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Would you use an agency to design and build your MVP?

Would you outsource to an agency (like Mustwin.com) to design your MVP over trying to find FT talent. I keep seeing the struggle for good designers and wonder if people are willing to use agencies to get through the first iteration of their product.

17 Replies

Daniel Eliezer Weisman
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Daniel Eliezer Weisman Entrepreneur • Advisor
Head of Office at The Weisman Family Foundation
It's definitely worth consideration, but the devil is always in the details.

Apple chose IDEO for a reason. And yet, they also have Jony Ive... having at least one person with good design experience in house is essential IMO, even if you outsource for MVP.
Nikhil Gupta
1
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Nikhil Gupta Entrepreneur
Product Management & Business Leader
Interesting topic... two questions 1. Will investors be interested to give you money when you go to a 3rd party company like this instead of FT 2. How do you trust 3rd party for intellectual property... anyone who has done this and can share experience.. i know more companies like this.. just curious applicability to a new venture..
Sarthak Dudhara
0
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Sarthak Dudhara Entrepreneur
Software Engineer, Problem Solver, Simplifier
Hi Jason, We (my wife and I ) are a design/development agency that was founded after some solid startup experience in the Silicon Valley Bay area. We moved to india 8 months ago and started our UI/UX development firm and hired a few resources here. We have done exactly what you are asking for. Build a wireframe MVP first, then the founder liked it so we also built it for them. The experience has been great for our founder client and he can definitely put in a word about his experience working with us. His product is a Saas based product in a very niche area. Thanks. Sarthak
Eoin Matthews
2
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Eoin Matthews Entrepreneur
Cofounder at Point
Yes for a few reasons:

a) good designers are extremely difficult to find so if you like their work then that's a strong start -- it seems significantly more difficult finding great designers than finding engineers for most web startups

b) right now, the best designers are very secure in their jobs or are very secure in their freelancing arrangements. more than almost any other discipline that would be valuable in a startup, I don't see that many designers keen to get in on early stage startup action.

c) if the design firm is doing design + front-end, it's 2x the vote. Communication from designer to front-end to backend can be really challenging -- so getting a design shop that can do more than deliver PSDs is very desirable. If the design firm is just doing designs, make sure their process is tight -- i.e. they need to hand over everything perfect for developers to work from (great grids, style guides, icon-fonts, clear interaction guidelines, responsive designs if you need them... the list is long).

d) design work comes in ebbs and flows -- it'd be nice to have an FT designer on the team but do you NEED one at day 1? usually, one doesn't (there are exceptions of course)

Twice, I had designer cofounders and that was great -- in one case, that extended to front-end coding, and made the difference between success and failure. In most recent project, I reviewed literally hundreds of designers and tested 12 or more designers. Eventually found one who has freelanced. It only works because his process is great and even then, it's a struggle.

Shobhit Verma
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Shobhit Verma Entrepreneur • Advisor
building an adaptive recommendation engine
If you have a way to quality test the deliverable, there is nothing wrong with outsourcing.
If you are outsourcing your core differentiation, there is a problem.
If anyone else can do exactly what you are doing, if they only have the code, there is a problem in the business model itself.
If access to some non-public data is your key advantage, you have to hire in-house data scientist.
Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
some form of MVP is better than none. I would outsource and work on product/market fit while looking for FT resources in parallel.
David Crooke
0
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David Crooke Entrepreneur
Serial entrepreneur and CTO
I guy I've been working with who's a potential business founder had a prototype of a web app build by a shop in India that charges very low rates, i.e. they are re-outsourcing to Vietnam, China, etc. ..... we kicked around ideas for a re-write, but I ended up deciding it was better to put the existing thing live as a beta and see what could be sold. The usability is lacking in places, as is visual design, but the code is surprisingly clean. The delta in stuff needed to put it live was so small we just had them do it. I don't see that as an IP risk, they are in no position to act
Devin Lyttle
0
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Devin Lyttle Entrepreneur
Managing Partner at Cause Collective
I feel like most of these answers, as well as the question itself, is a bit off the mark. If you're heavily invested in the design of your MVP, then you've missed the point of an MVP (and I say this as a designer myself). As they say, if you're not embarrassed by it then it's likely not an MVP. That's not to say that you ignore the design process altogether-in fact, if you're going to invest in anything at this stage I would focus on getting to know your users and figuring out how to design for them-but, I would resist the urge to spend too much time polishing your UI and figure out ways to utilize the countless frameworks/themes/components/services/APIs/etc. that are at an entrepreneur's disposal to mitigate upfront tech debt.

However, if you're dead set on investing in design upfront (whereas the UI/UX of your product is your unique offering), then I would advise against outsourcing your MVP - especially when it comes to development, but is also applicable to design, to a lesser degree. This is something I've debated with several of my own companies and ultimately determined that, due to the iterative nature of the MVP process, having a contractor on retainer throughout that process is not only expensive but you sacrifice the agility of having an in-house team. You need to move quickly through the MVP process, and unless you have someone by your side who is as invested in the success of the company as you are, then the outcome is likely to be less than stellar.

I would also echo Nikhil's comment from above; if at some point you're planning to pursue a seed round, it's often more attractive to investors to have all of the work being done under one roof. Investors are betting on your team, so it's easier for them to take that gamble when they know who they're dealing with up front rather than you bringing on someone in the future (after closing the round) that may rock the boat. It also shows investors that you're capable of selling yourself, and your business, when you're able to attract cofounders to rally around you and get excited about your idea - rather than just paying someone to churn out some work.

Something to think about, at least.
Alper Cakir
0
0
Alper Cakir Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO at Xtensio, Creative Director at Fake Crow
Very valuable comments in this thread. Thank you all.

I am a co-founder at a product design studio (www.fakecrow.com) and we exclusively work with funded startups. Over the years we changed our model from project based to a retainer based model as the former was not ideal for either the startups or us. We fully commit to the product and become a part of the existing team. In order to keep everything lean we structure design and development to be iterative and based on data. Here is a blog post we've written on the subject:

http://fakecrow.com/an-alternative-solution-for-your-startups-design-needs/




Monica Zent
2
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Monica Zent Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder, CEO, Investor; Board Member, Advisor
I did and it was the biggest mistake of my life. (Feel free to reach out to me for the details, names to avoid). It was an absolute disaster with those guys. I have had to hire other developers (and was fortunate to find great ones). In retrospect, I would not have gone that route and never will in the future. Good luck to you!
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