Getting started on your product is critical. But how do you know where to start if you’re a non-technical founder or if you’re just at the idea stage? There are a handful of alternatives to hiring an in-house dev team but it depends on your needs. Below we outline these alternatives and some benefits and challenges to each.
Hiring an in-house dev team
Hiring in-house developers is often the best option, but unless they come on as a tech co-founder taking compensation as equity, it can be difficult to find talent who believes in your vision at a cost you can afford. They need to buy-in to your product and vision, be the right fit technically, as well as be a culture add to your company and team. It can take time to find the right person to hire and demand for skilled developers is at an all-time high.
Hiring employees also comes with the cost of benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and vacation time.
The benefit of in-house developers is they will already buy in to your product and vision because they have a vested interest in the outcome. If they are part of your company and part of the product conversations, they have context of priorities, can change direction quickly (for instance, without revisiting contracts), offer solutions, and help make decisions for the company.
Offshore teams can be an alluring option especially at such low costs, but low quality is common and startup and product experience are often lacking. This is especially true if you’re not a technical founder able to set the technical strategy. You’ll spend extra time managing the project, the technology strategy, and offshore team. We recommend having a person dedicated to managing the relationship with the offshore company, everything from project management to ensuring quality.
Another challenge to consider with an offshore team is you’ll be working with a remote team on the other side of the world. Expect to take phone/video calls very early in the morning or late at night on a regular basis. Online chat apps like Slack are useful for carrying on asynchronous conversations. Because of time differences, though, the back and forth every 12-16 hours creates delays and can turn into a game of telephone.
Like freelancers, offshore teams can be good for very finite, well defined projects, especially if you have the time and tech chops to manage the team.
No freelancer is an expert in everything. You’ll have to work with a few to be able to cover the various skillsets required beyond cranking out code (note: building a sustainable product is not all about cranking out code). You run the team, assign tasks, and coordinate responsibilities. You become responsible for quality and will need a technical background or a trusted technical partner to oversee this.
It requires a lot of hands on project management from you as you scale up a team of freelancers.
Freelancers work well when you have very niche project work or if you have the time and tech chops to manage a team.
Classic dev shop or agency
Classic dev shops/agencies have on-staff teams of experts in multiple areas. They’ve already sussed out each of their own teammates and know who is good at what.
Depending on the size of the dev shop/agency, this can be unaffordable to early-stage founders with limited access to funds. Many don’t work with startups because of the risk. They don’t work under the same pressures and processes. They expect projects to follow a specific scope of work throughout the project. This makes it more difficult to adjust quickly based on customer feedback, market changes, funding, or when you need to pivot. They are balancing the work of many client engagements with yours. It’s more likely to be a standard project engagement with a finite end rather than a collaboration.
How We're Different
We help you Get started and grow
We recognize an in-house tech founder and tech team is ideal but not everyone has that option at the start. We know getting started is critical and will help you do that. We act as your in-house tech founder and team as you scale your tech and your business.
We have a Diverse Network of Talent
We balance the need of having on-staff experts with maintaining a wide and diverse network of people from different backgrounds, experience levels, and expertise. We can pull from this network as your needs arise. This reduces the need for you to maintain that network yourself (however we recommend you start doing that anyways). It also allows you to rely on our connections and vetting we’ve already done or that we can do quickly.
Education & Coaching is important to us
It is important for us that you know how to run your tech organization so that you can be a sustainable business. Our engagements will always include education and coaching so when the time comes, you can hire an in-house developer or communicate with your dev team.
We'll be an evangelist for you
We also have a a passion for community and equity-building and can connect you to the tech industry. We’ll be an evangelist for your product and your technology.
We're here to help you build your business
We can do all this because we take on only a small number of clients each month so you get the best service possible. We focus on helping entrepreneurs make their product ideas a reality. We know you’re not just building a web app. And neither are we. We're here to help you build your business — from starting with an idea and seeing the big picture, to aligning the technical strategy with the business strategy and positioning it for growth.