Dan Hogan is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member from Nashville and founder ofMedalogix, offering analytics-based health optimization solutions. As the non-tech-minded leader of a technology-based company, we asked Dan to share his insight on how to become a tech entrepreneur. Here’s what he had to say.
If you’re an aspiring tech entrepreneur, you’ve experienced something like this:
You’re going about your morning routine, adding creamer to your coffee, when–Bang! –inspiration hits. As your billion-dollar idea congeals (cue the overhead lightbulb), the creamer-coffee concoction bubbles over the rim of your mug. You grab a paper towel, but instead of sopping up the spill, you quickly scribble your idea on the fresh sheet of Bounty. After all, if you don’t write it down, the idea could fade away. And you can’t let that happen. This billion-dollar tech idea will change your industry. Maybe even the world.
But within moments, doubts creep in–dozens of reasons why this can’t possibly work. Chief among them: you know nothing about technology.
I know this emotional rollercoaster first hand.
While operating a home health agency in rural Tennessee, I founded a technology company that leverages predictive analytics to comb through home health providers’ data and predict patient outcomes. And, you guessed it–I didn’t know the first thing about SQL, Scrum or platform architecture.
So, if you find yourself with a great idea for a tech company or any new product offering in the tech space, don’t abandon your idea just because you lack technical expertise. I’m living proof that you can become a tech entrepreneur even if you know nothing about tech. Here’s how:
1. Come up with a great idea.
It’s an obvious, yet necessary, first step. Valuable ideas are specialized ideas, and everyone is a specialist at something–use your expertise to your advantage. A wealth of industry knowledge can make up for a lack of technical know-how.
2. Tell everyone.
You might be tempted to keep your big idea “hush-hush” for fear that someone will steal it. Don’t. No one is going to take your idea for the same reason that people rarely pursue their own–fear of failure. Share your idea with anyone who will listen. You’ll meet people with the skills you need to help achieve your dream.
3. Get funding and make it personal.
Ask your parents, friends and loved ones to back your big idea. Use your own money, too, so you have some skin in the game. When it’s personal, you don’t have the option to fail.
4. Embrace your strengths.
Use your strengths to earn respect from partners and peers. Are you a sales guy with a plethora of industry knowledge? Great! Sell your big idea to investors, tech partners and the press. Firsthand knowledge and expertise will make your sales pitch all the more genuine.
5. Hire (and keep) top talent.
You’re going to need talented tech experts, and it’s crucial that you find the right people–because you’re not a tech person (remember?). You need a smart, experienced and trustworthy team. And, since tech pays top dollar, offer competitive salaries that your top picks can’t refuse.
Don’t have top tech talent money yet? Offer ownership. When I started , I couldn’t afford to pay employees competitively, so I offered shares in the company instead. Not only is it an incentive to join the team, it’s an incentive to work hard, collaborate and move the company forward.
6. Be okay with not being the smartest person in the room.
Spoiler alert: Tech people are really smart, and there will be times when you have no idea what they’re talking about. And that’s okay. In the beginning, designate a “translator” to help you understand the tech talk. Over time, you’ll pick up on the lingo and learn by osmosis.
7. Be an expert leader.
Understand that you can lead your company without knowing the ins and outs of its technology. Know your marketplace, identify your vision, and listen to employees and customers. You don’t have to be an expert to be a leader; you just have to be an expert leader. As CEO, recruiting and retaining top talent is my top job. If you can find and retain smart and passionate employees, then you’re golden.
8. Be flexible.
Accept that your billion-dollar idea might transform over time as the market changes. Constantly seek new billion-dollar ideas to beef up your original idea, and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice.
Already have your big idea? Share it with someone. Right now. Take the ear buds out of your officemate’s ear. Tell him or her. If you don’t have an officemate, call your mom. Just tell someone. It will get you started, and as we all know, that’s the hardest part.