learn to code OR learn about starting a business?


I'm a first time entrepreneur, looking to launch a website for the first time. A friend recommended starting with html to be able to tackle basic website design.

I've never started a business and I've never coded a website, so I know nothing about either.

To best prepare myself to hit the ground running, how should I spend my time self-educating:

A)learning to code html
B)checking out blogs about how to start a company?



asked Jan 28 '10 at 16:27
Kevin B
33 points

7 Answers


A)learning to code html or B)checking out blogs about how to start a company?

As you present your situation, neither. If you're not educated in programming or so interested in that you've been coding for years, then you are unlikely to get good at it within a reasonable time expenditure. "Just" doing HTML is less demanding than programming, but the same general principle applies -- you're unlikely to build something in a reasonable time that a professional couldn't have done better for you faster and not that expensively.

Regarding starting a company -- that is a standard legal transaction; most cities have lawyers who can do this well & cheaply. (I take OPs words literaly -- "starting" a company as something different from "running" a company, or "creating" a product.)

If you personally have passion for one of these areas -- if you love to design web pages or work on legal aspects -- then it's a whole different situation. Then you should follow your passion! :-) You're 22, you have no track record on this site, and you're not expanding on why you want to start a web business. You should work on the "why?" question, something like this:

  1. Why are you absolutely driven to start a business now -- or are you really? Would your time right now be better spent on education?
  2. Is there a problem area where you have more domain expertise than most, is there a area where you have deep insight into business, and where you really know how the end customers feel because you've been one? If so, and provided that you really want to start a business, then you could research this area for business ideas. If your know-how is mostly in "young" things like entertainment, clubbing etc then that's not necessarily bad; there is always a market for those things.
  3. If you want to start a (web) business, read Steve Blank and Eric Ries' thoughts about "Minimum Viable Product", and devise a plan to test your product against the market before committing to building a company. This is crucial; many ideas that seem great to founders fail to attract customers.

I hope this helps, and good luck! :-)

answered Jan 28 '10 at 20:21
Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points


I'll assume that you have an idea for a business, you've determined that there is a paying market for it, and that you have determined how to generate revenues from the product. You're now stuck at the point of needing to both develop the product or service, and figure out how to deliver it to your market while managing the entire business.

As Jesper points out, with little or no programming experience at the age of 22, you're unlikely to become a star programmer anytime in the near future. Sorry, just doesn't happen. The advice you were given regarding HTML is a bit flawed - few websites today are built using pure HTML. The vast majority are running a variety of other technologies on them - CSS to start, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, Ajax, jQuery to name a few.

As such, from a technology point of view, you'll be better off hiring someone else to do the technical side of your business (or finding an appropriate co-founder).

In regard to starting a business, Jesper gave a nice description of the legal process. However, I will assume that you are referring to running a business.

If you have no background in business, you can still learn to run your own company. However, you will likely learn many lessons the hard way (by making known mistakes). You should find a mentor who can help you in this regard - SCORE offers some great resources to help you run a business. You could also look at some blogs or other websites that have business resources. You may want to start your own (it's what I did, and now my site contains over 200 articles on the subject of running a business).

answered Jan 29 '10 at 00:25
4,692 points


I think this really depends on your business idea. To take a couple of extremes: Perhaps your business idea is a simply a blog that provides valuable or entertaining content. In this case you simply need to create a Wordpress or Blogger account (no programming or HTML required) and spend most of your time producing great content. Or perhaps you have a great physical product that you want to sell online. There are many e-commerce platforms that require little technical expertise. Or perhaps your idea is a web site that for a very small fee will automatically generate a high quality, original university term paper based on a research topic you give it. As fantastic as the latter idea is (sarcasm intended) it is obviously more of technical problem than any other kind of problem. If 99% per cent of the total effort will be spent on programming, it doesn't really matter how great you are at business: it will be almost impossible to find or pay someone to put in the time and effort to realise your idea - and then there is very real chance the programmer will just steal your idea and be successful with it! (eg: Mark Zuckerberg)

Do you have just one 'big idea' that you think might be profitable? I would suggest pitching your idea to a programmer to find out how challenging a programming project it might be. You might be suprised that it requires little or no programming. On the other hand you might find out that it is technically near-impossible

Or do have 100s of web site / web app ideas that you are bursting to realise. In this case I think that you may find you will actually enjoy programming (don't let any one tell you that 22 is too old to start learning to program!) If you are bursting with ideas and you are completely dependent on other programmers to bring your ideas to life, you will eventually become so frustrated that there is no choice to just learn to program and DIY! Even if you are not the most technically minded in nature, your passion to bring your ideas to life will motivate you.

In my opinion most 'great ideas' are largely technical in nature, have likely been thought of by 1000s of others and only people with a great idea AND the technical ability to pull it off will succeed.

(PS. I am a programmer and obviously biased)

answered Nov 29 '10 at 20:10
Michael B
111 points


Why not combine them.

Well HTML wont take you long. I would at least recommend you to get into some PHP/mySQL stuff too.

And you don't learn about starting a company by checking out blogs you learn by starting a company and then take it one step at a time.

And if you don't know what company to do.

Why no start a blog where you document your attempt to learn to code and starting a company.

answered Jan 28 '10 at 17:38
Thom Pete
1,296 points


Kevin the answers from this post will probably help you out.

Like I mentioned earlier, the blog posts written by people who have BEEN there already (by this i mean started a company) will not serve as a guide to a successful startup but rather as a way to help you focus on what tasks are at hand. They will give you an idea of the things you should prepare for along the startup journey. Focus was key for me, as i did not truly get going with my startup idea until I tightened the scope of what I wanted to do and then made a plan based on that.

Its easy to get caught up adding more and more to the idea but not doing anything practical to bring that idea to fruition. Reading advice from others online will give you perspective and push you to begin the process of implementing your idea.

My recommendation: get some perspective on your idea and then decide whether or not you SHOULD learn to code. Sometimes its better to leave the code to people who have experience in that space...

answered Jan 28 '10 at 19:46
Eric Amzalag
818 points


Learn how to run a business, you can always hire someone to code, but you are going to want to understand your own business

answered Jan 30 '10 at 08:30
649 points


Try both, do not let anybody tell you that it is too late to either learn software development or starting a business. At 22 you still have plenty of time to learn both.

You can start by taking some online tutorials to teach yourself web development and then use what you learn to build your own personal website... that will help you a lot.

Also, if you find that web development is not for you then just get someone to help you with the coding as Eric and Jeff suggested. The important thing here is to try, if you already have an idea for a service or product do whatever it takes to bring your idea to life... if you fail, then at least you would have learned many important business lessons, and perhaps a few technical lessons too.

No one really knows what you can accomplish but yourself, reading blogs from entrepreneurs will help you get motivated and it might provide you a few tips but you still have to try it yourself, do not spend too much time reading and thinking about it, the sooner you start your business, the sooner you might fail and that will give you the best training of all...

Good luck!

answered Jan 30 '10 at 18:32
4,815 points

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