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Need to develop my MVP: wait to find a great tech founder or start with development agency?

I have been getting very contrasting advice on this matter. I am non tech looking for a passionate and dedicated tech co-founder but still haven't found anyone. I am however ready to start building my MVP ...should I start with a 3rd party developer/agency (paying for this service) or should I wait until I do find the right co-founder? Thanks for your feedback!

12 Replies

Gopi Mattel
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Gopi Mattel Advisor
Director, Chennai Area at The Founder Institute
You should now if you can. Tech co-founder may take time to find. Their key contribution would be technology stack to use, but you can get a tech advisor added to your company instead to get the basic technology stack recommedations. Or just ask about 5 tech people what tech stack products to build your MVP on. You are going to rebuild your app a couple of times anyway so actual app coding can be recreated.
Joe Walling
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Joe Walling Entrepreneur • Advisor
Experienced software developer, software architect, owner of custom software development shop
Danielle, I would expect you would get many different opinions on this depending on how the person answering has been burned. Many will tell you that you must have an internal person because they will not run off, however, I have known many startups where the CTO left because they got tired of not getting paid or their full time job got in the way of their putting in much time on the startup.

The real issue is finding someone with the correct level of integrity and software development skills that you can trust. If the developer is not experienced with what you are trying to accomplish, your odds of success are slimmer as they will be making mistakes that may limit your chance of success. Look at their experience both with developing software and with understanding how business works. Make sure they can communicate well with you and can understand what you are asking for. Above all, verify their experience and talk to some people they have worked with in the past.

Just because someone is not an "Employee" does not automatically mean that they will not stay with you for a long time. I have clients I have worked with for 20 years and although I am not their employee, they know they will be able to get hold of me on the phone. I am sure there are lot's of other developers like that.

Also note that there are software development companies like mine that will take an equity or royalty stake in lieu of all cash for the development of the project. Companies like that, similar to an employee with stock, have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. Since they have had experience developing and possibly marketing other products, they can probably offer good advice in addition to the development.

Feel free to message me if you would like to have a more in depth discussion based on your specific needs.
Paul Chambers
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Paul Chambers Advisor
Founder, Nymble Technology
My main concern would be whether the 3rd party developer/consultancy will have enough to go on to make all the selection & trade-off decisions that will be necessary to build the MVP.

One question for you: can you afford to treat this initial MVP as a throw-away effort, when you do find a tech co-founder? he/she may want to start over, for various (valid) reasons.

An outsourced effort without technical oversight is likely to result in a proof of concept than a true MVP that can be taken to market.
Rod Abbamonte
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Rod Abbamonte Advisor
Co Founder at STARTREK / @startupHunter / @startupWay / @CoFounderFound / @GOcapital / @startupClub / @lastminute
I personally believe that for you to develop and validade your MVP you need a Tech Co Founder. You can not open a restaurant without a Chef.
Steve Owens
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Steve Owens Entrepreneur • Advisor
Finish Line - A Better Way for Small Companies to Develop Products
It depends. Generally speaking, if you are trying to invent a new technology, then you need a tech co-founder. If you are trying to use a technology in a new way, much better to outsource it.

BTW - the best method I have seen for managing product development is to hire one firm to do the work and another to manage the first.
Joe Walling
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Joe Walling Entrepreneur • Advisor
Experienced software developer, software architect, owner of custom software development shop
I would have to disagree with Steve on the hiring one company to do the work and another to manage the other company. I have seen a real disaster caused by this. The managing company, in this case, wanted to make the other company look bad in the hope that they could do the job. It created way too much conflict and the managing company really added no value as they weren't doing the work didn't understand the business domain enough to manage the project without going back to the principal.

My recommendation is to find the one company that can understand the tech and the business and build a good relationship with them. You can find a good tech adviser if you want someone to validate the work by the development company. It is easier to find one good development company than 2.
Steve Owens
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Steve Owens Entrepreneur • Advisor
Finish Line - A Better Way for Small Companies to Develop Products
@Joe - for this to work, you must explain to the managing PDC that they will never get any "work" - the most that will happen is they will help the customer find another PDC. If you do not do this, you are correct about what will almost certainly happen. There are many steps to this processes - but that is beyond the scope of this form. If your going to try this, try it with someone who has a proven processes and is doing it successfully.

It is very hard for non technical people who has never done technical work before to have any kind of judgment about the PDC's work. Often small misunderstandings end the relationship - which damages the customer and the PDC.

The managing PDC acts as the CTO, which helps bring experience to a team without its own technical person(s). This benefits both the PDC (less likely the relationship will fail due to lack of communication) and the customer (less likelihood of starting the project from the start again after the relationships fails).

However, you are correct, if you do not follow a proven processes, it will not work very well - but that can be said for anything.
Joe Walling
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Joe Walling Entrepreneur • Advisor
Experienced software developer, software architect, owner of custom software development shop
@Steve: With that caveat, one could make it work...especially if the managing person has great technical credentials. It may still create some tension, at least initially, but it could work. I would think in this case, that it might be easier and cheaper to get a cofounder or technical adviser. Since the tech cofounder is not asked to do as much work, you may be able to find someone that you could not find if they were required to work full time.

I think we are in agreement that it is very hard for a non technical person to have any judgement of the technical aspects of the work. There is definitely a need to find someone that can be trusted to oversee the technical aspects as soon as possible whether that person is internal or external.
Danielle Couvelaere
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Danielle Couvelaere Entrepreneur
e-Entrepreneur - based in Dakar
Thank you all for your feedback; it confirms that there is no right answer to this question and perhaps it really comes down to meeting the RIGHT people with the best FIT and common visionin the broad sense....so whoever I find first that seems right, cofounder or partner will do. Will keep actively looking :)
Francesca Hogi
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Francesca Hogi Entrepreneur
Matchmaker, Coach, TV Personality, Speaker: www.francescahogi.com!
Danielle, I have been asking myself this same question for two months now, and I have JUST yesterday found the dream co-founder I was seeking.

But - I was about to proceed with a firm not to design the MVP, but a clickable prototype. After interviewing different firms I realized I really didn't want to invest a ton of money in an MVP that might get thrown out - better to hire someone to help you create wireframes/user flow/prototype first and then test it before building MVP.
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