Startup founders have to wear a lot of hats. Some days they have to put on the lawyer hat. Some days they have put on the marketer hat. Other days they put on the salesman or recruiter hat. But the most important hat that technology entrepreneurs have to wear is the hacker hat. They need to learn to build so that they can show product to people and make something people want.
But what if you don’t know how to code? Guess what? Neither did I, and neither did my co-founder. But both of us now know enough that we can get out there, find some resources, learn some more, and continue building. We’re still not experts, but we’ve learned to pour ourselves into it and get the job done. Much to the credit of my co-founder, Pejman, we pushed ourselves this past year to get to this place. If you want to learn to code, but don’t know where to start, this is the process that we went through:
1. Build something small and controlled
Find something small like a simple static website that you want to build. For us, our first project was to put up a website to host some of our previous work: Paperplane Labs. A simple four page static website where we honed our learning to HTML & CSS. There are plenty of HTML/CSS resources on the web, and with a handy book or two, it’s totally doable.
2. Follow a tutorial that walks you through building a web service
Pejman and I spent a good chunk of time rebuilding twitter from scratch by following Michael Hartl’s Ruby on Rails tutorials. We got to sink our teeth into object oriented programming, and build an end-to-end service.
As for other places that are worth checking out:
I’d also suggest buy a couple great books in the language of your choice. I highly recommend Oreilly’s books. At one point I bought this MySQL/PHP book and it was great.
3. Cut 80% of of what you want to build and find an easy way to start.
We tried all sorts of things to start small and continue learning. We started by building on top of tumblr. We hacked things together and it got us used to looking at APIs to push and pull data. When we realized that tumblr isn’t flexible enough for us we moved to self-hosed wordpress and tried hacking some more. Eventually we rolled out a small core concept that we wanted to test by building on top of Twilio. By starting small it gave us room to continue to build, feel good about our progress, and actually test real things with real users.
Getting started is always the hardest part, but knowing that you can build and test things on your own is a great feeling and one of the most important ingredients of any founding team.Tweet