I run Tushky.com. We started with no CTO or a dedicated tech team. We just took the “leap of faith” without planning or thinking too much (which had its upside and downside). When we started in September 2011, initial understanding was that the business is tech-enabled-operations intensive and will need basic tech support, but over time we realized, apart from operations, the business needs a strong tech team to build the product.
But getting developers on board turned out to be a bitchy affair. Either its costly or the developers act too pricey. Made some wrong hires, who we had to fire. Made some good hires, who we had to let go due to their pricey act. In all, lost a lot of time and money. And in december 2013, we were back to square one with no developers on board.
That didn’t hurt me actually, what really pinched was the fact that I felt out of control. I am an above average product guy (may be even better, but hey! lets stay humble). I understand UX, feature cluster, feature needs very very well. And not being able to translate those ideas into functional features just because of the whims & fancy of some developers was too much for me to digest. The breaking point came when, the developer vanished without sharing the documentation and the access keys. I cannot remember any other moment when I felt so helpless and out of control. That very moment, I decided enough of this bullshit and took upon me to code and build my product. And I cannot be happier.
I fixed lot of long-pending bugs, improved some features and recently built a complete new web tool for our sellers. All in 12 weeks (wish I was smarter).
I feel much more liberated and at peace, knowing that I can handle every segment of Tushky.com, be it Sales, Marketing, Operations or Tech, without any external help. And I feel this reason alone is strong enough for at least one founding member of every tech startup to learn to code. That one member can be CTO, developer whatever. But at least one member should know how to code and build the product without external factors.
I am well aware of the arguments made against this philosophy, and I cannot take more pity on those folks. Usual counter arguments are:
- You are a CEO, you have more things to do
Show them the figure below:
Unless, you have reached or crossed expansion stage, you have nothing more important than controlling how the product is shaping up. And if there are variable external factors involved, you better step in.
- I will hire developers, who will build the product for me. I haz $$$
- Read the whole post again
No amount of $$$ can build you a useful product, unless you know what you want or don’t want from your product. And even then, you need to be able to translate your vision in exact feature set with technical details
For point 2 to happen, you need to have first hand experience of the best practises and best approaches.
Now, read the whole post once again.
I won’t say I love coding, that I love writing programs. I see this more as a means to an end. Nothing more. I code because I want to build a super useful product. That’s it. If I get help, if I am able to find coders who I can connect with and who want to be a part of our growth story, great!; else, I am the captain of my ship and will take it all the way. And having that level of control is beautiful.