Strategic thinkers from non-technical backgrounds sees tech as a skill that can be outsourced. They don’t see code as a source of competitive advantage. Plenty of folks in Bangalore can do it inexpensively and well, so they argue.
With hard-core techies it’s quite the other way around; they see strategic skills as something that can be outsourced. How to penetrate a market? How to price a new product? How to position a new service? Plenty of folks can do it inexpensively and well. Besides, strategy is little more than mastery of power point, so they argue.
Both sides can marshal strong arguments. The techies can summon Microsoft, Google and Facebook as examples of companies whose success had a lot to do with technical prowess. And quite right they are too.
The other side has an equally powerful argument in Apple and Amazon. Steve Jobs was hardly a techie and Jeff Bezos was a hedge fund manager. They too have a compelling story.
I spoke with an early stage venture finance type, someone who invests in start-ups when they are little more than an idea. What do you look for, I asked?
Track record, he replied, have the founders done it before? If yes, I am more inclined to invest, if no, I tend to give it a pass. Who has the better track record, techie or thinkers, I persisted?
Neither, he said. Over 90% of tech start-ups fail. Doesn’t matter whether the founders are from technical or non-technical backgrounds. Over 90% will still fail. That’s why it is important to back people who have done it before.
Moral of the story: If you are looking to hire someone for a really tough job, don’t experiment too much. Get someone who has been there before.