Learn to Code to Start a Business?

One of the mistakes many aspiring entrepreneurs make is to view companies solely through a product lens: a company is its product first and whether it succeeds or fails depends on the quality of the product.

This happens because:

  • Media focuses on product (e.g. “The New iPhone Killer”) and not the “business side” (e.g. strategy, competitive moats, etc.)
  • Founding myths that glorify the “ah ha!” moment
  • One of the most-admired companies of all time, Apple, is a product-based company
  • Y Combinator’s motto, Make Something People Want, speaks to the product lens they’ve instilled in the founders they back.
  • Developers have been empowered by a (very good!) trend the last 15+ years: the cost to build a product has become so cheap that there are new products everywhere. There’s even sites like ProductHunt to help early adopters identify good new products, because there’s so many to sort through.
  • Companies can’t talk as much about their operations/strategy as much as their product, often for competitive reasons. Or it’s just boring.

And now that so many products are being created, we’ve convinced ourselves that making a product is the same thing as making a business.

It’s not.

Obviously you have to have a product to have a business, but it’s just a part of a much larger whole:

  • Finding customers
  • Convincing them to buy from you, today
  • All of your finance department: invoicing, collecting, accounting, payables
  • Servicing your customers
  • Hiring and managing
  • Everything legal
  • Vendor relationships
  • Raising capital (if you think that’s a good fit)

The point I’m trying to make is that if you want to be an entrepreneur, learning to code is a good skill but not the only thing that matters. And so if you can do the rest of the business stuff, especially at the beginning when the company is just a few individuals, you’re going to be really valuable.