The dark side of being technical
In the past, I’ve written a fair bit about why non-technical founders should consider to pick up coding. Although I still believe that there’s a lot of truth in this, I’ve recently also experienced a downside of becoming more technical as a founder.
In recent months, me and my co-founders have been brainstorming some new startup ideas. Which, as a side note, can be quite a dangerous activity in itself already. Now that I’ve become a fair bit more technical over the years, I can’t fail but notice how it has become even more dangerous. A few years ago, when I found a problem I was passionate about, I would be happy with a vague understanding what my solution would do. I wouldn’t worry for a second how it should actually work. Nowadays its a bit different. The first thing I often can’t help myself thinking is: Could I build this? How would I solve this efficiently? This is a whole different mindset. And here’s the thing: I don’t believe its a better one. Rather than exploring the actual problem, being more technical can easily dwell you into a solving state of mind. Which is not where you want to be when you’re very early on.
I know because I’ve made this mistake myself. Several times in the past months, I fell in love with a solution rather than the underlying problem. It’s just to much fun to think in solutions sometimes. Before I knew it, we already spent a 2-3 weeks working out some form of MVP. Not because the problem was there, but because the MVP seemed appealing and easy enough to hack together. This is misleading though. By falling in love with my solution too early, I narrowed down my scope too far. When this happens, and your solution eventually doesn’t work out, its easy to come to the wrong conclusions. There’s a reasonable chance that the problem you’re trying to solve might be real, but you just didn’t probe deep enough to fully unravel it.
The key takeaway for me is to stay focused on the problem early on. Hard as it may be from time to time, I try to save impending tech adventures for side projects and hackathons. Whether this line of thinking has actually improved my judgement remains to be seen, as my recent experiments have mostly been invalidated. But I’m confident it will pay out in the long-run.