Startup founders are ninjas with black belts in turning ideas into products. They have to be.
But in addition to being great developers and designers, at the very beginning of the startup; they also need to do a lot of business work that they may not be familiar with. That’s where their technical skills can actually be incredibly beneficial.
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Over the years I’ve faced business challenges, which I overcame using my technical skills. I’ll give you three examples to shed a bit of light on what I mean:
Observing competitors: About 4 years ago, I had to follow a few competitors’ websites. Doing so manually would have driven anyone insane, especially when you need to follow more than five at once. So I wrote a Python script that crawls specific addresses in the sites, checking for differences and determining whether new content has been uploaded. It notifies me by email whenever it finds something new. By the way, right now there are many sites that monitor for such changes, such as ChangeDetection and WatchThatPage.
Providing free Internet in conferences: In conferences, people crave free Internet access. I went to a conference with a laptop plus a USB Internet dongle. I had installed special software that turned my laptop into an access point, and installed a first-time landing page with details about my startup. Everyone who connected to my access point for the first time got a page with a huge advertisement and a message (with my photo so that they would be able to recognize me), which really got people to approach me during the conference.
Real-time information analysis during meetings: When I started to attend conferences, the number of new people that I met was amazing. I made new connections, but I noticed that breaking the ice and getting closer to a person whom I’d just met was easier when I had background information on what they did (as well as basically every detail that I could find about them). When I got home, I decided to create a small mobile app that scans business cards, extracts the individual’s first and last names, website, and other details (using Python OCR libraries in the backend), and then tries to find them on the web, such as on LinkedIn and other sites. (By the way, these days there are plenty of apps that do this, including CardMunch and Evernote Hello). So at the next conference, I was able to run a fast background check on people and I was able to follow up with them during the conference. If you want to take this an extra step and you are into sci-fi, then use the text-to-voice library in Python to build an app that dictates the information straight to a headphone on one ear, so during a conversation with a person you’ll get real-time information about them and have a better interaction.
Bottom line: your technical skills are not only necessary for developing your startup’s product; they are also essential for building tools that can help you to overcome business challenges or even to gain an advantage over your competitors.
Yaron Tal has been working on turning ideas into marketable products for more 12 years. Currently, Tal is CTO of security company 6scan and blogs at Startup Internals, where this post originally appeared.