There's a classic catch-22 of running a business: most of the time, the person who has the initial idea doesn't have the skill or expertise to create it. There's another adage that my grandfather used to say that goes nicely with this - ideas are a dime a dozen.

One of the questions I get asked all the time by entrepreneurs surrounds this: how can I execute on my idea? Usually, what they mean is "How can I convince someone to do all the skilled labor for free while I sit back and take credit for my "idea?" This is called a "technical cofounder."

The advice I offer is fairly straightforward. It mainly consists of three parts:

  1. If you're serious about your business, you should put in your own resources - time, sweat, money - whatever you've got.
  2. If you're clear on what you need, you will know where to go to get it.
  3. If you're passionate about your mission, you'll have no trouble convincing other people to join you.

The first part filters out a surprisingly large number of people. Interestingly, once people I've encountered find that effort is required beyond having the initial idea, many lose interest.

For those who are still interested, however, they often have a bit of a learning curve. Many businesses today are technology based in some way, but not everyone is a programmer. And when you're starting out, you are always pre-revenue, so hiring someone to code something is probably not a good use of precious funds.

That said, there are a few ways a non-technical person can pop up a tech-enabled business by themselves without hiring a developer.

Alexa

At Shoptalk 2018 in Las Vegas, Amazon announced that they've hired more developers for their AI teams than Google has for similar endeavors. With that news, it's a sure bet that Amazon Alexa is here to stay. The framework for Alexa is based on something called an "Alexa Skill" --this is the architecture that allows you to say "Alexa <your company name>".

By creating Alexa Skills that connect to your company's products, you'll be way ahead of the curve. If you're not a programmer, you can use the new Storyline application's drag and drop creator to make your own Skills with no prior knowledge required. This way, customers with Alexa-enabled products will be able to talk directly to your service -- no hands needed!

Apps

If you thought it would be a great idea to have an application for your product, you might have thought about getting a quote from a developer. Depending on how complex, it could be thousands -- or hundreds of thousands of dollars for an app, and take months or years to complete.

Enter Bubble.is and Glitch.com - both sites enable non-developers to create their own web apps and publish them, for free. They're easy to use and have tutorials and open communities to help you out. Recently, a startup using Bubble even got into the prestigious YCombinator program.

Chatbots

If you do any business on the Web (and really, most businesses should be) then you should have a chatbot helping you. This can be your customer service team, your sales funnel, your administrative assistant, even your online store.

Previously something you'd have to hire a developer to do for you, now you can use something like Manychat or HelloTars to program them simply and easily and plug them into anywhere you want to connect with people.

Websites

What list would be complete without mentioning the first hurdle that most businesses have to jump - websites? Without a homepage on the internet, it's as if you don't exist

The venerable Squarespace and Weebly have been around forever, helping solo entrepreneurs make professional-looking sites that look good enough to get going.

While these won't replace a technical resource in your company permanently, they definitely will get you past the initial phases of starting your business. And when you're just starting out, that's all you really need.

Published on: Mar 21, 2018
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