I’ve been asked several times “what do you do?”. I’m still trying to define my role as well within my startup. Over the last few days, its become clearer to me what I need to focus on as a non-technical co-founder. This is my attempt to explain my role.
In an online startup, there are many hats one must wear. I have started learning development, and whilst useful, there probably won’t be a need for me to program just yet. I can probably get to the level where I can hack a simple app together, but I can’t compete against people that have been doing it for years.
Wearing 500 hats
There are many other hats that I need to wear and as Dave McClure puts it, a founder has “500 hats”.
In an online startup, its important to have a technical co-founder – people with development skills. After all, it is an online business and that’s the bread and butter. However, there are a whole host of other skills that are needed. Fred Wilson describes another role which is product and points at Dennis Crawley from FourSquare as a good example. I’ve tried to use this as an example and read up about him – I’ve actually met Dennis in person.
“To us, the ideal founding team is one supremely talented product oriented founder and one, two, or three strong developers, and nothing else. The supremely talented product oriented founder should have been obsessed about a product area/idea for a long period of time and just has to build something to satisfy their passion/curiosity. That’s about it. Joshua Schachter/Delicious, Jack Dorsey/Twitter, Dennis Crowley/Foursquare are the iconic examples of this kind of person in our portfolio.”
The above description pretty much describes me.
Not many people actually know this, but I had the idea about this product when I was in university. About 9 years ago, I was in 4th year university and I was studying Mandarin (class for extra credit). I thought about making CD’s or cassette tapes which people could use in their cars. Oh my how times have changed! Mobile phones now seem to be the best way to distribute this kind of product.
Essentially, I have to be OBSESSED with my product. I need to play it and use it all the time. In addition, I need to understand the product landscape. I have to be familiar with all the competing products out there and also gaming products. So I’ve been downloading and using these products as much as I can. I need to understand what makes an awesome game and makes a great language product.
I also need to understand these areas as well:
- User Experience / User Interface (UX / UI)
- Mobile appstores and how they work
- Game music and sounds
I don’t need to be an expert, but I need to knowledgeable about these areas.
I need to also understand languages which is a critical component to our game. How language is constructed, how it is taught and the academic research out there. So I need to become a psuedo-language expert fast =)
I have to keep up my Chinese studies. I constantly think about our language packs and what goes in them. I update the packs and source the words, check the sounds and images we have.
I consider all the above “product”. Its part product strategy, product positioning and just knowing everything out there about mobile language games and mobile games.
In addition, I have to handle the business aspects of a startup. This ranges from business development, marketing, financing, legals and admin.
After the app is developed, there will be a lot more business development and marketing activities. Half the battle is building the app and shipping it (getting it to market). The other half is getting traction and building a community behind it.
I hope that helps explain what I do.
I’m out like job descriptions,