An education for non-technical founders

A few weeks ago I talked about JamieApp - the London based tech/startup industry connector of people (read about it here). As a sign of how useful these meetings I can be, one of my more recent connections made me aware of an upcoming event aimed at non-technical founders like myself. Always keen to attend talks relevant to my situation, I RSVPed on EventBrite and eagerly awaited the evening of the talk. 

The event was hosted by Theodo - a company who build web and mobile apps. I guess putting on this sort of stuff serves as both a sales pitch for their services as well as an education for non-technical people embarking on their startup journey. Like a lot of tech-centric companies, their offices were quirky - housed on the top floor of a renovated building, their space was bright and open - bathed in light from an old pitched roof filled with big glass windows. On one of the hottest days of the year however, the ensuing greenhouse effect only exacerbated the muggy London heat. 

Someone should go around rating these sort of industry/networking events by the quality of the complimentary beverages they provide. No doubt Theodo would score highly. Packed into their quickly melting ice bucket were bottles of Asahi and a white wine that came highly recommended by Fabrice, the French CEO of Theodo. (Not wanting to stereotype but I was pretty confident in his recommendation). 

Pre-talk networking went well. Unfortunately the guy i'd met in the lift on the way up wasn't particularly forthcoming with my persistent attempts to learn about his business idea. I only really got as far as finding out it involved the property industry before the ol' NDA slap in the face left us standing in silence staring at our drinks. Fortunately a new face joined our group, unfortunately his icebreaker involved asking what our ventures were all about and we were immediately back at square one unless this guy was about to pull an NDA out of his arse. 

He didn't.

As i'd hoped, the talk was insightful. It validated some things I already knew and taught me plenty about how to develop successful apps. My preconception that this might be a glorified sales pitch for Theodo's services was clearly misguided. One of Fabrice's main points was the importance of holding off developing the technical solution to your idea until you've attempted to validate it through other means. Examples included the WordPress blog that preceded Groupon (not a happy ending ultimately) or the popular newsletter that led the way for My Little Paris (a much happier ending ultimately). 

Other highlights included the pros/cons of hiring freelance devs, offshore teams or in-house hires, the best languages to create your apps and the how-to for hiring your 1st full time developer. All great stuff. Agile and Scrum jargon permeated the whole talk. We talked sprints, user stories, scrum-masters - all great words and now i know what they mean. In all serious though - i've realised STAMP development has been as far from agile as you could be so stay tuned for some serious productivity improvements. 

As with any discussion about tech, someone throws a quote into the mix in order to validate a point. And Fabrice didn't disappoint. Apparently it was the great Jeff Bezos who once said: "If you can't feed a team with two pizzas, it's too big".

Well said Jeff, well said. 

And so the talk wound to a close, people re-congregated around the free booze and I ended up talking to a guy who had just quit his job in consulting to a find a start up join. Sorry hombre, no vacancies here. 

Till next time. 

S x 

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