There is no such thing as being the idea person in a startup. Idea generation is not a role. In fact, great entrepreneurs can take an OK idea and turn it into a successful venture.
The role of the business founder in a technology startup involves virtually everything except product development and design. In fact, thanks to today’s no-code tools, non-technical entrepreneurs can also design and build functional products which adds another layer of responsibility.
Here are 17 roles non-technical founders are responsible for in an early-stage startup.
1) Business development. Building strategic partnerships and initiatives may not seem like a priority for a startup that’s focused on validating an idea. The truth is, such initiatives can significantly facilitate the early stages through exposure and guidance even at the idea stage.
2) Market research. One of the easiest ways to test the validity and viability of an idea is through market research and competitive analysis. Those analyses are key to every stage of the venture. When market insights are combined with customer interviews, founders have the clearest direction on what to build and for who which minimizes risk and increases the odds that the product will address user needs.
3) Marketing can be started even if you have no clue what to build. This involves writing content, social media management, search engine optimization, launching events and more. All of those channels are key to audience development and relationship building which will impact branding, sales and growth.
4) Wireframing and prototyping. Even if non-technical founders don’t code the product, they should translate customer insights into wireframes and prototypes to run quick tests and facilitate communication with the team.
5) Account management. Some of the fundamental responsibilities of a startup founder is nurturing relationships with customers, exploring different ways the product can help them accomplish their goals and ensuring their needs are met.
6) Customer service. Scheduling interviews with customers is one way to gather feedback. However, when a customer deliberately comments, requests features, praises and complains, you get the most genuine form of feedback.
7) Hiring and training. Ensuring candidates and new hires are aligned with the startup culture is not easy. Only the founders know what the startup stands for. One of the biggest mistakes founders make in the early stages of a startup is valuing candidates’ ability to get a job done over their values and beliefs when the first hires are probably the most important additions to the team.
8) Fundraising is a part-time job. Creating and presenting a pitch deck is one small step in the process. It takes time to build and nurture relationships with potential investors who are usually only interested in hearing the story and vision from the founder.
9) Accounting and finance. According to CB Insights, the second biggest reason behind startup failure is running out of cash. Startups follow an iterative process that entails continuously testing hypotheses. Those iterations cost time and money, as such, poor budgeting can quickly lead to startup failure. The founders are the ones responsible for making sure the startup has enough cash to reach goals.
10) Legal work. Failure to take reasonable protective measures like incorporating the business and ensuring compliance can quickly and unexpectedly negatively affect the startup. Founders should seek legal advice and support as soon as possible.
11) Leading and cheerleading. Building a startup is challenging. Sometimes it may feel as if the hard work and countless invested hours are not making any difference. The best founders are leaders, motivators and cheerleaders.
12) Testing and experimentation. Running surveys, conducting A/B tests and launching pre-sale campaigns are three examples of tests that business founders can run before assigning product development tasks to the technical team.
13) Networking with potential investors, partners, customers and team members is still a business success ingredient despite our growing reliance on the internet to start, run and grow businesses. Founders are the face of the business and must allocate time for relationship building and nurturing through networking.
14) Customer development is the process through which startups are built. Through customer interaction, rapid testing and by following an iterative process, startups can build products people love and use. It is the job of the founders to talk to customers and interpret data to set the direction of the company.
15) Sales. In the beginning, all there is to sell is a vision. Only the founders can attract the right stakeholders through passion, commitment and goals. While salespeople may do a better job at selling the product in the future, founders should take this role in the early days, whether it is to acquire customers, attract talent, investors and partners.
16) Quality assurance. Ensuring the product meets customer expectations, not only technically but also practically in addressing their needs, is the job of the business founder. Just like customer service and support, testing the product is another way to discover gaps and opportunities.
17) Assessing risk and opportunity. At the end of the day, only the founders are responsible for the success and failure of the startup. One of their biggest roles is to assess the potential outcome of their decisions. Entrepreneurs should do their homework, but at the same time, never hesitate to take calculated risks.