Month: January 2018

Can You Be A Single Non-Technical Founder?

As someone who works a lot with technology, the title of this post is a question that I keep encountering in life with unfailing regularity. Recent years has seen a growing role of technology in every aspect of business, even when the business is a non-technical one.
Technology used to be at the peripheries of business operations a-decade-ago. The exposure of most organizations were limited to email, invoicing etc. But the past 10-years has seen highly-integrated systems spread deeper and wider into organizations, putting technology increasingly at the core of business operations.
To give you an idea, a typical business now has to deal with some or all of the following these days:

  1. Communication: Email, chat.
  2. Online presence: Website, Blog, Social Media, Domain-related (DNS, white-listing), encryption.
  3. Business: CRM, Order/Inventory Management, Invoice Management.
  4. Mobile: Native/Hybrid applications, PlayStore/App Store management.

This list above is a very quick-and-dirty one. Real life scenarios tend to be far more complex with numerous other factors that make it mostly more difficult.
It is in this background that the question gets asked and it is quite a valid one. It is very much possible to spend vast amounts of energy, time and money in getting into a quagmire trying to work with technology in any organization when you do not have any background in it.
On the other hand, it is also far too common a scenario where even having a dedicated technology team does not make things easier or better; in fact, a lot of times they can be worse than doing technology on your own.
Coming back to answering the question in a simple manner, it is ‘yes’, you can build a company as a single non-technical founder as long as the core business of the company is not technology itself. For example, you cannot build a database technology business, on your own if you do not have a background at least in using databases.
Short of that, running a business that leverages technology is something anyone can do, with a little bit of time spent on learning and understanding the concepts and platforms. This is not strictly necessary,  but having that knowledge does help in understanding complexities and costs involved a lot better.
There are also other options where you can hire entire product development and digital transformation teams to get you going in the early stage. This can often be much more cost-efficient as long as you get to work with a good team.
If you have any specific questions about how to do this, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to help.

Filed under: Business, Start-ups

Chaotic Crypto Butterflies

The world is a chaotic place at the moment, and it is rife with signs that we are nowhere close to the top of the curve when it comes to the chaos. My personal disappointments aside (I was hoping, rather naively, that with the major conflicts of the previous century out of the way, the world will change its attention to bettering the human condition everywhere), this is not something we had foreseen. 
Chaos of this type is normally not fermented from the top-down. Most popular movements that work in a similar way, normally work from the ground up, with the express intention of blowing everything up as a reaction to their perceived failure of everything. It is rare for such a sentiment to be pushed from the top, as it is difficult to control these things once set into motion, and, often those at the top have as much to lose as everyone else, should things not work out well.
The big difference right now is that the current chaos is being fermented from the top-down. With the help of filter bubbles and over-amplification on social media, this kind of chaos provides a rich vein of discontentment for a new generation of leaders to tap into. At the same time, it is impossible to control this kind of a movement and it has the potential to turn into ashes countries, financial systems and nearly every pillar of the modern society that we often take for granted.
One of the obvious beneficiary of this chaos is the cryptocurrency market. Granted, it is not the only thing that is driving the value of those things in a staggering fashion, but the fact that normal markets, trade and most financial instruments look a lot more exposed to the vagaries of this chaos makes crypto, even with the current levels of volatility, a much more safer a bet. It says a lot about the state of the world when a billion dollars seem a lot more secure hidden away in a USB drive somewhere, compared to keeping it in some of the financial institutions in the world.
In pursuing this risky, chaotic mode of operation in the political world, the leaders who are attracted to it are probably not recognizing that they will potentially wind up reshaping the system into a place that can eventually bring into place a new system where the power, wealth and influence are transferred to a different group of entities from what has normally been the case. 
Historically, any sort of crypto-style currency, or any sort of parallel currency, is not allowed to grow beyond a curiosity due to the risks it poses to the traditional systems. Looking at how much crypto has grown in the past 5-years, it is easy to imagine that the risk of the collapse of the old system, and the volatility of the new one, has been priced into crypto’s growth.
This seems to be a point that not many are paying attention to closely.
It is not that crypto is not without its flaws and once the dust settles down, it is very likely that a handful of entities will control a significant chunk of it, making it a new system with all the problems of the old, run by somewhat different people. But the agents of chaos, unless they are directly invested into the new order, probably won’t see it coming and how quickly all this can change into something else.
People often forget that all systems work on the basis of consensus. That consensus is driven by assurances of predictability. The current chaos risks breaking that predictability. It is introducing a factor of unpredictability that can break the consensus, while a new crypto-based consensus is forming up rapidly on the side. If people are not careful, it is well within the possibility for a swap.
Now, that is a scary prospect.

Filed under: Social

Communication And Programming

One of the most important changes in how software development happens these days is that developers also have to be reasonably competent at communication. The days where software development used to be an isolated/sheltered activity is going away and not being good at communicating yourself well will increasingly become a handicap for good developers.

  1. A lot of learning now comes while a framework or a platform is being used. You need to know how to raise an issue and public/OSS projects often require developers to meet standards for reporting issues.
  2. The project manager as a layer of defense is also an increasingly unreliable one. Developers are now more exposed to clients or management a lot more and they need to have the ability to both articulate what they think and also comprehend well enough what the client/manager is trying to say.
  3. There are real costs associated with developers being unable to comprehend what is required and communicate what they are trying to do. The direct cost is a lot of frustration and delayed deliveries. The indirect cost is that effort is spent on trying to fix the fundamentals where as the same effort could have been spared for improving the product a lot more.
  4. Development is a lot more distributed these days, which means you should know how to write better commit logs, better comments in code. From things that were at the fringes of the software development world these factors have now moved to the core.

Unfortunately, the computer science education frameworks have not kept up with this change and it will cost a lot of otherwise great developers good opportunities.  A developer who is familiar with a distributed mode of working will find it easier to find better work and fit in also better. 
It is not very difficult to train yourself for this. There are thousands of open source products/frameworks that are developed in the open. Even with zero experience, you can start contributing to them and start learning the tools of the trade, beyond what is normally covered in a typical software development course or a computer science degree.

Filed under: Technology