It is every other day you hear someone saying “Learn to code, start a mobile startup, make an app, change the world” instilling the inspirational idea into millions of people’s heads that they can teach themselves to program, and rise to be in the ranks of the Snapchats and Facebooks of this world.
That’s wonderful — these enterprising individuals teach themselves a new and very marketable skill, and their careers usually improve because of the new skill. This is a fantastic thing to be breeding in the startup populous, and everyone knows it.
But at the same time, this sentiment discourages millions of people who don’t like programming. No matter if you are a coder or not, you can’t deny the simple truth that programming isn’t for everyone. And as great as the benefits may be, people can’t (and shouldn’t) convince themselves to do something they hate on the chance of glory or riches.
However, many of these people who don’t like programming do like UX, graphic design, or mobile technology, all of which are also critical aspects of app development. However, the pop culture notion of making your own app doesn’t extend to these individuals — unless they’re willing to put preferences aside and learn programming anyways.
Talk about marginalizing an entire section of critical people. Mobile startups are all about the mobile product, but having one well-coded product doesn’t make you a millionaire. You need product graphic designers, you need marketing guys, and you need business development guys to build an efficient team which turns a profit. We all bow down to the devs, but they can’t do it without everyone else.
So why can’t one of these “other people” have the idea for the app, and bring the product developers on after the fact instead? We all shun that idea and pressure them to learn to code, knowing that the first thing they’ll do when they have money is to hire someone else to code.
Why not just take the months of unpleasantness out of it, and let these UX/Marketing/Biz Dev people make what they want to make, with others People say you can accomplish anything. Well, doesn’t “anything” include “getting a great app built without learning how to code?”
When people say you can achieve ‘anything,’ ‘anything’ includes getting a great app built without learning how to code.
Successful people throughout business history weren’t always experts in their fields. If we look at business throughout history, the idea that people have to be intimately experienced with the trade their company is built on doesn’t hold up. All kinds of notable CEOs and business executives didn’t know how to build the product themselves, and that’s okay. If their talent was with building the product (and not running the company), they’d have been doing that.
For example, John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and richest person in history, had no real oil experience when he and his brother went into oil. Rockefeller quickly gave up the labor in favor of tending the business and hiring people, and most of his career was built on business savvy — not on his intimate knowledge of oil. He had no ‘oil education’ credentials, and Rockefeller still managed to become… well, Rockefeller.
Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world in 2008 and widely regarded as the most successful investor in history, initially knew next-to-nothing about his investments. He started off by investing in early stage companies with money he’d made from a lemonade stand ring. He had made $100,000 (adjusting for inflation) by age 20, and had invested in a myriad of businesses with that money. He spent all of his money learning an investing it, and he learned exactly as much as he needed to about his business to be successful investing in it. Buffet was never bogged down by schooling or credentials.
The common theme between successful businessmen is not how good they were at delivering the product they sold, but at how good they were at running the cohesive business. At the end of the day, this has very little to do with the product, and a lot to do with team management, resource control and flow, hiring practice, and a dozen other things. Sucessful CEOs are successful because they organize these big systems to create the most value.
Successful people are not successful because they’re the best in their field, but because they provided the most value by being in it.
What does this mean for you? This means that you don’t need to teach yourself all the ins and outs of programming yourself to be successful.
Yes, you need a practical education in how computers work, and you need to be able to communicate with developers successfuly. This includes basic things like understanding what the word pseudocode means, understanding computer logic, and what makes a feature simple vs. complicated to code. But to have an app yourself, you do not actually have to know coding languages yourself. A couple hours spent reading ‘Getting Started with Xcode’ guides will go a long way.
Another common objection is that it’s technically true that you don’t have to code it your self, but as we all know, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
Any seasoned manager will tell you that’s crap, because without delegation and assigning tasks to other people, companies would be nothing more than overworked bedroom programmers (which is what we seem to be rife with).
The objection goes that freelancers on oDesk or eLance will never give you quality code, and getting it done right by a firm can cost up to $50,000 — and they’ll only let you license the code, not own it. The only way to get ownership of good code is to write it yourself.
However, this just isn’t the case. Many quality apps were made by people with an idea and business sense who built a team, and that archetype is just as common in SF as is the hacker turned entrepreneur (but not nearly as publicized). Alexis Ohanian did this by partnering with a technical cofounder to get Reddit off the ground, and this stereotype that you have to know how to code is so pervasive people simply assume he’s the techincal cofounder. Turns out, he’s not.
Even with freelancers, if you learn the right techniques to manage and work with people, you can get excellent work done on time for a reasonable cost. It’s simply a matter of learning how to do it. Pufferfish Software was built by people who lived across the globe from each other, and turned into an efficient remote team — one that never even held meetings. (Click here if you want to learn how to do that yourself).
If you had to know how to code yourself, nobody would ever find a technical co-founder — they would learn how to code themselves. The idea of ‘technical co-founder’ wouldn’t exist.
Even finding the funding, another commonly cited issue, is an overcomeable problem. With websites like kickstarter and wefunder, finding funding for your app project is easier than ever. Simply take a moment to google search for guides on how to run a successful kickstarter, and you’ll can raise the money to produce your app. Like the rest of these challenges, it won’t be a piece of cake to defeat, but it’s easily within the realm of possibility. And besides, the clicheé goes, “nothing worth doing is easy.”
At the end of the day, obstacles are overcomeable. There are a lot of people out there ready to tell you it isn’t possible to do, but you have to do what anyone would do when told something is impossible — show them they’re wrong.
If you’re someone who wants to make your own app and wants to do it without programming, do it.
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