Do you need to know how to code?

Startup logic tells us that we need to have two types of founders: the technical and non-technical founder. The non-technical is usually the business guy: he goes to meetings, does deal and generally gets to spend more time in coffee shops going over Excel documents. However, should “the business guy” be able to code as well? I’m not sure it’s critical but here’s a great argument from Fast Company:

Programming is a practical application of abstract math combining esoteric theory with experiential practice. And learning it can be every bit as brain-scramblingly incomprehensible and front-row-seat-for-Celine-Dion tedious as the previous sentence suggests. But, if you want to start a technology company, you should learn to code. And the reason is Donald Trump.


Say whatever you want about the man (and, as a New Yorker, I can say plenty), Donald Trump achieved no small level of success in the real estate business.


If you were to ask him the secret to his success, he would point to a competitive edge handed down to him by his father: He knew what everything cost. Meaning he could look at a foundation and given its size, the type of concrete used, the techniques involved and a few other factors, Trump’s old man had a rough sense of how much he should pay. His son often says that knowledge–the knowledge of what everything costs–is the linchpin of the Trump empire‚Äôs success.


There are hundreds of details that go into turning a hunk of capital into a building; Donald Trump wins because he knows what all those details cost. And his competitors don’t.


Reconsider, then, why you should learn to program as a non-technical founder. In our current environment, your most precious resource is not money–it is time.


Why learn how to program? Because you’ll learn how much time everything should take. Will sharing content on Facebook take more time than authenticating with Twitter? Is it more development effort to implement a recommendation engine or add full-text search? If a developer hands you a login page written in an afternoon, is it quality work? Will rewriting the site in Ruby really only take three months?

Pretty compelling argument, I think I need to go learn how to code.

Source (Fast Company)

One thought on “Do you need to know how to code?

  1. I would argue there’s a subtle distinction here… You need to understand *how* to code (the logic) and what the specific platform you’re building for is capable of. To have a grasp of both of those you don’t necessarily need to be able to actually code.

Leave a Reply