Programmers are distraction for your startup

(Disclosure: I'm a tech guy by myself)

For many new non-tech founders, usually the first step is to find a tech guy to build the product. But in some cases, that could be a crucial wrong decision. Programmers, Developers or Technical Co-Founders can also be a huge distraction for your startup.
Tech guys (especially when they haven't work in a startup before) are trained to focus on building a system rather than a product. Their main expertise is to program a system in the most performant and stable way they can. This is actually a good thing and there's nothing wrong about that.

But it might not be the kind of guy you want to have in your startup when it's still early stage. You are in the beginning of developing a product (not a technical system or a codebase!), which means you probably not even know your product by yourself. I know, that sounds harsh, but it's very likely that you have an imagination of your product and how it's used by your users, that doesn't reflect reality. The only thing you have in the beginning are assumptions, not even plans. Therefore you really have to focus hard on your product and not the underlying codebase.

One of the best examples is Pieter Levels. He started his famous project called Nomad List with a simple Google Sheet. At some point he got enought traction to build is own platform. He also did this with several other projects.
Another great example is Ryan Hoover. He started Product Hunt as a simple Email Newsletter. There are plenty more of projects who were build like this and are now successful.
You don't need a perfect product if you have a something that people want. Instead of procrastinating and building nice-to-haves, focus on the most important thing: building a product people will love.

That's why your project should start with the "No-code-principle", which means: Do not write a single line of code! See how far you can get with your product idea without writing code. Try to build your idea on an existing platform. There are plenty of platforms out there, which have features that might fit well with your product idea. If you can attract a few users and get some initial traction on a "foreign" platform, you can see that you are on the right track.

That's why we have set up a few principles when starting a project:

  • Set up your project on an existing platform which fits best for your needs
  • Attract users
  • Learn
  • Build or Microfail (= discard, restart at Step 1)

It forces you to start with tasks which, in my opinion, are the hardest to achieve for every startup - getting traction. By following this principle, you are not able to procrastinate or keep yourself busy with "unimportant" work like design, code or whatsoever. Your only focus is to find users, make them use your product and learn from them.

Further readings

P.S. If you have to hire a programmer in an early stage startup, prefer the ones who have founded or worked in a startup before. Don't only proof their technical skills, furthermore proof their T-shaped skills and if they fit well into your current team (which is another crucial part!).