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Whether you’re starting out in business or you’ve been in business for a while, there’s a good chance this question has crossed your mind. Businesses like Twitch.tv and WhatsApp have given technical geekery and general startup culture a “rockstar” status in the world of Entrepreneurialism… If you know how to code, making $1bn is easy on the Internet, right?

Celebrity entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates have always promoted the idea that to do good business in the digital age you need to know how to code. And if they’re making billions in business then surely they know what’s up – but should we all really know how to code?

I’ve always had a technical background; when I started working with James Macfarlane on a couple of websites in our teenage years, I had a natural interest in diving into the code. If I could learn how to code, I could do things for free and I could do them quicker than anyone else – for an impatient person with pennies to invest that was the ultimate incentive… But since we started Inbound in 2010, I’ve taken my foot off the gas and spent my learning time geared towards tactical marketing and not code.

I’ve not lost interest in coding, in fact I would love to know what’s involved technically in building a business like Twitch.tv or WhatsApp. And that’s the key factor, it’s the understanding that’s important. As we expand our development team at Inbound, and kick-off ventures like KYM that require complex technical functionality, can I really afford not to understand programming? Am I best to hire a programmer and just let them get on with it without really having a grip on what they’re doing? Just as a business person hires an accountant or a bookkeeper, they also need to understand the books! If your business relies on code in any form then surely by the same logic it’s important to learn it?

And that’s where the need to learn code falls down. Clearly, not all businesses are reliant on code to function – sure, they probably have a website, but that’s rarely ever critical to operations. A website can be fixed or edited by any coder anywhere in the world and you really wouldn’t need to understand code to make that happen.

But what about the opportunities ahead? I half-joke when I say we should all learn Mandarin to capitalise on the booming Chinese market, and in a similar way, learning to code may present your business or your future business with a mass of opportunity. The Internet is still a baby even in the context of the next 50 years, and whatever industry you’re in, at some point it’s guaranteed to be digitised.

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