A Recent Conversation with a Clueless Tech Founder

Over the year’s I have worked with and spoken to many start-up founders over. Many of them are tech founders; some are business people who outsource the tech (or have a tech). The best combination – in my opinion – is when you have a team with mixed skills.

More about effective teams later.

What is a Tech Founder?

A friend of mine recently told me that a good startup has a tech person, a marketing person and a visionary.

I agree.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that this has to be three different people. But that is a lot of work for one person.

A Tech Founder is when the entire startup is lead by the tech person. That doesn’t have to be a problem if the tech founder appreciates the other forces and roles in play.

Let’s discuss the three critical roles:

Tech person – This is the person who dictates the software used and builds the product itself. This person can even be a project manager who manages the outsourced coders. Usually, they are the coder.

Marketing person – My favorite (because I am a marketer), the person who builds traction for the business, generates leads, gathers data and learns how to SELL the product

Visionary/direction setter – The person who most probably thought of the idea and has a dream of where they want the product to go. Again, this person could be the tech person or the marketer.

Now we have the roles defined, let me tell you about the most common problem I see in new startups today. Sometimes even long established startups.

Can you guess what it is? It’s the death sentence.

“It sells itself….right?”

 This post is about a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a Tech Founder. There were two founders. Both of them were the coders (tech founders)

Is that a massive problem?

Well.. yes and no!

It is great from a product development stand-point because the product will be good. But..

The conversation with the Tech Founder

I recently moved into a new office in London. The office had many private enclosed offices and a MASSIVE coffee shop area for people who – like me – enjoy a bit of noise (and coffee of course).

Great way to meet new people..

I digress.

I met a new start up, two guys who were awesome coders and had big brains on their shoulders. We started to speak about startups in general; Peter Thiel’s book “0 to 1” and selling.

NOTE: This startup had funding!



Me: Who is your target audience, are you gathering data at the moment?

Tech Guy: We are just perfection the product first..

Me: You know there is this great book by the Paypal founder, Peter Th…

Tech Guy: 0 to 1!! I love that book. Very inspirational, what they done was amazing.

Me: What was your favorite part or key message?

Tech Guy: The fact that you should never give up and chase your dreams. Yours?

Me: The part where he emphasizes the fact that the product isn’t everything and if we stopped selling today the economy will suffer a huge death – I paraphrase!

Tech Guy: Isn’t that obvious though?

Me: It is, but it is the simple things that people miss in the heat of the moment. That is why I asked you if you are running tests and gathering data…

Tech Guy: But the product is awesome, once it is finished it will sell itself!


What do you think is wrong here? I see two things wrong.

  1. Lack of appreciation of the marketing and sales process
  2. Picking up a book and missing some CRITICAL lessons. This is why Brian always say’s “it is important to learn how to learn”. 

2 reasons why startups fail

The reality is, nothing sells itself.

Think back to when you started using Facebook, was it because your friends used it? Was it viral at the time? (Viral Marketing – yes, it is a thing)

Somehow, product owners get their products into our hands. There are many strategies for this, all of which are marketing.

If it is so simple why do so many businesses any startups fail?

In my opinion, I have seen two things. It’s no surprise that it is the same two things that was wrong in the conversation above.

Doesn’t appreciate the marketing process starts at the beginning

When you have a great idea, the first thing we tend to do is build a minimum viable product.

Could take months, then we see if people want it. They don’t. Then you start again.

Worse than that, you build the product, the team and get funding before you have even opened up dialog with the target market.

Digital marketing has made this much easier, you can find out what your potential customers think about your idea before you even build it.

Coca Cola sells itself…after spending $3.3billion on marketing PER YEAR!

Learning how to learn

Making a mistake is an amazing thing. You mess up, you review the situation, you never make the same blunder twice.


You read someone else’s experience (or talk to a mentor) and you shave a few months worth of mistakes out of your business.

This is learning. It is fundamental that you do not continually make the same mistakes over and over again. It is expensive and demoralizing.

Some people are quick thinkers, some are slow. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is you play to your strengths and really try to understand why things went wrong and learn from it.

Learn how to learn first if this is beyond you.

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