Freelancing · MVP Development

How do I get a tech startup off the ground without coding knowledge?

Mark Niednagel Purdue University double major in Marketing/Management. Freelance videographer. Visionary.

May 27th, 2020


For the past 2 years, I have had an idea for a tech firm that would revolutionize the gig economy digging at the back of my head. I am a passionate videographer and would love to help people like me make their dream job more easily attainable. I have brought my idea through the Firestarter cohort at Purdue, served as a client for a UX class that built me a prototype and am dieing to see this come to life.

Honestly, whether it is me or not I know a company like this will exist in the next 5 years. I would just be happy to use it.

My biggest roadblock is I have no coding knowledge and no desire to learn the coding if eventually the position will be hired out. How can i get this paradigm-shifting company off the ground? Do I outsource an MVP? Do I find a tech-minded cofounder? Do I try a grassroots approach and try growing slow and steady on something like Wix?

I appreciate any advice you can share.

Much love.


Mark Niednagel

Kirill Pertsev

May 27th, 2020

You need a tech cofounder ultimately. You are starting a *tech* company. You can outsource the prototype and MVP, you can hire the tech talent, but if you are going to stay a tech company, the tech should be a part of your company's DNA.

As someone who spent 20+ years in the outsourcing industry, I'd strongly recommend you find a tech cofounder first who knows how to outsource and then make a decision to outsource the development. Otherwise, you have about a 2-5% chance of success.

You wouldn't be able to raise money for the tech company having no tech experience onboard.

Jeff Lillibridge Digital jack of all trades and idea guy

May 27th, 2020

Build the MVP on Bubble. It's the most robust no-code platform out there and you could absolutely do it on your own. Feel free to reach out with any questions and I can share my learnings, etc.

Clay Nichols Helping other startups grow after launching 2 successful startups.

June 2nd, 2020

I do agree that having a technical cofounder is very helpful. However, usually the hardest part is knowing what to build, not so much building it.

How might you validate the market without building something complicated?

Could you provide the service manually (even if that's not cost effective initially)?

Steve Owens Startup Expert

May 27th, 2020

I am assuming you have already validated the market and raised a seed round. If not, do that long before coding anything. If you do not know how to do market validation, then hire someone a firm to do it for you - or look at our website for a white paper.

If you have, then find a really good product development company. Warning: their are sharks in the water and well meaning experts that will do the wrong thing really well. You want a firm that specializes in startups - not big company guys. Again, you can find a white paper on our white on how to hire a product development team.

Knowing how to code is the simple part. Having a well define product development process is much harder. Given your only going to build one MVP (for the moment), it makes not sense to develop all these procedures yourself. It is like taking a weeks vacation and buying a car instead of renting one.

Gabor Nagy Founder / Chief architect at Skyline Robotics

Last updated on May 27th, 2020

You learn to code. Otherwise you end up like the Winklevoss brothers. Watch the movie, the "Social Network", if you don't know what I mean.

If you want to start a medical practice, you need to get a medical degree and do your internship etc..

If you want to start a tech company, you need to learn the technology, otherwise you'll always be the "outsider" in your own company and an easy target for getting scammed either by your own employees / board or by outside contractors.

Christopher Brunner Founder - Payments

May 28th, 2020

Hi Mark. I was in your exact position 7 years ago. Don't go slow. Don't let another company develop it. Pull a team together and get going. I'm always free to chat and help.

Julien Frisquet CTO, Software Engineering and Project Manager (Hands on!)

May 28th, 2020

Having been a CTO in a few start ups, I would definitely recommend that you bring in a tech co-founder from the start.

The reason being:

- If you outsource the MVP, the code will not be known / understood by the CTO who will eventually come in. It will also restrict your options (because polyglot CTOs are much rarer than "expert in this language and that language" CTOs). Moreover, you will have no idea if the code is bug free, secure, maintainable etc... Needless to say, it would be very likely that the first techie joining you as a real team member will give you a list of issues after the first week, and a 6 months timeline to fix it, before any new features can be added. It takes longer to fix an already running (and released) system than to build something greenfield. Also, the co-founder will have a better idea of what is the overall vision, and that will influence significantly how the MVP code is built. Without this, you would be facing lengthily refactors which will slow you down.

- If you go down the route of so called "nocode" platforms, be advised it's not sustainable. You can use it as a toy for prototyping UX/UI ideas, but as soon as you need a real system that you control, without restrictions on features and technology, you will have to rewrite everything from the ground up with the help of a tech team.

Best of luck!

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

June 7th, 2020

Mark, I don't think you have a business. I'm going to tell you my assumptions as to why. You have a desire to make your videography career more successful. You don't want to build the technology yourself. You don't have the inclination to change.

Here's the key hint "... would love to help people like me make their dream job more easily attainable." You want to be you. You don't want to run a business to make other people to be successful. That's something completely different than being you. The distinction is important here. Your measure of success comes from your own videography, not from enabling other aspiring videographers. While you wish you had the tools that you would like to build to make your own life easier, that does not mean you should change course and turn your personal desire to have a smooth path to personal success into a business helping other people (while you do not succeed as a videographer).

IFF (that's if and only if) you decide that other videographers' success is more important than your own videography, then you might have a business worth pursuing. If not, then continue with your own personal skills and be glad in a few years that the tool you hoped would be available to you (and others) finally is.

If you are not willing to learn a bunch about software coding, you should NOT go into a business where that's the core of the business, even if someone else is doing the work. If you don't understand a ton of what goes into software development, aren't able to think strategically on behalf of your team, and can't evaluate what's reasonable in terms of what's going on in your development, then you should not be in the software business. It doesn't matter if you have a team of coders working for you. If you don't want to understand them and learn nothing about them, you should not be in that line of business. You don't have to become a coder or be able to read code, but if you have "no desire to" learn, then it's the wrong time to go into that kind of business. Stick to being a superior videographer, sans one tool you wish you had in your toolbox.

Good luck!

Craig Lillard Serial Founder/Bootstrapper of Video Related Startups. Currently Growing

Last updated on May 27th, 2020

I agree with everyone here... If you can learn to code yourself, do it yourself. But, I realize that is a bit unrealistic, especially if your product is reasonably complex.

Sounds like you are going to need a cofounder. Going to be way too expensive for you to hire someone to build what you need. You need someone who can get it off the ground for you.

Alternatively, if you could get to the point where you can prove you can sell the product, you could potentially get an angel investor or you could somehow fund it yourself. I funded my first venture 20 yrs ago with credit cards and a home equity loan and lots of sweat equity for example. But I only did that when I was sure I was going to make money or was already making money.

I will say, if you know how to code, it simplifies everything. It is a bit of a super-power when it comes to getting stuff off the ground without having to spend money. So, if you are technically minded, get on it. :)

M Agrawal Information Technology Professional (MBA, MCITP, MCTS)

May 27th, 2020

Hi Mark,

Alternatives to learning programming can include:

- Do a mock-up of the UI/UX in PowerPoint, which is probably you what you already did.

- Use a NCLC (no-code low-code) agency to build a working prototype. (More expenensive then PowerPoint). Google for no-code low-code developer.

Hope this helps.