When I first started out in December of 2000 my goal was to build a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) content management system for small businesses (see Iterate or Die). I had been building simple HTML (CSS wasn’t even part of the equation then) sites for three years but didn’t know how to write code. At the time, I enlisted some classmates of mine to be summer interns to build out the product for $10/hour. The thinking was that I could just focus on product management and sales.
Well, at the end of the summer I quickly ran out of money. Only having a couple customers that paid $30/month wasn’t enough to fund much software development even if it was relatively cheap at the time. Not knowing any better I picked up a teach yourself PHP book and jumped in head-first to writing code. It was one of the best moves I ever made.
Every startup CEO should learn to write code.
Here are some benefits of startup CEOs learning how to code:
- You understand the technical architecture and trade-offs of different product decisions
- You can call B.S. if a technical person pushes back on something being too difficult/time consuming
- You become a much better manager of other technical people
- You never run out of things to do (believe it or not I’ve had non-technical co-founders come to me saying there’s nothing for them to do as they are waiting for the programmers to finish something up)
- You can better communicate with prospects and clients as you’re not dependent on a sales engineer
Startup CEOs should learn to write code and become a better leader. Programming, much like finance or logic puzzles, is easy to pick up with some effort and patience. The goal isn’t to become a full-time programmer but rather to be a stronger part of the team.
What else? What are your thoughts on startup CEOs learning to write code?