Being a Non-Technical Founder

The biggest obstacle to pursuing my startup idea was being a non-technical founder. When I first started conceiving the original idea behind Grocer8, it felt like there was nothing I could do to move forward without an engineer. But, one of our mentors gave me some advice that I continue to keep in mind: Move forward with what I actually CAN do myself, and stop focusing on what I can't.  

In reality, there was a ton to do before we got to the point where an engineer was crucial. This included everything from market research to branding to overall company strategy. We used various NYU resources as well as the Lean Startup Methodology (shout out to David Rose's book, The Startup Checklist), to develop a compelling business model.  We interviewed potential users, connected with people across the CPG industry, and spent lots of time immersing ourselves in existing food communities. Grocer8 changed many times over during this process, and had we put up a site on Day 1, we never would have arrived at some of the most exciting elements of our current business plan.

Plus, we learned how to do many of the things we had previously considered "technical" or outside of our skill sets. We designed and wire-framed several versions of the site using simple tools (e.g., Powerpoint and Acorn), imported our prototypes into Invision for user testing, and even put up an initial site on our own to gather some data and test out our branding ideas. We worked on building a great story, and got lots of feedback on our plan by taking advantage of every opportunity to practice pitching, whether in the classroom, in competitions, or with friends and family. We also found technical advisers, and they helped us figure out how to recruit the right teammates, and gave us the tools we needed to communicate our needs effectively. Recruiting was so much easier once we had a solid plan in place; people actually started approaching us!

Ultimately, building a company is all about problem-solving, and there are lots of problems that need solving but don't require serious technology. Focusing on what I can accomplish and learning how to keep moving forward, even if it feels like a stretch, has been the most rewarding part of entrepreneurship.

Divya Jayachandran of Grocer8