Many entrepreneurs have a brilliant business idea and a sensible business model to monetize it, but lack the technical skills to develop the website and/or the app, or the online market place that will support the delivery of their project.
I am currently facing this very challenge with my business idea and I have spent a long time considering several options:
- find a co-founder who could bring the IT skills that I miss,
- learn the skills myself and do it on my own, or
- outsource to an IT development shop.
Each option has its pros and cons, and none is fully satisfying on its own.
|Speed of execution||
|Cost (cash out)||
|Ownership of solution||
|Quality of work||
The following two articles have hopefully helped me frame an appropriate strategy, that balances the decision factors that I have in mind.
How to start a tech company when you have no tech experience?
Rob Biederman is the CEO and co-founder of Catalant (formerly HourlyNerd), an online freelance marketplace delivering elite expertise from independent experts, including top MBAs, business advisors and industry experts to leading corporations.
In his article (How to start a Tech Company when you have no tech experience) Rob goes through his own experience of developing a tech company with zero tech experience. His first advice is that the app or platform should work off-line (i.e. on paper version) and you should engage with your target audience to identify exactly how to serve their needs and prove your idea before any real development starts. He then recommends that you outsource the first development, as it will be more cost effective than trying to do it yourself with self-taught skills. Finally, once traction has been demonstrated, he advocates that you should look for a tech pro to jump on board as technology needs to be own in-house to keep flexibility and ensure you can accommodate new ideas or technology enhancements quickly and cost-efficiently.
What do you do when you have found someone to build your app?
Elizabeth Barr is a front-end developer who not only designs and builds sites and apps, but also writes the copy clients need to market those apps. She is Account Manager at Designli.co, a startup that specialises in building apps and mobile-responsive websites for start-ups and established businesses.
In her article (You have found someone to build your app. Great! Now, here are your assignments), Elizabeth goes through the tasks non-tech entrepreneurs will have to perform while their app is being developed by an external developer to ensure there is no hold-up when the app is ready. Her first advice is to create and own (i.e. pay for) the various developer and integration accounts that will be required to roll the app, to avoid any tie with the development shop. Then she reckons you need to consider your landing page and nab the best domain name possible, as well as accompanying social media handles (facebook, twitter, instagram…). Last she recommends that you make sure to have ownership and custody of the software product and any associated IP rights, and get the latest version of the code delivered on a live cloud storage like Github. These simple steps should ensure you are ready and she additionally advises you remain proactive during the development phase to prevent any work stoppage.
The 5 steps to launch your start-up when you don’t have IT development expertise:
As a non-tech wannabe entrepreneur, I firmly believe that technology is core to a successful development of my business idea. So, sooner or later, I will have to have a CTO. However this can wait until business traction is confirmed. In the meantime, I should not waste my time learning how to develop a website or a mobile app, as my skills and time are better used elsewhere in developping the core business idea. Therefore it makes sense to outsource the first prototype to an IT development shop, while at the same time putting fillers in the market for recruiting my future CTO.
My strategy should be as follows:
1. Build my “paper” app / landing page to test with clients
I will use invisionapp.com to create my “paper” mobile app and wix.com to build my landing page. These are free and easy-to-use by non-tech people resources. I will build a prototype that I can test with potential clients and targets, so I can firm up my business concept and spec-out what I need for my Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
2. Outsource the development of the MVP
Once I have validated the concept with clients, I will select a local IT shop and provide them the specs for developing the MVP.
3. Get ready to support them and keep control of my accounts
I will actively support the external development by putting in place and owning the environment for my app to be released.
4. Make sure I own the software product (latest source code) and any IP rights
I will work hand-in-hand with the external developer to ensure that the latest available version is always updated and secure full-ownership (inc. IP rights).
5. Start looking for permanent resources
I will leverage my interaction with the development community to identify potential talents who could be interested to join my project on a permanent basis once traction is confirmed.
This 5-step approach should see me through the first milestone of my launch plan. It allows me a fast-time–to-market by using professionals, while incurring manageable costs and demonstrating that I have skin in the game. I will remain in control of development and once business traction is confirmed, I can look for a more permanent “in-house” solution.
The next question will be how do I split equity to get the right IT resources interested to join the adventure. This will be the subject of a further article.