Can Great Developers Be Great Entrepreneurs?

Panel Memebers from left Manoj Changarampatt, Bernard Banta, Mike Kimathi, Raymond Hightower and Martin Gicheru

This is probably a question that you have asked yourself at some point in time. If you haven’t, well you should because this is something that hurts a lot of budding developers and entrepreneurs who have fantastic startup ideas and concepts but many of which don’t make it past infancy.

There is no greater representation of the journey developers take to get their product to market as depicted in the popular TV series Silicon Valley. It follows a brilliant developer, Richard with his amazingly fast and complex compression system that gets even the big guys bothered. In the series you see that he and his colleagues have the product figured out, but the business side of it, well, that’s where the problem comes in.

(Spoiler…maybe?) After struggling to get good investors, they start doubting his qualifications as a CEO, as the person to run the company. He is an overqualified developer but a sub-standard leader.

Is this something that affects ALL software developers?

This was a question asked to a panel of some accomplished entrepreneurs who are attending the ongoing Ruby Conference.

Panel Memebers from left Manoj Changarampatt, Bernard Banta, Mike Kimathi, Raymond Hightower and Martin Gicheru
Panel Memebers from left Manoj Changarampatt, Bernard Banta, Mike Kimathi, Raymond Hightower and Martin Gicheru

Are we overlooking the importance of giving developers some entrepreneurial skills before sending them out into the world?

This spurred on some interesting concepts and opinions from the panelists. Mike Kimathi, who is a co-chairman on the Nairuby, an experienced developer in innovative systems said;

“The solution is across all sectors, everyone needs to step up, right from school and internships in companies, and they need to be taught how to develop business plans first hand”

Manoj Changarampatt, a business visionary, independent consultant, mentor and serial investor said he is a firm believer in self-development entrepreneurship, not so much of a believer in taught entrepreneurship.

Obviously, opinions differed but the underlying concept remained, nobody is a born entrepreneur, entrepreneurship is an acquired skill. If you choose to be one, then you need to work hard on it, whether it is through classes, or self-teaching. It is not automatic. Maybe Richard from Pied Piper needs a few classes, don’t you think?

The other popular question was on what is important when starting a business, whether you are a software company or not.

As a developer, what should you consider first?

Well, for Raymond T. Hightower, you need 3 things to better your chance of success.

panel ruby conf 1

The other thing that speakers really emphasized on was on the importance of a customer. There is no doubt that customers keep businesses afloat. Mike Kimathi stated that “The customer is the most important resource for a company, a repeat customer, even better!”

Your users should not have to think on how to use your product

For Manoj, well, his mantra is fairly simple for having a successful company. Once you have your customers identified;

panel ruby conf 2

It might take a while for your company to be profitable, or even break even. The temptation to pay yourself can be there but that might be a recipe for disaster. What Mr. Changarampatt was getting at is that before you get to that break-even point, make sure all revenue is geared towards investing back into your company. After that, then you can concentrate on making money to pay yourself.

The panel discussion was very interesting, one of the many highlights of day one of the Ruby conference, with more amazing things to happen today.

Day 2 starts today and for timely updates of what is happening during the conference, be sure to keep up with our Twitter page.