Philippe Khin
The disadvantages and advantages of a programmer being an entrepreneur 💻
12 April 2020
Still, the advantages largely outweight some drawbacks 🧐
entrepreneur
thoughts
product

A lot of successful entrepreneurs started as a programmer with a desire to bring the product they are making on their own to the world, to solve some specific problems. CEO of big companies like Facebook, Twitter or Quora all started with a technical programmer founder/co-founder. There are clearly some undeniable advantages to that, but also bring along with some drawbacks.

The advantages

You can build things by yourself and really quickly: no money required to pour into outsourcing the development of your product. You’ll find out that you can build new features within hours instead of weeks, fix bugs within minutes instead of days. Later, you can still outsource the development of your X-th product since you already know how to build it but investing your own time won’t be as effective as paying someone to do so, by giving them proper directives.

Learning to design will become much more easier. As a programmer, you’ll find out that sometime using an app screen with a list of items to choose is much more easier to implement than implementing a dropdown menu. These little UI/UX things all put together can weight when you take a decision to design something. If you already know how to write CSS, designing with tools like Figma will become easier.

For example, I picked up and learned Figma really quickly and I designed the look of this blog on Figma first before writing the actual code as shown on below picture.

Programming is clearly a marketable skill in the job market: in the case where you won’t succeed in your entrepreneur journey or decide to go back to the corporate world for whatever reasons, programming is still a really rewarding skill to sell.

You’ll become a better product manager: some decisions you will make regarding the development of your product will be based on your development experience, so you’ll know what take time or are difficult to implement, what is worth implementing given the milestone you gave to yourself. Also, for a limited budget/time, a tech savvy founder can go further than a non technical one.

The disadvantages

You tend not to give a shit about other business areas: I myself am a programmer, and sometime I just want to dive inside my code editor to implement X features that might not be useful and won’t be used by real users, just for the sake of implementing them because it’s so fun.

You tend to think that marketing/sales suck, and that you better outsource it and spend your time building/coding new features, but you’ll eventually find out that these areas are the ones that will bring you the most result in term of growth (given that you have a good enough product for people to use).

You think that some features are obvious to use: by having the technical background, you overestimate your users’ literacy regarding the use of your mobile app/web app. You tend to say: “How comes they don’t notice this damn big call to action button??”

It becomes really hard to delegate the technical part of building the product: completely detaching yourself from the baby you've built to someone else must be really hard.

The best thing to do might be to have one foot in the product building process (for important features, you might want to delegate stuff you already know and have done over and over again like building an authentication form or some basic features) and another in the management role.

You tend to prioritize technically challenging features above actual users' needs: you don't pay much attention on what features your users really want that will make their life easier. Instead, you tend to be more attracted to the idea of building some fancy features that will challenge your skills as a programmer. Some features that the users need might require some tedious and boring work from your developer point of view.

There are clearly not only advantages but also disadvantages being an entrepreneur with programming background. However, overall it can make you a really powerful entrepreneur as you might be able to go really far just by yourself!

Originally answered on Quora

© 2020, Philippe Khin