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Experience using ODesk to build a prototype?

Hi FD, does anyone have experience using ODesk to build a prototype product? I'm looking for positive/negative experiences, non-obvious pitfalls, tips, etc.

Especially helpful is if anyone has experience managing multiple contractors who may have to work together (e.g. engineer + designer + content creator).

Thanks!

14 Replies

Greg Belvedere
2
0
Greg Belvedere Entrepreneur
Founder at Our Bookshelf
I used ODesk and I found a great developer to build my MVP. I had tried elance, but found that all the developers that contacted me were from India or Eastern Europe. The messages I received in broken English made me not go that route, because I value clear communication. With ODesk I found several developers I liked, some of them were even in the US. Though I ultimately hired a great developer from the UK. http://thebookelf.com/
Caen Contee
1
0
Caen Contee Entrepreneur • Advisor
Connect.com: Early Stage Startup Streamlining How We Get Together with Friends. Seeking New Investment.
Nathaniel,

I'm not sure what your product is, but I've used an american web development and design agency to great effect.

They have deep experience, capabilities and can offer custom needs depending on the SOW (ie. only development, only backend, all development and design). If you can find the right team this works better than ODesk, which I've also used as they have a clear work flow and in-house project manager, both large pitfals when working with independent contractors.

Happy to make an intro. You can reach me off FD at [removed to protect privacy].


Honed daily,
Caen
Geoff Whitlock
5
0
Geoff Whitlock Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder and President of Surround
It works great if you are very prepared. Any unanswered questions or ambiguity, and it's a waste.
Joel Magalnick
1
0
Joel Magalnick Entrepreneur
Storyteller. Innovator. Leader.
I'll second what Geoff said. If you map out everything exactly as you want it, and expect pushback if there's any change, then it can be successful. I've had one good experience and one lousy experience. But you have to be completely clear on your project goals and make sure the developers understand exactly what you want, especially if there's a language barrier.
John Pearce
2
0
John Pearce Entrepreneur
Information Entrepreneur
Yes, I've had some recent experience with oDesk. It's tricky, promising, full of potential and pitfalls. I think asking people from different cultures and time zones and languages to work together is tough. Communication is a big issue with many of these freelancers. Better may be if you have an extremely clear idea of what you want from each, and manage each one directly, vs. expecting them to work together. Another possibly better alternative would be to hire an oDesk agency that integrates all you need in a team that has worked together before. Then you'd have one point of contact. My last suggestion would be to post the project as specifically as humanly possible, probably seeking an agency as noted. I tried picking people who seemed qualified and inquiring with them directly vs. posting to the oDesk hordes, and on balance I preferred wading through a few dozen applicants to find a strong match. The latter model worked better. We had good luck with a Brazillian developer that way. Ultimately, it's not about oDesk, it's about the person you happen to find via oDesk. They vary wildly, and, as noted, communication is key.
Eric Rogness
0
0
Eric Rogness Entrepreneur
Technical Product Manager
Hi Nathaniel, I have about 10 years experience working with distributed teams. I usually charge big bucks to corporate clients to coach their PMs on working effectively with overseas teams, but I'm happy to share with another entrepreneur at no charge. It's generally best to discuss on Skype, about 30 minutes. If you (or any other readers) are interested, you can add me on Skype, 'ericrogness'. Cheers, Eric EricRogness.com(647) 297-7126
Dave Hecker
0
0
Dave Hecker Entrepreneur
Co-Founder at SourceSeek | Founder/CTO at Sagewing
Outsourcing on Elance/oDesk for startups is about 50% of my business, and while it's never easy it can certainly be done. You need to come in at the top of the market, and be very thoughtful about who you choose and how you manage them. If you need any advice, catch me on skype (dave.hecker), thanks!
Aravind Nirmal Kumar
0
0
Aravind Nirmal Kumar Entrepreneur • Advisor
CTO / Tech Co-Founder / Product Manager / Customer Development Expert / Agile Web & Mobile Developer Ninja
hey, I am happy to let you know that I also run and manage a web development company with 200+ developers so if you would like to get your MVP built feel free to contact me.
Benjamin Forgan
1
0
Benjamin Forgan Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at Konekt
use something like teamtreehouse.com to a least understand what language you are building your product in and why. this will also give a decent idea of scope and how much time it should take for someone decently competent to complete. if going hourly, be a ruthless clock manager (4hour work week has some good tips for this), if you agree to something at a fixed price then make sure you push for deadlines and are 110% clear in your directions. Use something like balsamiq to mockup your idea. hope this helps.
Dave Hecker
1
0
Dave Hecker Entrepreneur
Co-Founder at SourceSeek | Founder/CTO at Sagewing
I use the opposite approach - instead of being ruthless or pushing hard, I work hard to 'clear a path' for the developers to succeed, and try to get them into a feeling of partnership rather then a 'you work for me' type relationship. Software is hard enough when you are in the same location - when you go offshore you really need to ensure that the developers are on your side by managing them effectively, not just aggressively.

Wireframing first is definitely a must, though!
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