A few days ago, I was at the office of a fellow Boston startuper Brian Balfour. I am a huge fan of what they are doing at Boundless Learning to replace the boring and expensive college textbooks. I definitely see them being as big as Hubspot or even more.

As I was chatting to Brian about what areas I should focus on for my future, he pointed out something that really struck me. He told me I should be T-shaped to provide value as a non technical founder or employee. Having never heard the term, I immediately asked him what it meant and he quickly drew a T.


It is actually very simple as you can see. The horizontal line are all the skills that you should have some knowledge about. In other words, one should know a little bit about everything or the so called “wearing multiple hats” in startup lingo. The vertical line is having deep knowledge about one particular area. This is your trump card. It’s something that you can do the best and most likely the skill that will get you hired or funded.

My personal thoughts are that as a non-technical founder, one really needs to be T-shaped. The horizontal line should have a wide range of skills like sales, outreach, product, hustle & perseverance(Yes, I think these are skills), conversational skills etc. An example of a deep focus could be customer acquisition. It can include information about PPC, SEO, PR, Viral, Inbound etc. Even further can get into analytics, funnel analysis, a/b testing, etc. In Brian’s own words, “Customer acquisition is the best skill you can have if you are non technical.”

I hope to start forming a horizontal line by the end of the summer and gradually start figuring out a deep focus as I learn more.

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