Many founders believe that to successfully demonstrate their idea, or have a product or service succeed, they must invest in code. While that may be true eventually, it is not something that is always, or in most cases, needed from the start.
Don’t believe me? I recently worked with a client who had achieved a turnover of €8 million ($9.5 million) without a single line of code. What he achieved was not a one-off, not a fluke, but rather, the result of careful planning and understanding what was truly required.
Source of the misconception
The error in believing you need code to start is the result of founders who have ideas and, looking around at the competition, compare their concept to well-designed products with advanced features being delivered by mature startups. While that may be the end goal, it is not the starting point.
A real starting point
Version zero of your product or service can be built without a developer. Remember, the purpose of this version zero is to ensure that this is something people are going to be willing to pay for. Remember also that you must be prepared at this stage to lose everything you have invested, so keeping initial costs low is key.
How to start
Depending on what you are wanting to develop, free tools such as Typeform or Google Forms and Web platforms such as Strikingly and Wix are easy to use and require little or no previous skill set. They can allow you to develop 80% or more of your initial offering with your own hands.
If you have some money to invest and find that even this beginning is beyond what you are able to fulfill, then hiring a provider to develop a small version of the product, without code, also makes sense. These tricks are both part of lean startup methodology – starting fast and investing less.
Anticipate the future
Even as you are starting, testing the waters to see what consumers may be interested in, you must be looking to the future and anticipating your success plan. Questions such as: If this works, what comes next? How will I go about scaling? Where can I find resources to help me grow? Who can I ask to mentor me along the way?
While there are resources such as Clarity that offers advice from experts who are founders with similar experiences, you also want to be building your own personal network of resources, mentors and advisors along the way. Every time you meet someone or hear about someone, take note of who they are and how they might help you someday.
Steps to scaling
Once you’ve identified that people are willing to pay for what you will provide, it is time to identify where the most time is wasted. Depending on cost and how quickly you expect to scale, this can either mean hiring people to help share the manual load, or hiring a developer to begin replacing these people with software processes. You still may not require code, just an industrialization of processes to allow you to scale.
When to invest
The only truly defined signs that it may be time to take the next step are limits on time to complete the work manually, and that point at which your time is spent primarily serving clients rather than developing the business. These indicators will let you know it is time to reinvent the process and to scale up in a more formal and industrialized way.
Keep in mind that your capacity to hire the right development partner should involve some kind of monetary restrictions – you don’t want to use investor money just to grow but more to reinvent and optimize your process to enhance your ROI (return on investment). It may then be worth obtaining professional advice to ensure you are not swayed by a provider who comes in with a ‘too good to be true’ quote, or one who may want to help you but lacks the technical skills you specifically require.
How far have you grown your business without code? Share your stories here.