Outsourced Development for New Ventures

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Outsourced Development for New Ventures

Maybe you have heard this story: A couple of guys with no technical experience get a great idea. They scrape together some money and start looking for a developer to build their visionary new product. Shopping around is yielding some pretty expensive results so they decide to pursue a developer overseas. As the first invoices come in they are busy patting themselves on the backs for saving so much money and outsmarting everyone. What captains of industry these fine folk are! They have truly found a way to have their cake and eat it too!

If my sarcasm was not well conveyed allow me to clarify my position here. If you are part of non-technical founding team don’t work with an overseas team. Don't be tempted by the siren call of cheap development. Without strong technical leadership there are too many factors that can go wrong. You are essentially handing over the fate of the company to a group of people you know nothing about except that they are affordable and far away.

So why is overseas development such a bad idea? Let's start with simple logistics. Most areas of the world that offer cheap development are between 8-12 hours time difference from EST. That means many hours are regularly lost when trying to coordinate meetings, communicate feedback, and get updates and bug fixes live. You are constantly playing a twisted game of phone tag where one of you is perpetually at an inconvenient hour.

Then there is the quality of the development, which you cannot judge because you have a non-technical team. Without oversight from technical leadership it is easy to have unnecessary delays, products built without any thought to industry standards, or worse of all built in dependencies that force you to remain with a certain developer or risk losing your entire product. There is really no way for you to gauge the quality of the development if your team doesn't have the skillset to look under the hood and judge for yourselves.

You can see now why the risks far outway the benefits of relying solely on overseas development. This is not to say that this form of development has no merits. If your team has a strong technical founder, or a technical consultant you trust, there is no reason why you can't take the same precautions that lead developers take all the time when working with teams. Hold regular stand ups, create a system of accountability, and have a zero tolerance policy for low quality work.

If you find yourself in a team without a technical co-founder then seek out technical guidance from someone you can trust. Look for a mentor with a tech background to advise the team or seek out local small development companies and ask them to just give you strategic advice. The cost of ignoring your technical problems can quickly add up and for many startups it can be disastrous.