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How can you vet a software developer when you have no tech knowledge?

I am considering outsourcing my app Closer Than (www.closerthanapp.com) but I worry that I won't be able to adequately vet software developers to find the right one for the job.

I do not have any tech knowledge so will not know the exact requirements and skill set needed to code certain features of my app.

Has anyone had any experience in outsourcing development before? How did you go about choosing the right developer?

I understand dev shops have various skilled people to carry out certain projects, though other than a portfolio is there any way I could find out whether they would be good for creating my app?

31 Replies

John Anderson
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John Anderson Entrepreneur
Senior Mobile Developer at Propelics
Outsourcing development of your app to an unknown development firm can be a scary event. The best thing you can do is to is to get a referral from someone who has used a firm and had some good results. While the project is being worked on, having frequent milestones to see progress/issues is also a good thing to do. If you have a friend or colleague who has some technical knowledge and could help manage this a bit, or at least advise you would also help quite a bit.
2
1
X
Entrepreneur
There are tons of discussions on outsourcing already herehttp://members.founderdating.com/discuss/topic/Outsourcing - really helpful to do a search first.
Karl Schulmeisters
1
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Karl Schulmeisters Entrepreneur
CTO ClearRoadmap

Congratulations and welcome to the world of being an executive. Seriously. You need to hire the way you would hire anyone in a domain you do not fully understand. Are you a lawyer? if not how did you hire your legal advice? your tax accountant?


David Schwartz
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David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
See these threads:

http://members.founderdating.com/discuss/2577/Learning-to-code-vs-finding-a-true-tech-cofounder

In particular, what do you think of this?

http://members.founderdating.com/discuss/2689/Software-community-lab
Karen Leventhal
4
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Karen Leventhal Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at SE Rising
I'm in similar position. I can't say I've solved the problem yet, but I can give you some tips from my pitfalls.

1) First if have friends or family who know software, ask them to be advisors or "vetters"
2) Learn enough to know about the big picture questions: how will this scale? What programming language are you using and why? How are you programming in way that other developers can easily step in later? At the very least you can see if they can explain their choices in a coherent way.
3) Talk to a bunch of firms. They will add different dimensions that you hadn't probably thought of before. You can add those to your list of questions.
4) I hate to say this, but you kind of have to throw trust out the window and make sure you understand every fine point of any contract you sign. Will you own the code or the product? Is there any ongoing licensing fee they will charge you? Is there some kind of quality guarantee?
5) I would hire advise against an hourly, unbounded rate. Get a fixed bid.
6) Get a delivery schedule. Also if it's a lot of work consider, chunking the process down into chunks and pay per chunk.
7) Ask to talk to previous customers.
8) Google them. I hate to say it but sometimes you can find unflattering anonymous reviews by employees-- for whatever that's worth.
9) Think about whether you are going to need them to manage the MVP and how long (before you bring anyone in house) and ask what their maintenance rates are.
9) Talk to enough people that you get a sense of the median rates/timelines are. So if someone is way over or way under, you might think twice.

That's all I can think of. Hope it helps!

Steve Owens
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Steve Owens Entrepreneur • Advisor
Finish Line - A Better Way for Small Companies to Develop Products
Outsourcing any activity:

1. Make sure the fit it right. If you're a startup, do not outsource to companies that specialize in working with large established businesses.

2. Make sure they follow some kind of processes.

3. Check there references.

4. Do not pick the lowest bidder.

5. Can you communicate with them? Do they really understand who you are and what you are trying to do.

6. Do they have real employees and a real building. Avoid the "temporary unemployed freelancer".

7. How well do they operate a team - teams outperform individuals.


Narjeet Soni
5
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Narjeet Soni Advisor
Mobile Apps and eCommerce expert, Lean Startup and Agile evangelist , Entrepreneur, EU resident
Many entrepreneurs have this question - specially when they are not from tech background. This is the exact problem we wanted to solve.

I was getting lot of such requests from my friends and network when I was working with bigger enterprise company. Due to my 10 years of experience of managing web and mobile products, I had access to really awesome tech talent. This was how The Lean Apps (theleanapps.com) was born in Berlin :)

Please do let me know if I could be of any assistance. I can help you answer questions around mobile and web product development and mobile marketing.

Some additional points I would like to add:
  1. Define your MVP (Minimum viable Product) and do development in Sprints of 2-3 weeks
  2. Ask your vendor for code after every Sprint - if possible get it reviewed
  3. Define each user story very clearly and define proper acceptance criterion
  4. Do daily standups to closely monitor the progress
  5. Take demos every 2 Sprint of finished stories and also do retrospectives
  6. Integrate yourself as part of team, and act as a Product Owner
  7. Use tools such as JIRA, Rally to do Project management and Issue management
  8. Use GitHub to manage the source code
  9. See for clues on how well they understand your idea, and your target customer. See if you get some logical suggestions from the team
  10. How well do they communicate...very important skill
  11. Of-course check existing products and customer references
Peter Jones [LION: li.blueoyster~@~gmail.com]
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Peter Jones creates solutions for product USP, market messaging, team building, venture and other commercial capital
Hi Malia,

You certainly have a learning curve in front of you here.

You need to understand the ethos of the software developer in front of you.

Have they worked on a shared equity co-founder basis before? If not, and they only work for cash, can you see if they care about product quality, of are they just taking the fees and don't care if the founder succeeds or not?

If you are based in London, I would suggest a number of meetups to go to. Take a script with you, and try it out on software developers, with the intention of checking responses with other non-tech types you meet.

And by the way, some techs have heard so many people pitching a bad product at them, they have switched off a bit when it comes to listening to a new pitch.

Do you want these people? Or people who are willing to listen, to question, and to try and find ways of working with you that give you both a chance of progress and a decent product at the end?

It's your App, so you need to assess what the answers you get actually mean, and indeed what others' opinions of those answers actually mean.

As with any product initiative, you need to do your market research and evaluate your findings.

And especially where you are new to that particular aspect of the game.

Good luck, and do look me up if you are ever in London,

@innov8tor3
David Schwartz
1
0
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
What everyone is talking AROUND is you need to become skilled as a software project manager rather than a developer. You may be better off hiring an experienced PM with PMI certification instead.
Narjeet Soni
1
0
Narjeet Soni Advisor
Mobile Apps and eCommerce expert, Lean Startup and Agile evangelist , Entrepreneur, EU resident
That's what being an entrepreneur means, you have to wear lot of hats, specially when you are bootstrapping your way
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