#NonTechMVP — 4 steps to creating a viable startup without coding

Fernando Leon
5 min readApr 4, 2020

#NonTechMVP — 4 steps to creating a viable startup without coding

Note: This is a post leading up to our upcoming panel at SXSW #NonTechMVP, where I will be joining the wonderfully talented Erica Swallow and Stephanie Weiner. Contently’s John Hazard will moderate.

Whether you’re an avid Lean Startup enthusiast and have read all the literature on the topic; or you’re considering whether your business idea might just work, the panelists will do our very best to demystify and express things in simple language. As a teaser of sorts, I did a mental exercise of breaking down our experience over the last 15 months at fruitkit into steps anyone can follow. So here they are. We may not be a multimillion Euro business just yet, but we have managed to turn 100 Dollars into close to 100-thousand in just over a year — and we still haven’t coded anything beyond cosmetic updates on our website!

Stage 1: The Start: make that first sale, get that first user! No, you don’t need thousands of Dollars, or a full-stack developer — what do you need? a rough idea of what people might be willing to pay for your solution. Are you solving a real problem? The most honest answer to this question will come from a person who is willing to pay you money for the value your not-yet-existing product will provide! Besides, that first sale is an unbelievably helpful jolt into action.

‘Holy shit! People are actually willing to pay for this!’

Required mindset for this stage: Have you ever started at a job where you have had all the skills listed on the job description? People come with requests and you just find a way to fulfil them.

Stage 2: Define your MVP and typical user.

So you took that first step. Brilliant! You can now have a glimpse into what steps finding / buying / consuming / using your product entails.

What steps are involved in serving that customer’s need? Standardise what the experience of your product will ideally feel like to your audience. Once you have done it a few times, you will have a clear picture of what that is at its most basic expression. Don’t worry about aesthetics at this stage. Treat this as a learning process — and if you’re charging money, you’re way ahead by getting more honest feedback!

Required mindset for this stage: Don’t be afraid to inject your personality into this process. In what ways are you better than a computer?

Stage 3: Grow in orders of magnitude.

Did you manage to retain that first user? Try serving 3, then 10, and so and so on.

Try to land more sales, test your channels and see how much pressure you can handle with what you have.

Required mindset for this stage: The company that you keep is key. If you’re a serious entrepreneur, then your co-founders should be testament to this. If you’re doing it part-time, then get really good at networking and hiring.

Stage 4: Gain consistency and start thinking technology

Now try ramping things up even more! At fruitkit, this meant optimising our delivery process, working on our logistics, spending some time and effort serving more customers.

Required mindset for this stage: Train your team on being your eyes and ears. It’s okay to do this slowly. At this stage you should have a better grasp on what benefits technology can bring to your business; and maybe even some money to help you get started with that next stage of growth.

Some personal notes on entrepreneurship over the years:

Back in the 80′s, at least in Colombia — the word ‘Independent’ (entrepreneur) next to a person’s name on a list of professions seemed almost off-putting. It was no shame, that’s for sure — but it certainly lacked the polish and glamour of ‘Manager’, or let alone ‘Director’ at a large international corporation.

The 90′s and early 2000′s showed very different trends. Not just in terms of public perception around certain professions — the line between channels and professions became blurry. People no longer strived to be ‘Independent’ or ‘Self-employed’, they wanted to ‘build a website’ or ‘start a business’. As of 2007, the iPhone ensured these statements morphed into the very common expression: ‘I have an idea for an app’, and more recently: ‘I have an idea for a startup’. A while back, I began to ask people: ‘ so, what’s holding you back?’.

The answers have been many and very diverse. ‘I don’t know how to code’ is by far the most popular one; closely followed by ‘I don’t have the capital to get started’ — I have also heard statements such as: ‘I don’t know if I have what it takes’, or ‘I’d like to work on getting my packaging just right’. My co-panelists and I would like to get to the core of these objections and help entrepreneurs overcome them.

The first thing all the panelists would like you to know is, you’re not alone. We have all been where you are. Waiting way too long to get started and realising someone else has decided to build what you’d thought of; working away at a product to get it ‘just right’ and realising you have no real plan for acquiring users or paying customers; solving your own first-world problems — the list goes on and on…

So, whether you have the dream of radically transforming education (like Erica) — or you want to take it to large retailers by changing the way people buy fresh produce (like myself) — we would like to inspire you to get started today. Yes, today. Why not?

We will share our experiences (both negative and positive) in the area of creating an MVP (minimum viable product) of your idea without writing a single line of code. The frustrations and challenges you will likely encounter along the way; how to create useful workarounds for technical solutions and what tools and methods you can add to your arsenal when setting off on your new adventure.

If you won’t be able to join us at SXSW, then don’t worry! We will be sharing plenty of content and subject matter online. We also hope you will join the discussion via Twitter, wherever you may be: #NonTechMVP

Stay tuned!


Originally published at https://fernandoleon.co on April 4, 2020.



Fernando Leon

The human side of tech. I ask the “why’s?”, “how’s?”, “who’s” and “when’s?” when others think just tech. Talk to me about travel, dogs or ecosystem innovation.