Tag Archives: #foundation

8 successful startups with non-technical founders

You don’t need to be technical to launch your tech company although it definitely helps. There are many other success factors like drive, vision, creativity, the ability to communicate them and excite others, sales know-how, business savvy, financial smarts, negotiating skills — and a bit of luck doesn’t hurt. All these are necessary to turn a finely-engineered product into a successful business.

Last week I posted about getting your tech startup going if you are not technical.  This week I will cover some examples of successful tech startups that were founded by non-technical people.


Ben Silbermann,  Pinterest founder, is not a typical tech dude. The Iowa native worked for Google but didn’t come from an engineering background — he was designing products like display ads. Hе graduated from Yale with a degree in political science and later took a consulting job in Washington. He began reading technology blogs and enjoyed learning about what people were building: “I would read about things like Digg and Kevin Rose.”  Plus, Silbermann was exposed to people who built amazing products. 

And then came Pinterest –  the website and mobile app enables users to collect and share their favorite images.

Silbermann and two friends, Paul Sciarra, who worked in venture capital, and designer Evan Sharp,  launched Pinterest in 2010. Members use the site to “pin” products to collections called “boards,” an activity that’s become so popular even President Obama is doing it.  

It caught fire and quickly skyrocketed to success with more than 30 million users globally and a $1.5 billion valuation. What started as as a fun side project has became one of the fastest growing social networks on the web.


Reid Hoffman  is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, as well as an investor and writer. He graduated from Stanford with a B.S. in Symbolic Systems in Cognitive Science and holds an M.S. in Philosophy from Oxford. He served as an Executive Vice President of PayPal where he was in charge of business development, corporate development, international, government relations, and banking/payments infrastructure.

In December 2002 Hoffman launched a professional networking site that became a $20 billion-plus company  called LinkedIn.


Did you know that Tony Hsieh did not actually found Zappos? The actual founder was Nick Swinmurn. Here is the story.

Nick Swinmurn graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara  with a degree in Film Studies. He founded Zappos in 1999. His initial inspiration came when he failed to find a pair of brown Airwalks at his local mall.

Swinmurn shares his story: ”I was fresh out of college. I got out of college, worked for the San Diego Padres for a year. There I realized it was taking forever to advance, and was kind of slow paced, so I moved back to the Bay Area, entered a job at an actual Newspaper, for Autoweb, and that was my introduction to the internet. I didn’t use email in college, this was 1996. I think I went to the library and signed up for ucsb.edu email address but I couldn’t quite figure out how to use it, you’d go to the terminal and use it and all that.

My Dad told me, you know I think the one you should focus on is the shoe thing. That’s a real business that makes sense. So I said okay, focused on the shoe thing, went to a couple of stores, took some pictures of the shoes, made a website, put them up and told the shoe store, if I sell anything, I’ll come here and pay full price. They said okay, knock yourself out. So I did that, made a couple of sales”

That same year, Swinmurn approached Tony Hsieh  and Alfred Lin  with the idea of selling shoes online In July 2009, the company announced it would be acquired by Amazon.com in an all-stock deal worth about $1.2 billion. Since its founding in 1999, it has become one of the world’s largest online shoe stores. Continue reading 8 successful startups with non-technical founders