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How much ‘tech’ makes a startup a tech startup?

3 questions that have helped me answer this one and why it is important

One of my most fervent supporters has described the tech that drives my company as “technically trivial”. Some might feel slighted by this description, or even offended, but I am not. I also know he didn’t mean it that way.

I designed the solution that is at the heart of my business to be simple on purpose. It did come out of a tech startup weekend, and the tech at its heart is fundamental to its problem/solution fit. I have been a part of the tech startup scene since, been through a tech-for-good accelerator, and I have really enjoyed learning all the new techie stuff I have had to learn. Tech is essential to the service I provide. Its simplicity is also essential.

But what has been pointed out is that this simplicity could hinder my search for a co-founder or other teammates. It could be seen as boring or not cutting edge enough for someone to want to be a part of it.

It certainly has hindered my chances in applications for startup competitions and prizes, pitch opportunities, and other must-catch-their-attention contests. Because unless the contest is about recognising the skill and creativity that goes into designing a simply elegant solution that benefits the most people, my IP can be quickly discounted or even scoffed at. That then means that the whole of my business as it is structured around the tech solution never even gets a look.

The description of my business’s tech as “trivial” set me wondering if I am ‘marketing’ the company as a potential employer or investment in the wrong sphere. Perhaps I should be more focused on the social enterprise or tech for good forums, and seek out like-minded people who are also there.

But it does raise the question for me how much tech, or maybe even what kind of tech makes a tech startup?

Or perhaps the question should be turned on its head; in this day and age when everyone and everything seems to rely on an internet presence at the very least, and some sort of software, architecture, or other API commonly, when is a startup not a tech one?

On the one hand this may be a moot question. Who cares? Perhaps it is up to the company to choose how to define itself. On the other hand, when a founder is wanting to attract talent and support of various kinds to her company, getting that definition and therefore the forums right to best represent it becomes very relevant.

So, how much tech makes a startup a tech startup?

After giving this some thought, here are the questions I have set out to help me define my business. This seems particularly important in order to help me determine if positioning my company as a tech startup is the right move. It would also help me decide what kind of forums are best for sharing information about it and seeking interest in it.

I would be interested in hearing if you have a different view, or indeed, better questions!

  1. Does the company rely on a bit of IP as part of its solution to a well-defined problem?
  2. Has something unique (apart from a website) had to be, or does it need to be, built (coded) in order to provide the solution on offer?
  3. Could you provide essentially the same solution to your customer in some old-school fashion if you took the tech away?

If the answer to the first two questions is ‘yes’, then even if that tech is ‘trivial’, then I reckon promoting it in tech forums is the right thing to do. And if the answer to the last question is ‘no’, then it really does have ‘enough’ tech to be classified as a tech startup because without the tech it wouldn’t exist in a recognisable form.

So, I found the description of my solution as ‘technically trivial’ as really very helpful in challenging then confirming my planning and positioning for my company, and bolstering my confidence in how I am going about canvassing for co-founders and various other interest and support. Because, when you are thinking about tech for good often the simplest, most universal tech will have the biggest impact. And when a big impact for good is so important, getting talented, passionate people on board is going to make all the difference in the world.

I will be writing more about this aspect of my tech startup journey in my next post, when I describe what my company does with its simple tech, and more importantly for me, why.

This is the latest story in my series on how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience. You can see more here: https://medium.com/@eshassere If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share by clicking the green heart.