Hey, this is Rachel Carpenter, the CEO of Intrinio. Okay, this is a question I get a lot from early-stage tech and fintech founders. Finding technical leadership or a technical co-founder is not easy, so this question naturally arises for many entrepreneurs.
Now, to be fair, I did teach myself how to program to get Intrinio off the ground many years ago. But, I often wonder if we would have moved faster with experts at the helm of our codebase.
I am grateful to have learned because now I’m dangerous enough to speak competently about Intrinio’s technology and platform.
It can also help build respect and rapport with your engineering team if you, too, were once in the trenches of the code.
But, there are several fatal flaws with learning to code as a founder.
First and foremost, it’s going to take a ton of time. Sure, there are bountiful online resources nowadays to help you get off the ground, but to become really good takes years, if not decades. If there’s one thing you don’t have at a tech company, it’s time. You must beat your competitors, get to market, build an MVP, show progress, and earn that first-mover advantage. The chances that someone comes up with your idea while you are learning to code are higher than you think.
Secondly, you need experts—which you are not. Small companies can’t afford to hire junior talent fresh from a code boot camp. They need wizards who can come in and make things happen and who have built real apps and machine-learning engines before.
At a certain point, you’ll have to pass off the reins. Do you want to be a CTO or a CEO? That transition can be rough tactically and emotionally.
I’m speaking from experience when I say that whoever you pass the reins off to will inherit a lot of skeletons in the closet. Optimizing your junior code will be tedious, time-consuming, and bear massive opportunity costs.
Here’s a major caveat—basic programming skills are becoming a must across all disciplines.
If you are really curious, dive in a little. Learn the basics. Get just a little bit dangerous. That can only help you as long as you don’t make it a major priority.
If this all sounds really depressing to you, perhaps you should be on the engineering or CTO track instead. Start with some introspection and consider whether or not you want to be a technical or non-technical cofounder. If you want to be technical, get comfortable with the fact that learning to be a great programmer will take years.
For most of you, learning to code as a founder is inefficient, time-consuming, dangerous for your competitive position, and creates headaches down the road.
This may not have been what you wanted to hear, but I hope that it helps.
If you have other questions you’d like me to answer about my experience as a fintech founder, feel free to contact us, we’d love to hear your thoughts!