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Which technical roles are vital in a lean start-up team?

My friend and I would like to develop a new app, but we both come from FMCG marketing/business backgrounds. We are confident in our idea and the business plan, but have had very minimal exposure to the developer world. Weunderstand there is UI, UX, front end and back end developers, but we are unsure specifically which and how many developers we should include in our lean start up team. Can any experts provide their two cents?

17 Replies

Corey Blaser
4
0
Corey Blaser Entrepreneur
Founder at Origami
Don't worry about putting together a whole team yet. You will want to do as much as possible yourselves. It is your idea and you need to be on the front lines dealing with UX, beta testing, and pre-selling. My suggestion is to create paperprototypesand have people accomplish tasks in the prototype (give them a goal and walk them through the mock up pages).

And in the mean time, find a trustworthy technical co-founder with decent backend skills who is able to put out a product and iterate based on feedback. I am unsure of how big your "app" project is, but one good developer can usually build a bare bones MVP in a few months. They will also be valuable in helping to figure out the rest of your technical team moving forward.
Aleksandra Czajka
1
0
Aleksandra Czajka Entrepreneur
Freelance Senior Software Engineer, Developer, Web Developer, Programmer - Full Stack
Ying,

A great question. You would need to share the details of your project in order for us to give you an accurate answer as to how many people you would need on your tech team. A better approach is for your technical co-founder to answer that question for you. You will most definitely need a technical co-founder that you trust whose goals are intertwined with the success of the company. It's the only way you know that the answers and decisions you're getting from that person have the company's best interest in mind. You can hire many freelance people that will tell you just what you want to hear because their objective is to get a contract, make the most money on it, finish it and move on. There are freelance people, like myself, that will be truthful with you and just do the bare minimum of what you need. But, trust me when I tell you, you need a technical co-founder. This is for a lot of reasons, the least of which will be the fact that if you're trying to get any investment, it will be harder without one. Investors are looking for a well rounded team and are against off-shoring development... for many reasons.

Let me know if you have any more questions or would like me to elaborate on anything.

Best,
Aleks
Jiemin Li
0
1
Jiemin Li Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur and Investor
It highly depends on the system you built. Assuming your app requires back end database and server, and a web interface, here are the team roles you might consider:

1. Project Manager / Architect / Lead developer
2. UI designer
3. iPhone developer and/or Android developer (depending on the platform and technology selection)
4. Backend server and database developer
5. Web interface developer
6. Tester
7. System Admin for managing the system confirmation, optimization and deployment.

Depending on the team member's experience and skills, one might be able to take on several roles. For a startup, you might want to find a technology partner who is your technical project manager / architect / lead developer. He/She can build the team and the system for you. Alternative, you can outsource the project to an existing team. Some investment companies like us will also bring a technical team to help building an initial product if we like the business plan a lot. Hope this helps.

YingYing Liu
0
0
YingYing Liu Entrepreneur
Assistant Brand Manager
Hi both,

Thank you for your comments. With regards to our app, at a high level, it is a travel app that will have social networking and mapping abilities. It will require more than just basic developer skills, but I also do not believe it is an exceptionally complicated app.
As for initial wire frames/paper prototypes, we have already begun this process.

We understand that it is tough to find the right people for a team. This takes time, and a lot of search effort. Therefore, for the purpose of planning ahead, we would like to gain an understanding of how many and which specific developers we will need. In terms of a CTO vs. developer, we are really hoping a CTO can also double hat as a developer. What are your thoughts?
Aleksandra Czajka
2
0
Aleksandra Czajka Entrepreneur
Freelance Senior Software Engineer, Developer, Web Developer, Programmer - Full Stack
Ying,

I'm not really sure what you mean by "basic developer skills" :-). Not sure there's anything like that out there. In fact, on the contrary, any one with "basic developer skills" can really develop anything from my perspective.

Yes, a lean startup CTO usually develops for the first year or two of the startup. Having a CTO that doesn't develop during the initial stages is wasteful and of no use. That's just additional overhead you don't need.

A
Vlad Enache
1
0
Vlad Enache Entrepreneur
Founder at Ignite - igniteapp.com
In terms of CTO vs developer they're the same thing early on. What you need is a full stack developer, one that knows everything from frontend to backend/db, in other words one that has a holistic view of your product and can make good architecture decisions as well as work on any piece of the product.

But I agree with Corey, start small, do your own UX/usability tests etc and get a full stack developer that can build your MVP, scale from there as you need it. Your developer/CTO should know better what they'll need help with at that point than worrying about it now.

Cheers,
Vlad.
Michael M
1
0
Michael M Entrepreneur
Never Stop Creating!
Labels are labels CTO means nothing in an early stage startup anymore than a CEO does, short of on paper for separation of entitlements and corporate justifications.

Getting your MVP together first, and out and iterating feedback should be your second stage I would not touch a min of code without a stack of at least 100+ customer interviews and proven validation of things before you move forward.

Spend the time targeting your core audience and "customer" first, do what you're good at already and market yourself and the potential product to a consumer base. This will drastically drive the direction and skillsets you need to go after in a developer/cto/coder/hacker whatever you want to call them.

You apparently from what I am hearing already have more skills needed day one than a team of developers can get you , spend the next amount of your time sifting through your feedback to develop your MVP based on that feedback.
1
0
X
Entrepreneur
Many people are going to hate me, but these things need to be said:
- As Aleksandra politely implied,
_FLAME ON_ you can't rate developers, as 'basic', 'good', 'bad', etc. _FLAME OFF_
There are people, who have experience in different fields, and who care or not about your project.
- Expert advice, I wouldn't name it two-cent.
- If Google Maps can be trusted, there is no such place as 'the developer world'.
Sam McAfee
0
0
Sam McAfee Advisor
Building Popup Incubators for Corporate Innovation Programs
There is a big difference between being confident in your idea, and having actual data to validate it. I would strongly suggest starting with a small, cross-functional team that has experience doing customer development, rapid simple prototyping, building landing pages and and analyzing data, that sort of thing. Don't dive straight into development. You want to have evidence that you are actually solving a real painful problem for an actually existing customer segment in a sizable, reachable market. If you can do this even partially before building anything, you're way ahead of the game.

At Neo, we believe that to build a strong product team you need three roles: product strategy, design, and engineering. All three must be entrepreneurial, inquisitive, and cross-functionally trained (sometimes called T-shaped), and data-driven. We build most of our "from scratch" client products in this configuration, and get very far before needing to add any additional design and engineering resources.

At the stage you're in, it's not about the code, or technical chops, or the UX. It's about knowing your customer, understanding their problems, and validating that your proposed solution actually solves a real problem so well that someone will pay for it. You can do that in a number of ways. Hiring a bunch of developers is not the most cost-effective one.

YingYing Liu
0
0
YingYing Liu Entrepreneur
Assistant Brand Manager
Thank you for the feedback everyone!

It would be very helpful to understand what does "stacked developer" mean? Does this imply the developer can do both front-end and back-end work, as well as develop for iPhone, Android and web? I think the word "stacked" can mean different things for different people, so it would be nice to know what some "definitions" are out there.
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