I have built two software companies by hiring out the development work. I sold one for a decent sum during the dot com era (circa 1999). I remain a shareholder in the other one. I currently work with amazing development company on behalf of one of my clients.
Here are some things to consider.
1. Do you really want to give up equity? If not outsource.
2. How fast do you want to get to market? If sooner than later, outsource.
3. How capitalized are you? If undercapitalized, either outsource offshore (which runs about 20% of US rates), or bring on an equity development partner.
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Both are viable but I think it's better to hire a developer as a cofounder. There are a couple of reasons for this but primarily I'd say that it's very rare to find a contractor who is going to care about the product as much as a cofounder or full-time CTO is going to care about it. And this care will impact the product experience so depending on the complexity of your app, this might be a significant concern. Furthermore, if you're planning to be successful and scale your users quickly, then it's very difficult and much more costly in the long-run to rely on contractors.
I experience with both approaches so I'm happy to share more with you in a call.
My startup just launched in the app store and I can tell you from experience that you will want a technical co-founder as you launch and focus on growing your user base. Startups are hard and there is a high chance of running out of money more than once during the process. You do not want to be dependent on a contractor overseas that will forget about you if you cannot pay them further. Ideally you want someone who has skin in the game and believes in the problem that you are trying to solve. Someone that is willing to go to war with you and help raise the support needed to win. In conclusion, go out and network, create momentum for yourself and everything will eventually fall into place. Cheers!
If you in fact have a MVP you should validate the idea and get some early clients before you build anything further. If this is true then consider the choices proposed by Kevin and Tom.
I have worked on large and small projects with both in-house and outsourced teams. Each time, a host of variables impacted the "correct" decision.
That said, I think it would be hard to answer this question without having a better understanding of what the app is, the delta between the MVP and the vision, your ability to document / communicate your goals (functional or otherwise) to an outsourced team, how you define "better," etc.
In short, it depends.
P.S. Love reviewing apps and would be happy to beta test / provide feedback if you're willing to share. https://clarity.fm/toddlevy (First time's free.)
Outsourcing is a great way to get your app faster without giving up ownership. Keep in mind the relationship likely won't end when you launch though - you'll want to plan for subsequent releases, as well as rapid optimization sprints as you hone in on P/M fit. You'll want to make sure you're comfortable working with that firm for an extended period of time. Don't spend your whole budget on the initial release.
It's also worth hiring a friend or respected dev to do a code review of any potential vendors. A common problem is outsourcing v1, bringing in a technical lead or cofounder, and finding out your code is in disarray and needs to be rebuilt. To the degree your app is leveraging native iOS elements that risk might be mitigated, and the disposition of the person you're bringing in is obviously a variable (some devs have "not invented here" mentality). But the peace of mind is worth the couple hours you'll pay for a capable code review up front.
A few thoughts to help you find "your" answer.
- perhaps you designed or came up with an MVP but didn't "build" it.
- you don't hire a cofounder. This is something extremely hard and will likely lead to arguments between the two of you.
- will you need investments? VCs and angels will rarely take into consideration solo founders.
- will you need ongoing development work or is it pretty much done (excluding bug fixes and minor enhancements)?
As general rule, in your situation, I'd recommend outsourcing development and putting testing the market (although hopefully you somehow already did since you defined an MVP).
I used to work as a CTO at two iOS App Startups before and finally started my own outsourcing company with 800+ developers . I have built apps for Stanford, Godiva and more.
Check out my portfolio at http://evanluthra.com/elgroup and if you are interested message me to get on a free call with me to discuss your options.
Many people you hire from say "Odesk" will show they are independent contractors. However many of them will also work for development firm too. I suggest you find a solid 4 rated firm to go over your basic concept. Don't worry about the NCND because you want to protect your idea. These firms see hundreds of design concepts a day and odds are pretty good you aren't creating the next "Angry Birds". That said... you don't want to explain every aspect and details of your app in your Job Description on Odesk for the contractor/development firm. Once you find a few inquiries about getting your app developed, you want to get on Skype with the person you feel might be good fit for you. Make sure you feel comfortable on how you communicate with them. That's really important. There is a huge difference hiring a $30-$50 coder or a $10 one. The $10 one might be cheap, but will take 3-4 hours to do what $30-$50 coder can do in one hour for you. Make sure you confirm your code will be secured third party password protected service too. If you have been working on this concept for 6 months, that tells me you have put a lot of thought in it. Don't give away too many details, but find someone that understands your direction when you explain it them. Trust your gut instincts, but don't forget to verify past projects and experience before hiring them.
I hope that helps.
Remember... be a servant,
This is really a dilemma for many people who have some time to code but not enough to do it full time themselves.
I think the answer that I'd give you is; depends on who you hire as a contractor.
Just think about the following; you have an idea for a feature.
You may code it in 30 hours and the contractor can do it in 10. Sounds like a no brainer right? You will happily go with the contractor. You may be surprised at the end to find out that:
- You spent 4 hours creating a document that explains your vision and how the feature should work
- 2 hours on Skype
- 3 iteration of checking if everything worked and creating detailed clarification at 3 hours each
- 3 hours of QA testing the code and reporting back bugs.
So at the end the entire process will take 28 hours for the coder + a reasonable rate of $900 and with the wait time (assuming you have a day job) in between interactions, a total of 3 weeks.
What I tried to illustrate here is that if you have the coding skills and an MVP, publish your app to see the traction. If you get traction, think if you can do this by yourself. If not, get a partner who can work on it full time and who shares your vision. Contracting it out should be your last resort.
The answer, like so many things, would be "it depends". In addition to what others have referenced in their answers before me, I would add too that looking to find that "technical co-founder" can be a very involved and drawn-out process (as perhaps it should.) So if acceleration to market is something you are keen on attaining, then hiring a technical co-founder may not be the best path. You dont want to force yourself into a position where you are giving equity or major $$$ away to someone who isn't fitting with your long-term vision (or that you arent certain is at least at that point.) furthermore, recruiting a quality technical co-founder may be difficult if you are pre-funded and pre-application launch. Developers and engineers, by trade, like to avoid remedial work (like we all do for that matter) the more senior in an organization they go. While they might value having involvement in the architectural blueprinting of the application, the grunt work of delivering the MVP may be something they'd prefer to avoid. Plus, oftentimes finding a "full stack" technical co-founder can be expensive or difficult because of the high demand and relative low supply of engineers who are versed in all of the facets of programming or design that your MVP may require.
There are several other factors to consider that would be specifically unique to your circumstances (local talent availability, your person background/network, funding status etc.) To give you a more definitive suggestion would require going through the technical and functional requirements (as well as resource realities in terms of budget and timeline) - feel free to click on the link and request a call and we can quickly walk through your needs and layout the pros/cons of what direction you may want to consider moving in going forward.
I think it is best to hire a development firm. If the relationship goes "sideways" you can easily replace a dev firm, a partner/cofounder can be much harder to part with.
Do it yourself. Because it’s an MVP.
You don’t know whether it’ll have a product/market fit. You might bear ten iterations - possibly complete pivots.
That means your one outsourced MVP will be converted into ten custom jobs. Can you really afford that?
Probably not. Most MVPs don’t develop into anything awesome. Instead, they have months and infrequently years of fine-tuning. Because MVPs aren’t great alone.
They’re great after you get market feedback. They’re great when it causes you to a profit. Otherwise, they’ll never be converted into a corporation and just remain an MVP.
On the flip side, Some think you'll be able to get an MVP, then use it to boost money. Don’t try this. Raise money once you don’t need it. When the foundations are so in your favor, you can’t say no.
Use it to scale what’s working. Otherwise, you’re fiddling with fool’s gold. You feel rich but at the top of the day - You land up broke. Because you don’t know where or a way to spend it. So the next time you’re considering outsourcing your MVP - Do it yourself. That’s what real founders do.