Let’s start by defining what a techie really is. There is a new term out there called the “Hustler.” I’m sure it’s the same old meaning with a new twist: the streetwise guy that can make fast money. The new twist is in the startup techie world where there are hackers, coders and hustlers. So, for lack of a better definition, a non-techie is a “hustler,” a person in the tech world that can’t hack or code.
Of course, there are plenty of coders that have become great entrepreneurs. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, was a skilled software engineer and still had the vision and hustle to make Facebook a success. But there are also non-techies, hustlers that have been successful in the tech world. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, never knew how to code but had the product vision along with great business and sales skills. Steve Jobs was a true hustler.
Not that I compare myself to Steve Jobs, but I’m a hustler too. In the past I’ve started web-to-print companies including PostcardBuilder.com, Printz.com and DirectMailTools.com. I’ve just recently launched Popcards, an augmented reality greeting card app.
Here are three reasons why I think a non-techie can have a competitive edge over their techie, hacker/coder counterparts.
1. They don’t know their limitations
Sometimes techies are limited by the knowledge of and limitations of the code they’re writing. It would have been very easy for me to design the Popcards app as a stand-alone app if all I did was know how to write phone apps. In fact, most apps are stand-alone and don’t interface with a website with a customer service component.
I can only imagine that the developers of those apps were either cost constrained or coders focused on just writing what they knew. Hustlers can write the functionality or requirements of the product without the constraints of what they know or what’s easiest. Frankly, a hustler writes the requirements based on what he or she can sell.
2. They’re forced to see the BIG picture
Hustlers can’t think about the code and logic that goes into the software design, so they’re forced to think in broader terms, sometimes envisioning things that can’t be done. I like to think big and broad, then challenge the techies to reach beyond what they know or what’s easiest.
With our Popcards app, for the augmented reality experience, we needed the app to take a still photo that matches the first frame of a three-minute video. The developers first delivered the app that did a screen capture of the first frame of the video. We tested the screen capture and realized that it didn’t have the resolution to print a high-quality greeting card. Consequently, we had to challenge the techies.
3. They tend to simplify and embellish
Non-techies often can’t talk the talk of their techie counterparts, so they talk about the vision. They turn features into benefits, they think in terms of “what this can mean to the world.” They can, in a word, “sell.” Let’s be honest here; techies hate to simplify and hate to sell. The worst techies seem to not even realize that others don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. (Remember Jimmy Fallon doing Nick Burns the Computer Guy in the “Saturday Night Live” sketch?)
Sometimes it takes a real hustler to communicate what the product is and what it can do. The techies would be nowhere without a hustler to move the product to market.
Kurt Johnson is CEO of HammerDirect, LLC., specializing in web to print technologies. Under its umbrella, he started Popcards with Stephanie Hansen in 2014. The goal was to simply transform the greeting card industry with personal, interactive cards that come to life with a video experience. Kurt is an entrepreneur and founded businesses including PostcardBuilder.com, Printz.com and DirectMailTools.com under the HammerDirect umbrella. You can follow Kurt at Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.