Outsourcing web/mobile app development – For Early Stage Startups – The idea homework!

For the purpose of this discussion outsourcing here refers to product development outsourcing for internet startups and app development means programming (typically PHP, RoR, Python, Scala etc.) and not design.

Design outsourcing is a topic that needs a separate blog post.

Most early stage startups that ContractIQ has worked with, in the recent page tend to be first time outsourcers. There is a time period between your decision to go after an idea and hiring an agency. Its the time when the startup is expected to do its homework.

Make sure you have done the following before you engage a dev agency:

1.Like your idea (before spending on it)

Your idea is exciting to envision. Please make sure you’d still like it in another 6 months. You passion or lack of it, will show in your responses to dev agencies and if you are not very kicked about the idea, your agency wont be too! Remember that for most, development would be the first high value business expense.

2. Being a startup is no excuse to lack of clarity

If you are approaching a dev agency, you do so because you don’t have a technical co-founder. Remember that an agency is not a repalcement for a cofounder. You cannot experiment with the scope and rigor of development. It costs time and money. If you are building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) , do the customer development required to draw the scope for the MVP. While some good agencies would like you to come with a clean slate and they would guide you on what to get out to the market with, you are the keeper of your vision and you need to have answers on scenarios, use cases and priorities.

3. Design = Discipline

Again, being in the alpha stage or doing an MVP is not an excuse for not designing your app ahead of development. Design has nothing to do with the stage or purpose. There’s appropriate design for whichever stage you are in and a minimal design is not crappy design or lack of design.

Thinking through information flow, workflow handovers and visual design will give you the context for asking the right questions to yourself. A good design attempt should have given you incremental clarity on scope of development. If it has not, your designer and you have not finished yet.

In summary, your startup idea should be

1. Able to sustain, at least your interest for the next few years

2. Clear enough to be broken down to logically testable hypotheses, tested through incremental product development

3. Visually interpreted to test the readiness for development

PHP or RoR or Native Mobile or HTML Framework is not the question you should worry the most with, when you outsource. Am I prepared well enough should be your question!

When its time to outsource product development, always do with elite agencies. Find them via ContractIQ !


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