One thing true entrepreneurs have in common is INSPIRATION. In this world, there are many non-technical founders who didn’t start out in the tech field, and possess little to no relevant background or skill set. What they have are creative minds, a burning passion to act on their vision, to solve the next puzzle piece and succeed.
Consider how great technological companies weren’t started by a tech master. Pinterest founder Evan Sharp holds a Bachelor’s degree in History, and Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky was a designer before the company grew into a billion-dollar tech empire.
How did they do it? Well, every founder’s experience is one-of-a-kind and determined by what their vision is. Indeed, embarking on the journey to build your next startup idea, application, or website may be daunting if you don’t have a tech background, extensive financial resources and even the experience.
To understand what it takes, we spoke with the founder of Snaphunt, Tulika Tripathi, and founder of Youthopia, Manu Menon. With lessons learnt from non-tech founders who set up their own tech startup, their rich experiences have become precious advice to aspiring entrepreneurs on what it takes to hustle from the ground, lead the team and scale your business.
Time to take notes as we dive back to basics and learn how to learn, connect, and realize your strong vision with innovation and passion.
Tulika Tripathi - CEO and Founder of Snaphunt
Snaphunt CEO and founder, Tulika Tripathi, shares her experiences on building a smart end-to-end hiring platform that helps job seekers find the right role and employers hire great talent quickly and conveniently.
Manu Menon – CEO and Founder of Youthopia
Youthopia CEO and founder, Manu Menon, shares his experiences on launching a web-based platform offering bite-sized content personalized for children from across the world, and equip them with 21st century skills needed to thrive in the future.
What were your biggest challenges as a founder?
1. Capital and Funding
Both Snaphunt and Youthopia were bootstrapped from the beginning.
Incorporated in February 2017, Tulika bootstrapped Snaphunt and was the only full-time employee. With limited tech know-how and connections in this field, she based off personal collations of VCs, LinkedIn networking and reached out to investors before securing funds from BEENEXT in February 2019.
Similarly, Manu bootstrapped Youthopia from its launch and has been doing so till present. At this juncture, the startup requires funding to accelerate the growth of the platform and business. Sourcing for funds has been a major challenge which was escalated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of the journey when Tulika started conceptualizing the product, another challenge that weighed her down was the lack of experience and insights in launching a tech startup. What could she have done better, faster, in terms of processes and development?
From networking with BEENEXT and other venture capitalists, they advised that Snaphunt had the value and potential to thrive once the funnel opened up more. Tulika then understood that she had to build an open ecosystem that allowed people to maximize the benefits.
3. Having the Right Content
With a specific vision to create bite-sized content with gamification and designing it well for young children to understand, it was difficult to acquire good content producers. For Manu, finding a designer who could construct his vision of how the learning content should appear was one of his top concerns.
How did you overcome these challenges?
1. Gaining Funds
Taking the initiative and reaching out is a way to get people to know your name. Having spoken with many investors at various events and panels, Tulika believes that positive conversations do not necessarily have any outcome. Continuously pushing on to source for investors, the business gained traction shortly after as the AI-driven human resources (HR) platform became a sound solution for many companies like Microsoft, Antler, and more.
The best advice she received from a tech partner that stuck till today was “don’t just get money, get smart money”.
To resolve the struggle of obtaining funds during the COVID-19 crisis, Manu intends to apply for Malaysian government grants and organization initiatives that support tech startups. Additionally, talks with potential investors are ongoing as Manu strives to boost the business. From his experience, Manu advises founders to always be prudent with spending and cash management. Make sure there’s enough cash reserves to allow you at least an 18-month runway before starting your business venture.
2. Learning from the Experienced
In everything she does, Tulika guides her decision-making by two points: generosity and openness. The knowledge she absorbed from tech experts helped boost her and Snaphunt to where it is now, reinforcing the concept of open the funnel, open the ecosystem, allow for flexibility and that will allow for scale.
With a strong tenacity to learn, Manu reads up on articles and LinkedIn postings on EdTech, and listens to a number of podcasts like The Pitch and Masters of Scale to get ideas he can apply to his own business. From his experience, Manu believes in learning from other founders who openly share their success and failures, those who walk the talk.
3. Making Connections and Finding the Right Fit
Tulika emphasizes on the need to find the right fit, capable people to get onboard and develop the business. To her, it was important to find teammates that took personal pride in striving for good outcomes and challenged the status quo.
Efforts to find the right fit of content producers who could realize his visions was fruitful, as Manu found suitable partners from a university to work with Youthopia. As a tech startup founder, Manu finds that being in a coworking space like Found8 helped him network with like-minded entrepreneurs and he seeks to build his network with Found8 community tribes.
So, can you build a startup without technical experience? YES.
These inspiring non-technical founders of tech startups showed us that having an inspired mindset and putting yourself out there to learn and network can reap great success.
Both Manu and Tulika may have been veterans in their respective fields of education and marketing, and consulting and specialist recruitment, but that has not stopped them from transforming into tech entrepreneurs.
“Expect the unexpected, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
- Manu Menon
“IT is just a tool, and there’s no point in tech until you know what you want to achieve and set out to fulfil it.” - Tulika Tripathi