Not being an engineer or a computer science major, I knew I would have to come up the curve as much as possible to understand what happens behind the scenes or in that black box with any business that has or uses technology. I learned to love technology and the power of what it could do by seeing the front end. Back in the 1990′s when I was an investment banker and my clients were health-care hardware, software and Internet companies, you only needed to understand the front end. Much like a car where you could evaluate it by looking and driving it, and you’d just believe the sticker about the insides of the engine.
Technology has changed everything about our lives and everything about business. When JumpThru was founded 18 months ago, I had to look into the back end. I plunged into learning about the state of the art programming languages and platforms to build a website with all the functionality that was needed to carry out the mission. But, over the past months, I think I have merely skimmed the surface, learning a bit about the power of Ruby on Rails, Open Source Code, Diaspora, WordPress, PHP, MySQL, Magento, Shopify, Node.js and on.
I want to say right upfront that I made many, many mistakes. I did my best to find, vet and hire experts to help me. Here is what I learned the hard way. Like with many things, you will never be an expert if it is not your training or field of expertise. Therefore, you need to take the time to learn what you need to know in order to be able to evaluate the tech side of the business. Even with that, mistakes are often made because it is hard to evaluate a programmer or the time things should take until you are well underway and have invested thousands of dollars.
Some of my mistakes were: hiring excellent contractors who were snatched away for full time jobs at bigger companies mid-stream and, not knowing that coding and programming languages are dynamic. They change everyday. That is a good thing and it allows for invention and progress even though it may wreck havoc on your project. I never realized I would have to revisit so many decisions because of advancements in technology. This will only be greater in the future. I also found that I am not alone. Over 90% of the entrepreneurs I know have made costly and time consuming mistakes that threatened their businesses.
Most of the classes and training out there for “non-technical” entrepreneurs and investors is not very useful. There are important classes to teach women to code (www.girldevelopit.com) and some sessions on how to find a technical co-founder, but these sessions tend to be focused on younger entrepreneurs. What do you do if you are an investor who wants to invest, but do not have the expertise to evaluate the tech side? This is especially hard because much of what is being created today does not exist. An investor needs to not only imagine the product and the potential, but also think about what might be involved in building out the tech underpinnings. Very, very hard to do.
All this is why JumpThru has decided to co-sponsor and promote a 2-day program called TechSpeak that is being held September 20th and 21st in New York, which is taught by Nelly Yusupova, the Chief Technology Officer of Webgrrls International. Nelly is a pro and can easily bridge the gap between a tech expert and a business person.
Here is a sampling of what will be covered in the training:
How to price and budget your project, how to determine the best tech solutions for what you are trying to accomplish, and how to build your tech infrastructure for scale.
I am signing up for this class because I realize how much I don’t know. If you sign up too here, you will receive a 15% discount on the fee. I think the money is well worth it to lessen the risk of any early stage investment or business.
Here is a video of Nelly offering her words of wisdom to entrepreneurs.