Choosing Development Partner

January 15, 2018

When you have an idea & enough resources to implement it, do not loose momentum. Having proven development partner help to start immediately and succeed. Here are a few advice from our 3-year-experience making startups for people who are looking for development company for their first or second project

1. Expertise

Product expertise: What is the niche for your idea? Is it new real estate loan marketplace? Or productivity app for business? Look for companies who already done very similar projects! Why do you want to experiment with the result if there are people who successfully done similar things before? Experienced team will ask right questions and help you to reduce overall costs by 20-30%

Tech expertise: Even when you are creating a UNIQUE product, it is built from the same bricks that other similar products. Let's take a look at UBER. It consists of (simplified):

  • mobile app with account management, GPS tracking, map support
  • backend with payment integration, fraud protection, complaint management

If you want to build something like UBER ask the potential partner about these bricks - did they implemented this kind of features? how many time did it take on prev project?

Marketing expertise: Do you know exactly portrait of your end user? Have you already launched a startup before and know how to get first users? Do you track conversions & calculate ROI based on acquisition channels?

If you do not know answers to these questions, you may spend a lot of money on development, create a good product and do not find any users! From another side, the company who has such experience may help to only solve these issues but also advice what to cut from feature list to save budget & still get first users, test hypothesis and tweak plans to get your goals.

Think what expertise do you have and where you need help. Also, you may find 1 company who has all 3 expertise and it will reduce time to market.

2. Type of company

  • Enterprise suppliers. There are outsourcing companies who target to work with an enterprise. They have more inner procedures, more security (fingerprint sensors to get to development office, cameras, even restriction for internet) and more certifications. Their typical client may be a big bank of US of Australia. Or they work with a company like BOEING.

  • Startups suppliers. Usually they call them-self "studio", "agency", "factory". Small to middle size companies who work with startups on early stage. They have fewer processes & cameras, although sign NDA. They usually have a few niches with proven works there. Also they usually cheaper and more flexible with start dates.

Enterprise suppliers know how to sell their services and how to code your ideas according to technical documents. But they usually do not think about overall product success, only about the absence of bugs. They are not engineered to help the customer to find product-market fit & sell it! If you have a deal with big enterprise for your future product and you know they WILL PAY for a written set of features, then this type of partner is great for you.

In another case, if you have not verified idea of the product, working with a smaller team who also have expertise in marketing in your niche may be a better option. You need the company who already helped startups go from scratch to product. Who understands that on MVP stage it's not necessary to cover most code with tests. The company who understands that time-to-market may be critical in some cases to get initial investments and implement all features from backlog later with bigger resources. And you do not need a company who is going to build inner processes & learn how to deal with startups based on experience received from implementation your idea.

3. Size

As an entrepreneur you are carrying a lot of risks, make sure your partner will not disappear when 2 senior devs decide to change their job because of +20% more salary. So 5 person company is not what you are looking for even if they have the ideal competence and offer you a discount. Also ask the company if they have QAs, devs of other platforms (ask for mobile if your target platform is WEB and vise versa). You probably do not want to add +1 development company to cover new platform in future. Be sure it will slow down cooperation between you, company A and company B.

4. Communication

Bad communication is #1 reason of fail for most projects. Good written and spoken English is a must for any company. If you are not sure that your partner understands you correctly and instantly, consider another partner. Scheduled weekly demos and daily stand-ups helps solve problems ASAP, ask your potential supplier if it sustainable practice for them.

5. Pricing policy

Do not look for cheapest company. It does not matter how low is their hourly rate if it will require 5x more hours to complete your tasks. Remote work helps good employee to get great projects with appropriate salary. If low price is your priority you may get stuck in the middle of project with low-quality code and without devs to complete it. Even worse, next team may analyze previous work and refuse using their work, just throw into the trash and start again.

Middle-tier companies does not limit you from bad project quality automatically, but at least you may find replacement for them with the same budget. Considering top agencies I would also send task & talk with middle-tier companies to see what differs them except pricing.

  1. What else? Does this company culture & strategy fits with your own company? Try to understand it instantly. Because you will work with these people on day-to-day basis and if you do not like how they does their work you will not be satisfied anyway.

What I would consider in last: Particular programming language and technology. Marketing is everywhere. New languages & frameworks appear all time and promises to overcome previous, in development cost, efficiency and speed. Programmers and companies are exposed to it. After they "buy" new languages & framework, they "sell" it to their customers whether they want it or not. There is a variety of good back-end & front-end languages. You product may be built in any of them with good quality, with reasonable budget in time. In the same time it may be built with a lot of bugs, it may take x5 of initial budget and take a few years to launch. And reason for it - executors, not language.

Practical advise: If somebody says that your idea HAS TO BE implemented in Ruby for example, but not in PHP, do next: google sites running on PHP. Then spend a few mins reading it and make YOUR OWN conclusions about it

Pro tips

  • Find experienced friends/colleagues to help you estimate technical level of lead engineer of that company.
  • Ask contacts of previous client in closest to your niche and talk with him 15 mins on Skype. He may tell you much more then fancy marketing slides. Ask him what he would change in cooperation with your potential partner?

Thanks for reading! ProductCrafters has 3-years-experience working with startups from MVP stage. We help find product-market fit & get first users. Email us at to discuss the details of your project!

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