Give us a brief recap of your entrepreneurial career since you graduated from Owen and how has your MBA helped you in your role as a CTO/web developer?
I've spent my time since graduation working for a series of start-ups building web-based software and e-commerce products. My MBA provided a foundation for me to make better decisions regarding the trade-offs inherent in building scalable products that attract customers using limited capital and resources. Many trade-off decisions are made by programmers when deciding how to implement features and modules - "Do I spend more time making this module flexible or should I focus on just making it work short term?" or "Should I spend another hour testing this or should I start on the next task?"
As an engineer you have an internal desire to build products to last and to test stability in all of the use cases -- you are putting your name on the product after all. But as an MBA you know that there are very real business pressures in play that should dictate the decisions and timeline. Having the business needs at heart allows me to make sure the engineer's desire to build cool stuff doesn't derail the project's overall success.
What should aspiring entrepreneurs that are non-technical know about building products and recruiting talented developers to their team?
It's very difficult for non-technical people to assess the skills of developers. The main thing I would look for is a track record. Find someone who has worked with start-ups and is cognizant of your need to move quickly. And don't be afraid to pay up if you find someone who really fits the bill. You'll save yourself a lot of money and headaches in the long run by choosing an elite developer, even if they are over budget. In the same time frame good programmers can achieve significantly more output with less bugs than their more novice counterparts.
Also, it can be very beneficial to prototype. A strong developer can usually build you something that's good enough to show investors and potential customers within in a matter of weeks. You may end up discarding the code and starting anew once you've heard feedback, but there will be some code you can salvage and the lessons learned the first time through will make development much faster when you go to build it "right". You may even want to consider hiring a graphic designer to work on the developer's prototype to increase its legitimacy before presenting to potential clients and investors.
Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for current Owen students that want to start a company?
Be ready to fail and to make course corrections. Talk to anyone who will listen about your idea. Always be seeking out potential customers and soliciting their feedback. What are the time-saving and cost-saving features? How much would a customer pay for these features?
If you need insight into technical feasibility, consult your network. Find a connection to someone in web development and arrange a call. Many programmers would be happy to have a phone call to discuss your idea and poke holes in it. If you are seeking a technology co-founder, you can utilize AngelList to reach out to programmers.
And to quote the great Germain Boer -- "Never give up"