5 Surprising Challenges of Making the Leap from Programmer to Founder

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Making the move from techie to founder can be a tricky business, so learn from these five tips. By Anindita Banik (Founder & CEO, Appnovation)

After spending more than 10 years in multiple technology roles in some of the largest tech companies, I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. I had a great product idea. And I was sure of my technical chops. So I thought the rest would just fall in place.

But soon, reality hit me hard. I learned that being an entrepreneur demanded a completely different outlook about getting things done. So, for all of you who are transitioning from being a techie to an entrepreneur, here are my top five learnings:

1. Reframe Your Pitch

During my first few pitches, I almost always launched into a monologue about the technical superiority of my product. And I always failed to make any impact.

I soon realized that I had to talk about the customer’s problems and how my product solves them, instead of just the features. How do you do that?

Customers are only interested in how your product solves their problems. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and look at the problem and the solution from her perspective. Prepare your pitch carefully. Understand the jargon that business uses and learn them.

In my experience, rationale around these three points gets their attention:

  • Increase Revenue: How does your solution help to increase their revenue?
  • Decrease Cost: How does it reduce their cost of doing business?
  • Increase Efficiency: How can your solution help to increase their efficiency and productivity?

2. Stop Trying to Do It All

You might be a programming genius. But resist the temptation to write the entire solution by yourself.

Build a good team. Delegate, delegate, delegate. They might still be learning, but you just have to give them a free hand to write the code themselves. Set up code review processes and testing to ensure quality and correctness. And you can always guide them. Utilise the time to focus on other core activities that only you can do.

3. Bring on Experts

There are many compliances that a company needs to adhere to, including statutory filings, tax compliances, etc. Because I did not understand the intricacies, I pushed these activities to the back burner. That became a last minute scramble.

What worked for me was to get expert help. I hired a company that specializes in all of this. They guided me through the maze and got everything done on time.

Get experts to manage your taxes, licenses and other compliances. Worried you can’t afford it? Hire a startup and negotiate a custom rate.

4. Don’t Measure Your Accomplishments in Lines of Code

Being a techie, I’ve always measured my daily accomplishment by how many lines of code I wrote in a day. Otherwise it felt as if the day was a waste. But as an entrepreneur, oftentimes writing code just wasn’t possible.

More often than not, you will be occupied with operational duties, meetings, phone calls and endless number of activities that have nothing to do with coding. Don’t fret.

All of this is work. Running a tech startup is so much more than code. Don’t worry if you haven’t written a single line of code today.

5. Customize Your Recruiting Approach

As a programmer, you’ll be able to gauge a person’s technical abilities quickly. But how will you get them excited about joining a startup versus joining a stable job at an established organization?

Convincing good people to join your startup is never easy. What has worked for me is trying to understand what makes the person tick. Is it working in the most cutting-edge technologies? Or is it about taking on the challenge of working in a startup? Find out the answers to these questions and show a candidate how your startup matches their career path.

It’s better to stay away from people who treat the job as a stopgap solution. Remember, you need to sell your ideas not only to your customers, but also to your potential employees.

Being an entrepreneur is challenging, especially if you used to be a solitude-seeking programmer in your past avatar. But ultimately, it is an invigorating experience.

The endless things that we need to learn to survive and be successful, the everyday challenges and the continuous highs and lows make it all worthwhile.

Have you made the move from techie to founder?

Image credit: BeauStocker via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Anindita Banik is the CEO and founder of Appnovation, a company specializing in products that help organizations to empower their salesforce.Follow her on Twitter at @scarlett2002a.