How do I choose a software delivery partner for my idea?
So, you’ve had an amazing idea. It’s a real doozy. It can’t fail. You just need someone to help you build it.
You’ve even talked to a few people, maybe colleagues, your mates, your mother. They all think it’s a great idea too, and they’re definitely going to buy it when you’ve built it.
Now you’re thinking about taking the big step. You’re not just going to talk about it, you’re going to do it! You’re going to make it happen. You’re going to start a business, build a team, raise some investment and get your product out there. It’s exciting. But there’s a lot to learn.
These days, many new business ideas involve new software. Your idea might be a digital innovation where the software is the product, or it might be that software plays an important part.
One of the things you’ve got to decide is how to get that software written.
Here are a few options you can consider:
Do it yourself
Unless you are experienced software developer DO NOT DO THIS!!!
Sure, you could do a quick course and knock something together. The information is all out there, but writing good software is not just a question of mastering the syntax. The job of software developer sits somewhere between a science and an art. People who are really good at it spend a long time mastering the craft and it really does make a difference
So if you decide to write your own software, be prepared to throw it away fairly soon afterwards and have it done properly. Really it’s like building a house. Sure you could build a house, but would you really want to live there?
2. Find a cheap developer on Upwork
A lot of people try this. Sometimes it works but it’s often more by luck than judgement. Here’s the problem.
There are a lot of people all around the world who get themselves an Upwork account (other platforms are available). There’s very little barrier to anyone doing that. In many developing countries, an hourly rate of $15 – 20 is good money. Even in many parts of Eastern Europe, $25 – 30 per hour is pretty good.
So you have a very large pool of potential applicants offering their services at what seems to us in developed countries to be a very low price. Unfortunately for many it’s a race to the bottom.
It’s relatively easy to learn the syntax of a given programming language. It’s relatively hard to write clean, scalable, production ready software.
And the only guide you have to the quality of these applicants is their Upwork score. By and large, an Upwork score is not highly correlated with the actual ability and quality of work you will get. Even an Upworker with a ton of good reviews isn’t necessarily going to be what you need.
The only reliable way to find out if they are capable or not is to have them work on a project and assess their work. But as an entrepreneur having your new product built for you, it’s too late if you find out they’re not as good as you hoped. Chances are they’ll already be a substantial way through your minimum viable product and you may not have the resources to abandon your first effort and go find someone else.
The idea that you can easily buy cheap software development resource on Upwork, or any other similar platform is a myth. In the end, you get what you pay for.
That’s not to say that you can’t find a development partner on Upwork. There are some great developers and agencies on there. 500more is on there! Just don’t fall for what looks like a bargain.
3. Find a co-founder to do it for you
This is a pretty good option. Of course, finding a co-founder is not so easy, but then neither is starting a company so if you’re not prepared to put the effort in, maybe you should consider a different life path.
Having said that, good software developers are not exactly lurking under every stone. You will need to find out where they might hang out. Maybe there’s a local group you could join, or some local network you could tap into. Try looking on Meetup. Maybe they’ll respond to a Linkedin post.
You also need to think about what you’re prepared to offer in return. If you can’t afford to pay a salary you’ll have to offer equity. The chances are your potential co-founder is looking for more than just a way to get rich, they’ll want a mission they can believe in, and the freedom and autonomy that comes with being in a startup.
If you can finder your first co-founder, that’s a big step along the way to creating a successful startup.
4. Find an agency near me
Chances are, where ever you are in the world, there will be a software development agency not too far away from you. There’s much to be said for having face to face contact with someone who you’re going to trust with your great idea. If you find a team you feel you can trust, this is a great way to get the first iteration of your product built.
Of course, it’s not going to be the cheapest way to do it. If you’re spending your own money, or a small family investment, you’re going to want to be very sure your money is well spent. Here are some things to think about when choosing a local development partner.
- Do they work a lot with startups? If they’re in tune with the challenges of bringing a new product, and a new company, into the world they’re more likely to offer you a service that maximizes the bang you can get for your buck.
- Do they help companies like yours raise funding? The initial phases of building software for a startup are so bound up with the value proposition of that startup, there’s a natural synergy between design, build and investment.
- Do they understand your domain? One of the things you’re going to need help with is researching and understanding your customer base. A good agency will be able to help you with customer research and designing your customer experience. They’ll be able to do that much better if they understand the business area your startup is aiming for.
- Can they show you case studies of projects similar to yours? Not necessarily the same functionality, but the same type of solution. This will really help to build your confidence in them. Ask if you can talk to someone in the client organization. A good agency should be able to put you in touch with some former or current clients who are prepared to give you some honest feedback.
- Are they respected in the local community? If you talk to potential mentors, heads of incubators and accelerators and other thought leaders in your area, are they able to recommend any particular delivery organization?
I hope that you find this guide useful as you begin the startup journey. Are you at the start of this journey with your startup? How are you planning to get your product delivered? Or have you been through this? What were your experiences? Can you recommend a different approach?