If you look at the greatest recent tech companies there are plenty of newcomers that aren’t even considered tech, let alone, high tech. Uber and Airbnb, are less about tech and more about their concept.

You can run a tech company without a tech background but find the best tech you can when needed.

Knowing how to handle the tech side of a business (including coding) is extremely helpful. But even more important is being able to recognize where the tech is most needed; where consumer pain points exist and how tech can change people’s lives.

In 2019, it may be time to redefine tech entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship isn’t a 23-year-old in Silicon Valley wearing a $15 H&M hoodie coding all night. An entrepreneur can be anyone — and entrepreneurship can come from anywhere.

Rise of The Rest

Steve Case has been highlighting this fact about entrepreneurship in his Rise of The Rest tour that came out with a Top 10 Cities list. Drive Capital specifically set up shop in:

  • #1 Columbus, Ohio; because they see the Midwest as the next frontier of innovation.
  • #6 Cincinnati, Ohio; is becoming a growing juggernaut in biotech, and
  • #5 Baltimore, Mass; has seen over one billion USD, in recent investments.

Find and define your next career.

Champion Boxer Yahu Blackwell grew up in Baltimore before it was topping lists or having Magic Johnson make investment visits. In his prime at 32, Blackwell has made a couple million and is still boxing. Most boxers fight well beyond their prime; Blackwell won’t. He’s already lining up his next career working in blockchain and developing a boxing mobile game, called People’s Champ.

Hundreds of stories across the country prove that tech entrepreneurship is happening all around us. In someone like Blackwell’s case, his motivation is tied to his love for “his” city and wanting to see it grow and thrive. This shift is good for tech as it moves away from coasts and the entrepreneurs that traditionally fit central casting.

There will always be pain points that need to be addressed.

Whether it’s healthcare, banking or insurance there are plenty of systems that need changing. The first wave of disruptive tech addressed everyday pain points in travel and transportation. The taxi, hotel, and even grocery stores have been forever changed. Look for a pain point you can solve. 

To get into tech without a tech background, start finding the problems first, rather than the solutions.

  1. Fix an everyday problem.

Problems, big and small, exist everywhere. Keep a journal of your daily annoyances or those exasperations you hear mentioned around you. Remember that you don’t have to build something complicated to solve a problem. Being first to market can give you lots of advantages.

There is very little difference, technically speaking, between Uber and Lyft. One entity just grew faster. Although there is a difference in “driver payout scale,” that’s business — not programming.

Settling on the right problem to tackle can be difficult. Narrow the problem by answering a few questions.

  • Is there high volume? Do a lot of people already do this/need this?
  • How hard would it be to change their consumer behavior?
  • Are there any legal issues I’ll need to address upfront?

If there’s high volume, a consumer willingness to change behavior and no major legal hurdles, then that’s generally an opportunity worth taking.

But don’t be too quick to check off the first two boxes listed above. People don’t like buying cars, and they’re devaluing the car as a status symbol. Individuals are choosing rideshares which would indicate it’s a great time to further disrupt the car dealership model.

Only, you’d be in for a long, protracted legal fight with the car dealership system. Auto dealerships are complicated, have a lobby and will require you to raise significant capital. In other words, if Tesla is still struggling to get around it — stay clear. Look for better and easier opportunities.

  1. Fix a broken system.

That sounds incredibly complicated but it isn’t. The larger the system or bureaucracy, the slower they are to change. If you can create something that addresses the annoyances of automated customer services using AI bots, you’re on to something. Medical billing, appointment setting, taxes, and finances are all due for an upgrade.

The challenge will always be in working to change your new context into a larger existing system.

Your innovation will require simplicity. You’re not coming from a tech background which will play to your strengths. Basic scheduling tools and items we use every day on our phones have not yet achieved the status quo at large institutions.

Find things that don’t work and replace them with ideas that work somewhere else.

This thought is a tried and true principle in entrepreneurship. You don’t need to invent something. Merely take an “old” process, modify and modernize it, and install your new approach in the right setting.

The biggest thing to remember is that where you’re from, what you look like, what you’ve done before doesn’t matter in tech. Creating the best solution, that works and works easily, does.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.