4 principles for building an MVP even if you can’t write a single line of code

Coding is the new literacy — for years, people have been calling programming the X-factor that guarantees future success.

It’s no surprise there is a widespread perception in the startup world that anyone who doesn’t know how to code should forget about trying to create anything. After all, Silicon Valley, which historically has been to software engineering what Hollywood is to acting, built its reputation as the birthplace of world-changing tech companies.

But the reality is that great talent is everywhere, and technical talent is not the only kind that matters. Silicon Valley is by no means the only booming tech hub in the world — in 2013, only 37 cities were home to a unicorn; by 2021, there were unicorns in a whopping 170 cities.

Having a technical background is not a requirement for a founder to build a great company, regardless of where they might be located. We work with plenty of technical and non-technical people, and we encourage founders with non-technical backgrounds to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.

Why do we feel so strongly about this?

The proof is in the data. In his book “Super Founders,” venture capitalist Ali Tamaseb gathered 30,000 data points that revealed founding CEOs of unicorns were split down the middle: Half came from a business background; half had a technical background.

And, there have been many non-technical founders who have built huge tech companies, such as Melanie Perkins of Canva, Brian Chesky of Airbnb, Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble, and Evan Sharp of Pinterest.

Coding is “A” new literacy, not “THE” new literacy and is only one of many ways to achieve great outcomes.

If we meet an applicant who doesn’t have a technical background but brings drive, grit and some other specialized knowledge, we will almost always want to partner with them, connect them to our ecosystem and jump-start their entrepreneurial journey.

While this might sound encouraging, it doesn’t change the fact that every company needs to go to market with an MVP. Without coding skills, how do you build one?

You should always try to have at least one technical co-founder on your team. It simply makes for faster building and iterating, easier pivoting, consistency throughout the product lifetime and fewer headaches or incompatibilities down the line.

While we don’t recommend launching a company solo, if you haven’t found a technical co-founder or freelancer to build your MVP, here are four principles that will help in the meantime.

Principle 1: Non-technical is OK; non-product is not

People often confuse technical knowledge for product knowledge, but they are not the same. Each requires different educational backgrounds, team structures, focus areas within the enterprise and the types of questions that need to be asked.

Product knowledge is about being able to articulate what your thing does at the most basic level. Even if you have no clue how the technology actually works, you should be able to explain what the function is in a clear and concise way. On the other hand, technical knowledge is about building the thing itself.

App development shop V/One is giving away 50,000 free mobile app builds to budding LA mobile businesses

The Los Angeles-based app development shop, V/One, is giving away 50,000 free mobile app builds through the rest of April as the company officially launches its platform for would-be, LA-based mobile app moguls.

Since its soft launch, December 20th of last year, the app development company has built over 100 new applications.

The company’s December launch featured an “app accelerator” and offered a guidebook for people who wanted to develop mobile applications to work with the development shop on early applications.

Under the terms of the development agreement, wannabe app creators get their application for free as long as they sign up for the monthly hosting service. “They can walk away at any time and cancel the hosting if they don’t want the app anymore. Builds of the apps will be delivered around 60 days upon signing up,” said V One founder, Jeremy Redman.

For founder Jeremy Redman, V/One was a business that solved a problem he had faced himself as an entrepreneur just starting out, but lacking the technical experience to build his own applications.

“I had an app idea but no real idea how to executive it. I’m non-technical, meaning I can’t code. I tried finding a technical co-founder but got abandoned when things got tough. Dev shops were too expensive and on the verge of predatory, and cookie cutter builders don’t address the designs I had in mind,” Redman said. “But, I wasn’t going to let someone tell me I couldn’t be a tech entrepreneur.”

Image Credits: Chris Ede / Getty Images

The app development toolkit that V One uses was built entirely in-house to automate the build process on the back end, says Redman.

For small businesses, the plan is to charge $297 per month for app development and customization along with any future builds, hosting, and product support and maintenance. The company’s more robust place is a $997 per month package. Both offer the option to cancel anytime with the ability to own the code for the app.

“So far the only limitations are one’s creativity. Essentially speaking, if you can design it it can be made a functional app in our builder,” Redman wrote in an email. “If I had to put a constraint on it I would say we are not good at AR/VR and machine learning and some obscure features 99% of people don’t need [or] want.”

Redman thinks that roughly 98% of an app can be built using the company’s toolkit and then the final bit of coding and development (specifically for augmented or virtual reality — or other components) can be added in a final customization.

“If customers can describe their idea in one, clear sentence then it can be made in our builder and it can be made quickly,” Redman wrote. “What we don’t do is take pages and pages of details and make an app out of it. They can fill in the details later.”

V One uses a cross-platform framework, serverless technology and modern development practices to generate apps using an easy to use app builder, the company said. Users can think of it like Wix or WordPress for mobile app development.

“Never before has someone been able to build an app from just typing their idea out, let alone for this low a cost,” says Redman.