Making Good Tech Decisions Without Understanding Technology

Non-technical founders ask this question on almost all TechEye events. How can they hire developers to build a product, if they don’t know what to put in the job specs in the first place?

It’s hard to believe, but when you start out on an MVP, almost everything else is more important than the technology choices.

Just to make this point super clear. As long as you can build a product that people use, there really are no bad choices.

For sure, some technologies are better than others in a specific way, but bad tech is a problem you can fix later. Indeed, sometimes bad tech decisions can be an expensive problem to fix, but you can almost always fix it.

Not having customers is not a problem you can fix later.

Before making any decision

Before you even think about tech, talk to 10-20 people who might be good customers. Cold call them if you must.

To my own surprise, people will give you money if you solve their problem, even when you don’t have a logo, a company name, or a product. I was a high school student with a home-baked CMS when I started out 18 years ago. I had no idea how to run a business or to build a real product, and yet, people queued up for that service. You can deliver the product by hand even, as long as you solve a problem.

For all the ideas that don’t survive these 10-20 discussions: don’t bother building them. Good tech won’t fix any of the problems you face when you’re working on a bad idea. You can make a bad move out of a good script, but you can’t make a good move with a bad script. You’ll save a lot of time if you sell first, and build later.

I’m ready! So how do I choose really?

You don’t choose tech. You choose the developer who chooses tech.

If there was a single tech that’s better than all the others in every possible way, surely everyone used that one.

This is not the case: developers have heated discussions about their tech. Go to Hacker News and observe debates. They get more heated than debates on god, vegetarianism or guessing which superhero would win in a fight.

Choosing tech is therefore a two step process.

  1. Find developers who can build the product, who you trust and can work together with. That determines 90% of the technology choices, because no developer is really good at multiple frameworks.
  2. Try to find another developer for that same thing, and make sure that your main dev is happy working together with them. If you find it easy to assemble a good team, only then should you proceed.

The best option for you is to avoid originality in any form. If you choose Django/Python/Rails or anything that a lot of people use, then you’ll always have options. Having options matters life or death in situations where a dev team leaves you stranded.

Other than having options and being able to build a product, don’t worry about tech at all.

Whichever tech you end up using, if you can build a team and a product with it, that’s the right tech for you. An average startup rewrites their entire code base every 1-2 years while scaling up. You’ll do well if you can build a business in the meanwhile.

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Richard Dancsi

Founder & Techie

Startup founder and management consultant with over 15 years experience in building technology teams, products and companies.