I’ve been developing an idea for an app that I think would be helpful for fiction writers like myself as well as student writers. I’ve figured out a couple ways to make it lucrative as well as potentially provide employment for others (not just me). However, I have zero tech skills. How do I go about building a business that requires technology that I can’t create? Do I hire someone?
You are what is known as a “non-technical cofounder.” You are looking for — no surprises here — one or more “technical cofounders.” This is totally a thing, and now you can more easily Google/ask about this. In fact, here is the Quora topic Non Technical Cofounders. And HustleCon is a conference specifically for nontechnical cofounders – this year’s just happened, but there’s always next year.
Generally speaking, you would find other people to work on your app in exchange for equity (ownership in the company). This is also totally a thing and people totally do that. Two places you can start are AngelList and FounderDating. The startup world is, uh, still a little (a lot) male dominated. If you wanted, you could try talking to computer science students at universities. You could probably find some young women who can build the project and who would be awesome to work with (and who may also be intimidated by jumping into the startup scene). Incidentally, at a Monarq Moguls event in NYC I met both the founders of a theater startup (that rented equipment to movie and theater productions), as well as two young women who were still finishing their computer science degrees while working on their startup.
Of course, you certainly can pay someone to build the app. A lot of people who do this look for someone abroad, in order to save money. It’s true that, for a few thousand dollars, you can get a whole team of people in India or Uzbekistan working on your project. However, this isn’t really a one-time build — you’re going to constantly want revisions and improvements (and it might take several rounds to get what you really want in the first place, and who knows how those costs would add up?) Whatever they quote, plan to pay triple. I’ll add that GetBullish has an app, and even though I’m fine with the app as-is, I frequently get emails from both the Apple and Android developer programs about new releases or security problems that require me to make changes and resubmit my app. Again: not a one-time build. (For anyone interested, my app is through Como, which allows anyone to make an app that basically aggregates your blog, social media, online shop, and other properties you already have online. This is neat for Bullish, but not something you can customize or probably monetize much.)
(Here is a company called Rootstrap that is probably not cheap, but aims to take you from the idea phase to the development phase. Why do I know about this? Facebook’s all-knowing eye probably read your email and then decided to put this ad into my feed. Basically ALL my Facebook ads are for business development programs. I’d like to see more cute flats, frankly.)
Which path should you choose?
If you build a team, obviously you give up 100% ownership, but then you have someone who is motivated to make those tech improvements because she wants her own chunk of the company to be worth something. She’ll think of improvements that you won’t have to micromanage and bargain for.
It’s also virtually impossible to get investors for a company that’s just one person. So building a team opens up that possibility.
Or, you could send yourself to coding bootcamp.
I think those are pretty much all the options. Hope that helps!
Oh, and a lot of startups founded by arrogant young dudes are pretty trivial and useless, so don’t let anybody make you think you’re not a “real” startup. You learn 20 words of tech biz lingo and you’re basically on the same level as a million dudes who think their laundry/nutrition shake/barber app is REALLY DISRUPTIVE.