The Co-Founder of Yahoo Says Start-Ups Don’t Have to Depend on Technical Founders

jerry yang cofounder Yahoo January 2016

There is quite a lot of mythology floating around the world of start-ups.  So many people believe that, if they don’t have a great founder to drive their product development, they’re doomed from inception.  The general belief is that companies without founders like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin simply can’t succeed.  However, one of the founders of Yahoo, Jerry Yang, says this myth, like many other myths, is nonsense.

Many successful businesses do have product-focussed founders, yes, but there are just as many that don’t.  In a recent interview, Jerry Yang of Yahoo said that he completely disagrees with the idea that only businesses with seemingly superhuman product developers stand a chance at success.

Yang believes instead that success is a product of strength.  If a company’s founder has strong people skills, for example, that business should initially be built on that strength.  Similarly, great salespeople can build their businesses based primarily on sales.  Essentially, the product is not the be-all-and-end-all of successful businesses.

Yang used Cisco as an example.  This is a business whose core strength is its strong sales culture.  Similarly, Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce company, has built its success on creating trust through partnerships.

Yang maintains that it is the amount of effort that goes into start-ups that determines their success.  Whether a company is based on a tech product or its sales prowess, it stands an equal chance of success.  It is only when founders are lackadaisical in their approaches that businesses fail.

The Truth in Yahoo Co-Founder’s Claim

Yang himself is proof of the fact that technical ability is not the only requirement for a successful tech business.  Yang himself managed to build one of the world’s biggest search engines with his fellow founders, and did so with a background in engineering.

Similarly, Steve Jobs didn’t have great technical ability.  He simply knew what he wanted to create and then found the necessary people to help him create it.

Look at start-ups like Airbnb and Uber.  These are another two very successful start-ups, but neither business has an overly technical founder.

This concept is so important to Yang because he uses it to inspire his portfolio companies.  He tells them all to pick their strengths – the parts of their team that will make them formidable – and build their companies on those.

So, if you have a start-up but aren’t absolutely product –focussed, never fear; you are in good company.  Simply play to your strengths, commit, and your company will succeed.

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