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SXSW

Do You Really Need to Code?

SXSW On the Scene - 2014

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Entrepreneur is on the ground in Austin for SXSW 2014. Feel as if you're there with us as we share the latest innovations and give you a sneak peek at the launches and ideas that will change how you connect to your world.

Do You Really Need to CodeThere's so much you need to run a business: a great idea, access to capital, industry knowledge, passion. Should coding be on that list, too?

Programming skills were high on the wish list of startup entrepreneurs at the recent SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. One reason: Investors seem to take a liking to those in-the-coding-know. During the Q & A portion of a panel called "Investor Spotting," I witnessed one investor interrupt an entrepreneur who was trying to pitch his startup idea. "Do you code?" he asked. Big pause. "No," the entrepreneur said, dejectedly. "I wish."

The market for online classes and night-school courses in programming is hot, according to the New York Times. A number of startups -- including the touted Codeacademy -- are catering to this new crop of coder wannebes, the paper reports. The thinking is that with so much business gravitating toward the Internet, it's critical that today's entrepreneurs learn the language of the computer -- or at least enough that they won't be left behind.

Of course, programming skills aren't everything -- and startup entrepreneurs who don't have them can still hire IT staff (if the budget allows) or outsource talent if need be. Many entrepreneurs with bright ideas but minimal computer skills pair up with technical co-founders, too.

One item left out of all the recent discussion about coding: Sure, you can teach an entrepreneur how to code. But can you teach a programmer to be an entrepreneur? That's a much trickier talent to learn. If you have to have one or the other, entrepreneurial abilities still seem far more valuable than fluency in HTML.

Is it necessary for entrepreneurs to learn how to code? 

Colleen DeBaise is special projects director at Entrepreneur.com.
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