Startup Founders Must Love to Learn

We reposted this from a blog our founder wrote some time back, thinking it was pertinent to the required mentality of entrepreneurs looking to break into the tech scene.

Look, tech startups are hot now, but they aren’t for everyone, regardless of what Silicon Valley says. If you aren’t willing to put in the time and/or effort to at least TRY and learn the technology you’re selling to people, you are bound to fail. Simple as that.

I’ve worked with founders both highly technical and some of the “couldn’t even name a single mainstream programming language” non-technical types. However, in that latter category, there is a sub-category of founders who, though utterly non-technical at the start, put in 110% effort to learn, going so far as to even teach themselves how to code in every spare minute they have. That other sub-category consists of founders who refuse to learn anything new, refuse to even browse the codebase or put in more than a superficial, scant effort to try and understand the complex system they want or had created.

Look, in a new tech startup, you’re either coding or selling. And most of the time, doing both. Technical or not, you need to understand the product to sell it. If you aren’t putting in the time to learn it at a deep level, your potential customers will take notice and won’t even bother to consider your solution, regardless of how great it may be.

I’m not saying you need to be the next Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak/Steve Jobs or Larry and Sergey, but you should at least strive to know your own product well enough to explain it to a customer’s IT management at their level.

On another note, coders and engineers need to learn sales, too. Don’t think I would leave them out here. Selling is not something a startup can outsource. I’m of the mindset that “every founder a salesperson,” much like the Marine Corps’ “every Marine a rifleman” mantra. If you outsource your first few sales to some hired or commissioned talent, you aren’t going to learn anything or get anywhere in the long term. Sure, you’ll probably score a few quick wins, but then, inevitably, that sales talent departs and customers scatter faster than roaches when the lights come on (no, I’m not insinuating that customers are roaches, just that the hired facade you hid behind will become very transparent, very quickly to them). What then?

All in all, being an entrepreneur is about being willing to learn new things, constantly. You will have to do things to earn success that aren’t always going to be in your technical or professional comfort zone (but they should ALWAYS be morally comfortable, however).

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