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How to build an MVP as a non-technical founder

How to build an MVP as a non-tech founder

Knowing how to code should not be a barrier for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to delight their user-base.

But often, that is the case.

You might have a rock-solid idea with a vision but the lack of technical skills keeps you from jumping to action.

Products that can change the tides in an industry are sometimes brought to a halt because of this. 

Not anymore.

As a non-technical founder, know this without a doubt: You do not need technical knowledge/skills to build an MVP. 

You can either outsource it or build it using simple processes/tools that are not too hard to learn. 

Getting to market-launch should never be a dream that is miles away from being accomplished. 

Reaching your goal of building an MVP is simpler than you’d imagine, and we are here to show you how. 

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What is an MVP?

Let’s clear the air by answering how having an MVP will help you with your long-term vision for your enterprise. 

MVP stands for ‘Most Viable Product’. The emphasis is on ‘viable’, meaning “being able to work successfully; feasible”. Under this emphasis, one can naturally see that an MVP shows you if your idea is viable enough to run and sustain an enterprise. 

But an MVP goes beyond that; it also saves you a lot of time during the initial days of your business. 

An MVP is generally defined as the version of a product that is capable of collecting the maximum amount of validated learning about a set of customers with the least effort

Least effort, because only the features that the users need the most are built. Everything else is kept for the later stages of building the product.

Validated learning, because these crucial features are then packaged and shipped to customers for immediate feedback. Their feedback and usage patterns would give the necessary insights and data to properly validate your product idea. 

And this is how an MVP saves time during the initial days. By needing you to only put enough effort to pump out a product that solves a customer need, it saves a lot of time, money, and energy that generally goes into building an entire product with all of its frills. 

At its core, an MVP resolves:

  • To make a part of your product vision a reality
  • To help you understand if there is an actual market need for your product
  • To show you how customers perceive your product

These are some key aspects that help you correct your course during product development. 

And if your MVP hints toward a stellar product, then customers would react to that, and their delight would motivate you a lot. 

Building an MVP— How to build an MVP as a non-technical founder


Challenges as a non-tech founder

An MVP is daunting to build, no matter how much technical knowledge one has, thanks to the numerous decisions that have to be taken. 

But this process comes with additional hurdles for a non-tech founder.

Communicating your product vision

Technical people take pride in their knowledge-base. Even during common conversations, it takes a conscious effort for them to not use jargon. 

Whether it is an investor, a tech co-founder, or a developer-to-hire, you might have an initial setback when you try to communicate your product vision.

But if you are well-versed with the ins and outs of your niche and if you have a really good product vision, then any first impressions would shatter. 

Considerate, forward-looking people would open their ears and listen you out. Such people are a rare treat though.

Assembling a team

Only if it were as easy as assertively speaking “Avengers, Assemble!”, Cap’n.

The technical gap becomes the most visible when you start recruiting talent to build your product/MVP. 

It is not a bad situation. But from choosing and trusting the right person to handle all the technical details, to wrapping your head around hurdles during a launch that are purely technical, it can definitely weigh your mind a little bit more.

The lack of technical knowledge is not a major factor though. 

Hiring the right talent— How to build an MVP as a non-technical founder

Technical Knowledge versus Product Vision

Before jumping into the technicalities of building an MVP without a technical background, here is why an ambitious and well-informed product vision can trump your lack of hard skills. 

At its simplest, the number of people who are skilled enough to program or put together a working product exceeds the number of entrepreneurial people. The latter is the type that is willing to bear risks, take the extra mile to see how the future might look like, and work their sweat out. 

As an aspiring entrepreneur, this places you within a set of people that carry a rare set of skills with them. Most of those skills are not apparent— especially the one of having a clear vision for your product. 

Coming up with an idea, eliminating all the rough corners, and visualizing a product that can solve a crucial problem/need in the market is not an everyman’s job. 

But people like you, the passionate ones with a dream for a product in mind, they do.

Once you have a vision in place, it is hardly a matter of time and money for the pieces to fall in the right cracks. Skilled people that can build your product can be brought in, and your product-idea can start taking form.

A team with the right balance of the necessary hard skills that is guided, is capable of producing a delightful product.

The emphasis is on ‘guided’, and this is where a non-tech founder can shine. They can be at the helm of every other crucial aspect and make sure that everyone is going forward as intended.

Before building an MVP

Now that you are a bit assured that you would not need a strong foundation to build a good MVP, here are some pointers before you start building one. Some of these are bound to be obvious of the seasoned product makers.

Go behind a tangible market

Would you cook food if there were chances of no one turning up to eat?

The answer is obvious. 

Survey prospects from your target audience, analyze your competition, and send out some flyers. See if people are responding to your product idea. 

And if you do not have the budget to survey and market, a simple competitor-analysis should give you a sense of where your product might stand, once it is ready.

Get a better sense of your niche

The better catering a product is for a market, the better the customer flock toward it. And, the easiest way to cater well is to build a product that meets specialized needs, i.e., solve a problem in a niche.

Every good product-idea is bound to be niche-based in the beginning. Understand the niche to which your product belongs thoroughly, and you have half of the race pre-run for yourself. 

Defining one's niche— How to build an MVP as a non-technical founder

Make your MVP as functional as possible

Let’s go back to the general definition of an MVP, “…the version of a product that is capable of collecting the maximum amount of validated learning about a set of customers with the least effort.” 

As we see, this version of the product, while requiring the least effort, still needs to be ‘capable’ enough to validate your product idea. 

A common confusion is thinking of an MVP as a high-end prototype.

But an MVP is supposed to be viable— regardless of its sparse features, it should still work as promised. A few bugs can be overlooked, but shoddy work is unacceptable. 

Rather, customers will not react the way that would give you the market-insights to go forward with your idea.

Naturally, you would have to make sure that your MVP is robust enough. 

Focus on being flexible

Since an MVP is here to educate, being firm on a certain set of features will be an unnecessary hindrance. 

As you gain insights from an MVP, there are only two ways you would go forward.

If the MVP is not appealing enough to the target audience, then you’d pivot. And, if your MVP seems to gain traction, then you’d iterate on your feedback.

Building an MVP

By now, you have a basic idea of what an MVP is and how it helps a newly-found business. A certain degree of assurance has also been instilled.

Let’s now jump at some of the ways you can build an MVP without any technical background. 

Tech co-founder

A common route taken by most startups at their beginning stages. A tech co-founder could be your best friend, a colleague, or your long-lost love. Whoever you decide on partnering with, the first thing that their presence does is fill your gap of technical skills. 

Most times, when the tech co-founder is someone you have known for a long time, they are safe bets. 

But not every aspiring founder gets lucky. You might have to opt for looking elsewhere. Maybe getting a lead through your networks, or maybe through a specific ad/post.

Since the person you find through this route is often not someone you know well, the first challenge is working with them and understanding how they work.

This route has other risks too. The biggest one: The tech co-founder leaving you when the startup seems to be stagnant. 

The solution to this risk is finding and partnering with someone who shares the same passion as yourself.

Overall, unless you hire someone you already have known or worked with for a couple of years, chances are that your experience with a tech co-founder might end up at a rocky place. 

Finding a tech co-founder— How to build an MVP as a non-technical founder

Freelancers

In 2020, it is an understatement when it is said that the world is moving toward remote work with flexible schedules. 

While freelancing is not just having more freedom than a normal employee, it is definitely a choice that is being preferred by new workforce joiners.

With the availability of such new blood in the freelancing space, it is pretty easy to hire someone or a set of people to work on your MVP.

The same problem as the last time is probable: If the team/person does not see the product-idea in the way you do, then it would be hard to get them to produce exact results. 

And solving such an alignment problem takes a lot of effort, which might not make sense during the beginning stages of your startup that urgently needs an MVP in place. 

But if you do find the right freelancer(s), you would have a lot of the burden of developing the product and worry about the technicalities taken away from you. 

Product Agencies

Specialization is the pinnacle of efficiency. The more narrow a set of skills, the better the precision and the higher the quality. 

Thus, it is no wonder that as we move further into exciting technologies that there would be startups/enterprises dedicated to product development.

As a non-tech founder, agencies are a good choice to consider.

On the front, the risks are the same ones when freelancers are hired. If an agency does not share your dedication or does not understand your product’s market potential.

But most top product development agencies do not make such mistakes. And good agencies come with market experience, product expertise, and some background with technology pioneering.

This means that product development agencies would not just help you build an MVP, but they could take you many steps forward as they can help you improve and innovate your idea.

As a first-time entrepreneur or a non-tech founder, landing a professional agency is probably your best bet at having a killer MVP that delights customers. 

Hiring a digital product agency— How to build an MVP as a non-technical founder

No Code Development

The future was promised to have flying cars and unlimited electricity. And while we might not have gotten as far as that, we have definitely evolved technology enough to build apps without coding.

Or rather, to build apps using apps.

There are a lot of choices for a non-tech founder; the commonest being Bubble. At their core, most no-code development apps can help you build an MVP in no time if your requirements are straightforward and simple. 

Compared to the other three options above, No Code Development would not hit your pockets hard or eat your minutes-hand away. 

No Code Development has its obvious problems, however. 

If your MVP belongs to a highly specialized niche or involves a lot of complex logic, depending on the No Code App, you might or might not be able to build the necessary components. 

As said, obvious, because No Code apps cater to the market-gap of ideas that are common but a bit repurposed for a specific industry. 

If you can’t find a No Code app that satisfies your needs, then you should be happy. You must have a really innovative product in your hands. 

Successful startups with non-tech founders

As an ambitious entrepreneur with a gap in technical knowledge, it might be hard to imagine if you could make it big, or even survive in the product space.

A boost of morale helps everyone, and you’d be glad to know that you are in good company.

The likes of successful startups such as Pandora, Alibaba, AirBnB, and Pinterest have passionate non-tech founders at their cores. Their successes also prove our point that it is the product idea and vision that matters. 

Without a previous interest (note: profession) in music, Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora would not have known the stakes behind making a music product successful. 

On the flip side, connecting the dots between having an air mattress and making a viable enterprise out of it is not something that everyone is capable of.

 But Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb saw the opportunity and jumped on it, no heeding to his lack of technical skills. 

Non-tech founders bring a lot to the table

Building an MVP or even a robust product does not have the entry barrier that it did a decade ago and anyone with an inspiring idea can build a product that revolutionizes the product space. 

As a non-tech founder, you know now that you can look beyond the skill required to build an MVP. 

You can leverage your varied set of experiences in life or unique skills against enterprises headed by technical founders. 

Bookmark this blog if you are an entrepreneur aspiring to build a product/MVP.

‘Til the next new post, check out our previous posts on development and entrepreneurship.

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Amrit Manthan

I love metaphors and similes. I feel at home with them, just as how the claws of a bird easily cling to a branch.

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