t get it right the first time. Not even close. I know I haven’t gotten it right yet (seriously). But instead of freaking out when things don’t work (guilty) — pivot. Try something new. Tweak it. Iterate and reiterate. And if that doesn’t work, try something else! Don’t stop. Technology gives us no excuse not to get our hands dirty. Post, delete, edit, define and do it all over again. The more you try, the closer you’ll get.
Above All, Stay Involved!
When your company is so new it still has the tags on, don’t hire other people and rely on them to develop your idea. It doesn’t matter if you’re VC backed or have oodles of money pouring from the sky. You are the janitor and the CEO. Others don’t feel it in their bones like you do. Be true to your gut. Be involved in everything. This is your company, this is your idea, this is YOU. And you are the secret sauce.
Are you a founder without a 'traditional' grounding in tech?
About the guest blogger: Kali Rogers is the Founder, CEO, and Janitor of Blush – an online life coaching company for girls. She leads a team of three life coaches (four including herself) and coaches girls from all over the world. She attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received a B.A. in Psychology, and went onto receive a Master’s degree in Counseling from Southern Methodist University. After becoming an LPC-I in the state of Texas, she launched Blush at the age of 25. Kali recently completed all seven seasons of the West Wing, and is severely disappointed that Jed Bartlet does not actually exist in real life. She currently resides in Austin, Texas.