Recipe for a Successful Startup: One Heaping Spoonful of Computer Programming
Some of you can probably click away from this article, as you know far more about the topic than I do. But for the remaining vast majority of people, it would not hurt to learn a little about why computer programming is important to startups.
Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a panel at the on-campus Celebration event hosted by E@C. The name of the panel was “The Essentials of Entrepreneurship: Creating, Promoting, and Protecting Your Brand in an Internet Age”, and the panelists covered a variety of topics such as dealing with intellectual property issues and what a venture capitalist looks for in a startup. However, one topic in particular that stood out to me was the role of computer programming in a startup. Panelist Michael Horn (JD ’05) posed this question to the audience: “Who here knows how to code?”. Maybe three people raised their hands. This, in my opinion, is too low a number for a room full of entrepreneurs. If your startup has any sort of web presence, you need to have somebody write the code for your website. And outsourcing your code is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, according to Horn. If you are going to use somebody else, you need somebody reliable that is invested in the idea as much as you are to be successful. But it would be beneficial if you knew how to do at least a little bit of coding. If you do not know how to code yet, do not worry, as you are clearly not alone. It is never too late to learn. In fact, Horn recounted that before his first startup, he knew nothing about coding and had to teach himself through brute force and a free online Ruby on Rails tutorial. Since then, he has been able to secure investment for his startup Craft Coffee from a group of industry-leading global investors and now counsels other startups that are experiencing similar issues. His one advice to student entrepreneurs is that without a technical background to the idea, no project can acquire funding in this day and age.
Although I will admit that higher-level programming is certainly not for everyone (I am walking, or should I say stumbling, down that path right now), basic programming is very useful to learn. It teaches you to think in an ordered, logical sense. And even if you do not employ your programming skills to your startup, it is beneficial to know how to problem solve in this way. There are plenty of free web programming tutorials for HTML online, which can be used to create very basic websites. On campus, a course I recommend for people who have no programming experience is CS 1110: Introduction to Computing Using Python. Although Python is not a web programming language, it will teach you a perspective on how to approach problems analytically. Python is a programming language that is considered to be a more beginner friendly language, as it reads very similarly to English.
Expect to hear about how startups here on campus utilize coding to reach their goals in the near future!