Why Every Internet Entrepreneur Should Code

As an Inc. 500 Entrepreneur and the Founder of Startup Guild, an early stage startup accelerator, I come into contact with a lot of entrepreneurs. I have noticed many traits that make for successful entrepreneurs. Today, I want to talk to you about coding and its many benefits for entrepreneurs.

I believe that coding is one of those skills that comes in handy very often for startup entrepreneurs.

It’s not just the actual ability to code that matters most. It’s the problem-solving mindset that coding puts you in.

The ability to have a problem-solving mindset often separates the successful from the unsuccessful. After all, entrepreneurs are essentially professional problem solvers. If you don’t have a problem to solve, you will have a hard time collecting money from people. The bigger the problem, the more money people will pay you to solve it.

Reverse engineering and decompiling the competition to make improvements.

The mindset of dissecting a business model and figuring out exactly how and why it works can be acquired through coding. Often when coding you will look at what the competitors are doing and find ways to make improvements. You may have to reverse engineer or “decompile” their business model. The more you know about your competition, the better you can compete.

Functions are like competitors. When to copy them.

Functions are like competitors. Usually you call a function so you don’t have to repeat yourself. Often entrepreneurs make the mistake of copying an existing product. They don’t improve anything. In fact, their version might be several generations behind, lacking features that are considered standard. But wait – here’s where the unconventional wisdom comes in. If (and only if) you have superior marketing ability, you can actually take a piece of the market with the same product as your competition. But if you don’t have a better marketing strategy (where you know you will get a piece of the market) you better make up for it with features that are in demand.

One example would be Virgin America airlines. They are taking a very similar product (air travel) and using the same planes as many others are, but they are selling more/doing better by having a superior marketing strategy. The marketing strategy has now become part of the product (the experience) and that’s where the magic happens. You allow the marketing strategy to dictate what works and what doesn’t —instead of building a product and hoping there’s a market for it.

Coding the way to a better product by debugging.

In coding, debugging is like gathering feedback, seeing what’s working and what’s not and then fixing any problems. You can do the same thing as an entrepreneur. Instead of making up problems to fix, you can look at the existing marketplace and see what issues people have with existing competitive software, tools, games or whatever you are making. If you listen to feedback about your competition and solve the problem, you can gain a market share because you know there are people looking for that kind of solution.

This is also likely what Virgin America did. They listened to problems (boring flying experience, cramped legroom, dull/uninspiring plane interior) and built their product around those features, debugging problems of existing airlines and making improvements based on what people actually wanted. This went hand in hand with their marketing strategy and each supported the other.

Coding keeps you sharp, and you need to be sharp.

Your competition is fighting 24 hours a day to take you down. As an entrepreneur, you need to be sharp. Coding makes you really sharp. You are constantly solving problems and finding ways to make your code as efficient as possible. That’s just what you will be doing in your business, being efficient and making as much profit and helping as many people as possible.


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