Why non-technical founders need greater support from Australia’s startup ecosystem

Non-tech founder

Depending on your source, it’s estimated that ‘technical people’ account for around 7% of the global population. That includes everyone from quantum computing experts right through to your brother-in-law’s childhood friend who knows how to mock up a WordPress site.  

If you’ve got a great idea but you’re in the ‘other’ 93% of the population (in other words, you’re non-technical) then in order to build a successful technology-backed startup, more likely than not you will need to either partner with a firm that specialises in helping people like you, or you need to find a ‘tech co-founder’.

This situation can be attributed, in part, to investors engaging in ‘pattern matching’; namely, when they’re evaluating an early stage opportunity, they’re usually looking for 1 CTO together with 1 CEO. The main reason, however, is that in order to drive a tech business, you need someone who’s whole job is the tech.

The problem is that good tech co-founders are rare finds and great ones are even rarer.  Consider that 1 in 100 people in the broad categorisation of “technical” may be applicable to your idea, you’re now going to look for the 1 in 100 of them that are available, entrepreneurial and are really, really good.  But worse, you’re limited to the 1% of them that are within your network and that you can get in front of!  So, that’s 1% of 1% of 1% of 7% of the population… in Australia’s case, that’s just 1.68 people.

On top of that, you then need to find technical talent to build out your team. Due to the fact that the best talent tends to gravitate towards the best opportunities, this quickly becomes a very expensive exercise. Also, because of how our visa system works, it’s prohibitive for a small startup to bring talent from overseas. So, As I’ve said… we’re limited to the 1.68 people in Australia.

This is, of course, an exaggeration but I use it to illustrate a simple and clear point: we need more technical people to support the startup ecosystem. Even if my numbers are out by two orders of magnitude, 170 technical co-founders in Australia just isn’t enough.

Through BlueChilli, I’ve dedicated my life to supporting non-technical founders build technical businesses. Helping them launch their first product to attract their first customer so they can get their first investment and hire their first technical team member.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen and heard of too many strong entrepreneurs whose ideas, although fantastic, never get off the ground because they struggle to attract technical talent. Why? There are many voices in the ecosystem who say that if a founder can’t convince a tech co-founder to join their startup then they’re not good enough. Aside from being incorrect, it means that entrepreneurs are actively discouraged to start as they feel like a failure before they even begin.

We believe, as was highlighted in Melanie Perkins’ recent blog on Canva’s success, that getting your first product developed by a team of experts is a powerful alternative to finding that elusive tech co-founder that is often overlooked.  Leaving aside BlueChilli, everyone in the ecosystem would benefit from more quality technical people.


About the author

Sebastien Eckersley-MaslinSebastien Eckersley-Maslin is the co-founder and CEO of BlueChilli, a leading startup accelerator that works with non-technical founders. See also: Investors in BlueChilli startups automatically qualify for tax deduction after ATO ruling and Why the startup ecosystem needs more non-technical entrepreneurs, not stereotypes.