Back to School


Paying My Dues

This is the story of a non-techie partnered with an MIT programmer to co-found an angel-funded tech start-up. After successfully manuevering in the ecommerce space for two years, I became increasingly drawn to the tech start-up scene in NYC. Fortunately, I was not one of the masses who had to scour networking events to find my technical co-founder.

Through mutual friends, I was able to draw significant interest from a couple of programmers from MIT and Caltech and finally decided on a team to join me. We were then able to gardner interest from several executives and formed a board of advisors with a member of the Fortune 500 executive clique and an award-winning documentary producer. But this blog isn’t about the company, it is about how I, as a non-technical co-founder of a technology start-up decided to go to programming school at Flatiron School for 12-weeks, to learn how to better understand and interact with my technical co-founder and our talented (yes, shameless plug) group of programmers and data scientists.

Being the technical idiot
When we first started a few months back, I led all the meetings, including the ones where our development team would talk about product ideas and brainstorm how to solve different problems. I always found the logic and and conversations interesting - although I would be lost in < 3 minutes. I will never forget the first time I “tried” to be helpful: two members of the programming team were telling me we needed to get Github accounts to share code, and I brilliantly suggested that they use Google Docs to share code (since you can see changes being made in real-time). Needless to say, I haven’t given any advice since…

A couple of months ago, I was discussing our backend data colletion ideas with a data scientist we were trying to recruit from Stanford and he was telling me how he would structure the tables and mentioned the different types of databases. He started listing them out: SQL, SQLite, when I inadvertently blurted out “Wait, is SQLite the 30-day free trial version of SQL?”

Why Still Flatiron?
A lot of people questioned why I stuck with Flatiron School, even after the company started drawing interest from VCs in the Valley, recruited several other talented programmers for the summer (confirming I would never code for the company), had to work on provisional patents, and preparing for our official launch in the summer with several enterprises, including Fortune 500 companies. In fact, a couple of friends actually advised that I shouldn’t learn how to code because it would change the way I view problem-solving. Of all people, it was my co-founder who said to go through with it as it would make me a better communicator and manager for the company.

Inside the Mind
I never understood how the hell a programmer could be so engrossed and frustrated at the same time with solving a problem. I would have meetings with the team ending at 2-3am and wake up to them still working on that same problem when I woke up. When they were able to solve a problem they had been working on for days, they would chug a beer, and start brainstorming on the next problem. The lifestyle - unnatural hours of solitude and thinking - was completely lost to me….until I came to Flatiron.

Learning Every Day
To be honest, I don’t know if taking Flatiron has made me more excited about learning how to code or more afraid of attempting. I’ve always wanted to be able to build small, custom apps that I could use for myself; however as I talk every night with our programming team, I realize just how wide the gap between my logic is from theirs. However, even being at Flatiron for such a short period of time has taught me so many valuable things that have allowed me to contribute a little more to the technical conversations. For example, learning Github was an amazing, albeit frustrating experience, as it helped me realize the value and purpose of needing Github repositories (as opposed to Google Docs). Learning all about databases, has enabled me to actually contribute constructively to schema structure conversations. It has helped me learn what it’s like to be inside the mind of programmers and data scientists, an invaluable skill that I, as the CEO of a technology start-up have grown to appreciate.

Why I Am Learning to Code

  1. Self-Improvement
    Continual learning keeps the mind humble. Not knowing what you don’t know can lead to dangerous situations, espeically for entreprenuers. Continual learning pushes me to set higher standards and more well-thought out goals.

  2. Build My Own Apps
    I have always enjoyed brainstorming and discussing ways to make things more efficient. There are several ideas that I would like to test out and build, if for nothing else, to make my life more efficient.

  3. Become Part of the Community
    The worldwide tech scenes have exploded in recent years. People from all backgrounds are leaving their jobs to flock to coding schools and communities. There is arguably no community that lends itself to a more diverse set of skills and interests, which creates awesome learning opportunities and unqiue relationships.

  4. Learn the Lingo
    One of the biggest peeves VCs and Angels have is when an entreprenuer says “I’m the non-technical co-founder, I don’t know or understand the technical features of my product.” Having a grasp of the basics of coding allows me to drive the technical conversations even if my technical co-founder isn’t present.

  5. Part of Our Lives
    Technology is ingrained in our lives, and will only increase in importance as more and more things become automated. Its always great to be at the forefront of future.