2018 has marked the beginning of the end of early-stage funding. According to this VentureBeat piece, Angel and Seed investments in the US are plummeting while the average deal value for VC-backed funding has grown from $5.1M to $12.8M over the last 5 years. The funding landscape is evolving fast and one needs to demonstrate maturity in terms of growth and milestones to attract investor attention. In other words, the very definition of early-stage is changing rapidly.
While there are a handful of renowned products like MailChimp, JotForm, and FusionCharts that have jostled towards success without a dime of external investment, there is also a growing breed of revenue-focused tech companies (go here and sort by ‘raised’ and scroll down to see $0) that are able to sustain and even turn a profit with zero funding. Whether you are an aspiring CEO with the skills to build a team and grow a product, a product-centric person obsessed with UX and content, or a lover of APIs and algorithms, you can be a maker. Based on your skillset and ideas (or a lack of any), you belong to one of the following categories, each containing two actionable steps:
You have technical skills but are not sure what to make or how to sell
While knowing how to code is an advantage, it can also be detrimental if you build something without talking to prospective customers or knowing how to market and sell. Here’s what you can do to validate your ideas or find new ones:
- Join niche communities: There are so many amazing online communities where you can find inspiration and validation. Indie Hackers and Product Hunt are where the most prolific makers launch products, get feedback, discuss ideas and share knowledge. There are also scores of Slack groups, both free and paid, focused on topics ranging from SaaS to Nomad Life. You can find over 2000 Slack communities here.
- Harness the power of asking: This is the most underrated method to reach out to those who can give you the best feedback. There are a ton of thriving Facebook groups such as this one where CEOs, marketers, designers, and developers hang out and participate in discussions and debates. On the other hand, Twitter is a great place to reach out to specific people you have in mind. If you don’t have any, check out this directory of interesting people to follow and learn from.
You know what to make and how to sell it, but lack technical skills to build it
You’ve done your market research, validated your idea and already have a roadmap for your product but don’t have the skills to build your MVP? Well, maybe you don’t need them. Here’s what you can do to get going:
- Embrace the no-code movement: You can build all kinds of things without programming experience; you only need a maker-mindset and the right tools. Webflow is one of the most powerful website builders out there, Bubble lets you create a functional web app, create a Messenger chatbot using ManyChat and connect your entire stack or integrate third-party apps and APIs using Integromat. Check out this collection of some of the best no-code tools to build a product and then go here to find everything else you need to launch it. If you need some hand-holding, NuCode and The Zeroqode Lab have some compelling courses and programs, while NoCodeFounders is the most thriving community of no-code experts and enthusiasts.
- Find, evaluate and collaborate: You can either lament over not having the requisite skills or use it to your advantage. There is a growing number of developers looking to partner up with non-tech folks who can turn an idea or prototype into a business. Where to find them, you ask? Hang out in the same niche communities where the devs do, make connections and share your wisdom. Remember, being the non-tech guy doesn’t make you any less of a maker.
You lack programming skills and you do know what to make
Fret not, many of us are rocking the same boat. You already know that a lack of technical skills is not necessarily a roadblock or a disadvantage. Instead, it enables you to push yourself, learn new stuff and face challenges head-on. Further, not being married to an idea enables you to put yourself out there, build connections with a variety of experts and grab opportunities that come your way with an open mind. Remember, there’s a maker in all of us and you don’t need to build a product to be one.
If you are a seasoned maker or aspire to be one, I’d love to hear from you. And if you liked what you read, do share it with others who might benefit from these ideas!