by Nihal Mehta
As a seed investor, I’m always thinking about how to find the next unicorn before they’ve even built a product. Recently, I’ve realized that I’m looking for a new category of founder, which I’ll describe as “low code, higher go-to-market” — founders who may not have exceptionally strong technical chops, but make up for it with their strength in areas like sales, storytelling, and fundraising, as well as deep knowledge and connections in specific industry verticals.
Of course, it’s always been valuable to have someone with those skills leading a startup. (And we’re grateful to Alloy’s Laura Spiekerman for recently sharing so many relevant go-to-market insights with our founders.) But in the past, those teams would still need a technical co-founder. Now, many of them can get started without one, even if they can’t code at all.
What’s changed? Well, there’s an endless array of low-code tools (Airtable, Bubble, Shopify, Google apps, Figma, Canva, Stacker, Squarespace, Stripe, QBO, and more) that have become sophisticated and powerful enough that some companies can run their businesses and build early versions of their product without writing a single line of code.
This approach doesn’t work for every startup, and of course we’ll always be eager to back teams that have made big technical breakthroughs. But I’m increasingly excited about founders who bring something else to the table — whether it’s Josh Kaplan and Dee Murthy at Ghost, with their years of experience and deep knowledge of the retail business; Bassem Hamdy at Briq, leveraging an incredible career in construction tech; or Zubin Bhettay at Fuzzy, who used off-the-shelf tech to build out an impressive network of vet techs and veterinarians.
These scenarios are only going to become more common thanks to recent AI breakthroughs. For example, as we all test the limits of OpenAI’s new ChatGPT, it’s easy to imagine a customer service chatbot that’s fully automated using similar technology. And looking further down the road, tools like ChatGPT, Dall-E (which created the colorful image above, using the prompt “Nihal Mehta writing a blog post, surrounded by unicorns”), and Meta’s text-to-video API all point to a future where technology can turn any idea into content, with human imagination as the only limit.
You might think that these kinds of soft skills will become unnecessary in an AI-driven future, but I would argue that the opposite is true: As parts of the tech stack become commoditized, the importance of storytelling, sales ability, and industry experience will only grow.
PS This post was NOT written by ChatGPT (we think).