In a previous article I discussed the differences between entrepreneurs and technopreneurs, as well as how to build technopreneurs from developers who have entrepreneurial goals. Since then I’ve had a number of questions from developers and companies looking to forge some new business ideas. One of the main themes of the questions: “What are the essential technopreneur skills that need to be developed for success?”
Basic Entrepreneurial Skills
Technopreneurship a subset of entrepreneurship — technopreneurs simply have a different set of skills. So basic entrepreneurship skills are critical:
- Strong communication skills — you’re going to have lots of different people to communicate clearly with: investors, lawyers, accountants, customers, and more.
- Selling — you’ve got to be able to get in front of customers and pitch your ideas AND close sales.
- Strategy/Vision — where are you going and how do your current day-to-day tasks get you there?
- Finance/Accounting — at least a basic understanding of the ways to raise capital, the implications, and how to use financial statements for decision-making.
- Marketing/Branding — how to craft and deliver your message to the right audience in the right way.
- Fund-raising — the ability to raise the right kind of capital and the right amount of capital.
For developers, this is likely where you’re going to have to start. Our education and experience tends to focus on the technical matters, so there’s going to be a learning curve as you get some general business education and experience.
Basic Technopreneurial Skills
In addition to the entrepreneur basics, technopreneurs have some additional skills they need. Bear in mind that this list of skills comes from the idea that technopreneurs are bringing specific skills and value to the startup team that are desperately needed for success.
- Full tech stack knowledge
- Web development
- Industry-specific technologies
Full Tech Stack Knowledge
The tech stack is all the technologies used to deliver your product. While this can vary somewhat based on the needs of the startup, it usually means everything from a strong understanding of how the internet works, server technologies, scale considerations, website basics, analytics, and code repository management — to name the primary points.
To be fair, this doesn’t require mastery. Technologies move too fast for mastery of any one part of the tech stack. But technopreneurs need to be generalists and understand how all the parts and pieces work together. I’m not great at any one piece of the tech stack, but I can understand the needs of startups, help make important decisions, and execute for the earliest stages of the minimum viable product (MVP).
Technopreneurs add significant value to the startup by helping choose the initial tech stack to be used to stand up the products. I’ve worked with many a startup who wished they’d had a CIO who could have helped them build their MVP in a way that could be scaled.
Every startup is going to need a web presence of some kind. Whether the startup is going to launch e-commerce solutions, mobile apps, or some hardware-based product — being able to handle the website is a critical skill.
Websites are a major distraction for the not so technically endowed among us. Startups tend to spend an enormous amount of time on content, branding, and staging of their sites. Technopreneurs can take this important project, handle it in-house (saving money), and allowing other team members to focus on their tasks (thereby improving efficiency for the whole team).
Industry Specific Technologies
Every tech startup has their own unique technologies that they’re going to be leveraging. Depending upon the industry, there tend to be some specific tech that needs to be understood so the product is built in a way that customers can actually use the final product.
The medical industry is a great example. If you don’t understand HIPAA compliance, you’re likely going to deliver a product that customers can’t purchase.
Another example that comes to mind is a past startup that wanted to sell software to the U.S. government. New tech often has to be able to interface with some highly regulated enterprise solutions where certifications and legacy software integration is required.
The right technopreneur for a startup will understand the industry-specific technologies that the product will have to work with and help make critical choices on the front end of the product development.
Most successful startups are built by a team. As a technopreneur, I lean heavily on my co-founders for non-technical matters. I suffer from the same anti-selling syndrome of most software developers. So I make sure I have co-founders who can sell.
For developers looking to launch a business, learn the entrepreneurial basics so you understand what it takes to build a business. You will be required to wear lots of different hats as a founder, regardless of your C-suite title and role.
For non-developers looking to pick up some tech skills, the best place to start is with a product idea you’re passionate about. Whether learning to build a website, mobile apps, or server technologies, don’t worry about mastery. By getting your feet wet, you’ll be far more able to find a CIO that can help you execute exactly what you need.