Should Entrepreneurs Learn How To Code?

programming

I was recently talking about some startup ideas with a friend of mine. After much discussion, we decided that we needed to enlist the help of a seasoned programmer. As neither of us had the required skill set to execute our idea, we would have to work with somebody who had the hard skills to develop our business.

This got me thinking about how essential it is to learn how to code given that I am an entrepreneur and want to create a startup.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has even made it one of his personal goals to learn how to code.

Most people I’ve talked to tell me that the best way to start is to read lot’s of blogs and figure out what I need to learn. Others tell me that it’s easier to bring my business experience to the table and find somebody with a coding background to fill in the gap.

Two websites that I’ve looked into in terms of programming education are:

– Team Treehouse
– Lynda.com

Both websites have their strengths. Lynda.com being the bigger site has more selection and videos. Whereas Team Treehouse seems to focus specifically on web development and design.

I think that it’s important for me to know the basics so I can tell a software person what I need. If I had a lot of free time, I would sit down and learn as much as I could.

I’ll open this up to you to comment. What programming languages or coding skills do you think are important for a tech entrepreneur?

19 comments

  1. Code academy is also a great skill. I think if your business is around a computer program you need to know the basics to get along. A little more education never hurt.

    1. Thanks for sending that Michael. I’ll check out Code Academy! I briefly looked at your website earlier. You’ve got some great posts i’d like to read.

      1. Hey Matt,

        Just to follow up, I looked into Team Tree House pretty awesome!

        Best of luck, I plan on starting my own programming study in the new year! We can race to launch? What do you say?

        Best,

        Michael

  2. I’m so glad you posted this! I’m awaiting responses as well. I do a LITTLE tampering with code for our company website and it’s actually fun and exciting when you see all the mumblejumble turn into a pretty design! I want to learn so that I can be fluent in it. I just know a very little of the basics. I was thinking of going to school for it, but If I can get the same amount of education from blogs or whatnot, that’s even better!

  3. Coding is a mindset of breaking a large task into smaller into smaller chunks. It’s great for planning, plan writing, explaining, and proposal writing. It is one more language you can communicate in. If you can explain it, someone can help you make it a reality.

  4. I think it pays to know at least a little bit about a lot of things, especially if you have to explain your vision to technical experts. Knowing enough of the relevant technical vernacular comes in handy when testing and troubleshooting too. Of course, if the success of your start-up relies on regular use of a particular technical skill, like coding, it’s probably a good idea to learn as much as you can about it.

  5. depends what your goal is.

    If you’re prototyping with the intent of building attention, or just figuring out what you’re trying to build, start with learning how to do mockups first with photoshop/ai/fw, then with css/html – This will give you the ability to lay things down on a page or an app (and give you an idea of how things piece together) so you can interest developers, and maybe even investors.

    If you want to do rapid deployment and iteration (ala lean method), you will most likely need to be very diligent in learning full-stack programming and rapid design, or hire a designer and CTO. If you decide you want to learn, most people swear by javascript for front-end (presentation) and languages like Ruby for back-end (functionality) in order to achieve this. There are more back-end languages to choose than there are ways to skin a cat. It’s a matter of what comes most naturally to you, or if you want to bother learning X language.

    Keep in mind, unless you are able to pay tons of money, it is very difficult to hire a good CTO if you don’t know what you’re talking about –particularly nowadays, when CTOs are so expensive, and are in such high demand. If you’ve managed to convince a CTO to join your ranks, it’s harder still to convince him to make what you want. More often than not, it is the design problem that is more difficult to communicate than the technical problem, and out of the very few CTOs that will agree to a project, even fewer will bother with design iterations, particularly if it means doing more work for no money. This means it is very important to hash out the design problem first, prior to consulting with the CTO, either by yourself and a designer (if you know how to code), or with a designer/developer hybrid (even rarer than CTOs) if you don’t know how to code.

    Just my $0.02 based on what I’ve seen with people trying tech startups, and being involved in the whole arena myself.

  6. as for learning, it also depends what platform you’re using.

    Here are some common combinations you can’t go wrong with:

    For web:
    JavasScript, PHP, and MySQL

    For iOS apps:
    Objective C and SQLite

    For android apps:
    Java and SQLite

    Windows programming:
    C++

    Windows devices and Windows 8 Apps:
    JavaScript and MsSQL

  7. Coming from a background in industrial computer systems engineering, I think it is very handy to know the basics of coding. Of course its only useful if its relevant. So figure out what you want to do with it first, and then go and learn what’s required.

    Our course didn’t focus on any one style or language of coding, but many for various different purposes. Ideally the student will then emerge not a pro of any one style, but accustomed to many and conversant with some. Of course we live primarily in the world of industrial code (like ladder logic for PLCs) which uses higher level graphical programming environments. But then we also experienced machine level code when programming micro-controllers. Maybe try to find some rudimentary older language to start with, one which many newer languages have since been derived from.

    One good way to learn is to have a project to work on. This will give you the focus and direction to stay on track. The structure of the project will act as the foundation for your code learning. Eg: Build a Linux home server from the command line, any Arduino home automation mods, or Mobile Phone apps.

    Good luck, and have fun!

  8. If you are business owner that will run the business (instead of it running you) learn the basics so you know what can be done & when an employee is blowing smoke. As an owner you need to be able to watch the whole company, not do everything. That is the difference between a business owner and employee. Or if you have a passion for coding, get a partner who can run the business.

  9. I often think about this especially when it comes to creating my own mobile apps. I know enough to do basic coding for websites. But beyond that I think I should know more just so I know what I am getting.

  10. Great question Matt,

    Many entrepreneurs have pondered this topic after seeing an inspirational Kickstarter app, mumbling “Argh! I thought of that first, if I just knew how to code that could have been me”. But before you start digging into free on-line tutorials ask yourself this question:

    “In five years from now how much of my time do I want to be sitting in front of a computer finding bugs, testing and documenting the code?” If your answer is greater than 50% you should definitely learn how to code; if not, you should consider on of the following:

    1) Attend a hack-a-thon event and buy a programmer a drink, see if you can find a partner
    2) Raise some capital, interview some programmers and hire one to develop for you
    3) Learn about high level programming architecture so you can manage development and best outsource it to others.

    Raising Capital:

    I have been fortunate enough to attend many great entrepreneurship, start up and accelerator events where companies were seeking funding from investors. A key metric was the quality of the team from a both the technical and business perspective. Investors wanted to know that the business people had a track record of successful projects and that the technical people were proficient and capable delivering world class solutions. The best question I have heard a couple times now has been “Why you? this sounds like a great widget but why should you be the world leader in this?” (Hint: if you are ever asked this question talk about passion and commitment not ROI).

    To code or not to code…:

    Lets say it takes a year+ to learn how to program and then a few hours a month to stay current, will that be enough for you to become a world class coder / technology influencer? Is it possible that if you invested that time (100-600+ hours) into researching industry problems, trends and government RFPs that you may be exposed to more opportunities?

    Good luck to everyone,

    JJ

  11. Good post and something that’s close to my heart right now. Although Linda.com is good, it costs money. I’ve found Codecademy to be a really excellent FREE learning tool as it takes you through from the utterly basic to the outlandishly complicated in easily digestible sections. I go on about it on my blog here: http://lexiconcrush.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/codecademy/

    In terms of whether it’s better to be a businessman and bring HR in to solve the problem or to learn the skill yourself I’d always choose the latter. Even if it’s a brief, overarching knowledge, I believe no manager of a business should ever ask any of his/her employees to do anything they can’t or won’t do themselves.

    1. I’ve heard of Codeacademy but never had a chance to check it out! I ‘m definitely going to look into it, especially as it’s a free learning tool! Thanks for the tip!

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