All too often, we hear from frustrated startup owners who have poured their blood, sweat, and a whole lot of money into developing a mobile app or software platform with a dev team that just didn’t have the skills needed to execute on the founders’ vision.
We have heard more horror stories than we care to think about from startups that have been taken advantage of by developers and in some cases, developers who have been misled by startups.
The point is, who you end up hiring to help you build your first MVP of your mobile app or website will have a significant impact on the success of your venture. The relationship is not one to be taken lightly. Here are five important principles to follow when you are interviewing and engaging a dev team for your mobile app or software startup:
- Prepare. Before you sign an agreement, prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Have a clear vision of what you want to build and how you want to execute on your vision. Create a business plan or Business Model Canvas If you don’t have experience building a project, find a Product Manager who can guide you through the initial iterations before you spend time and money on a dev team. If you have the time, think about taking a course that will help you get the skills you need.
- Think about what you want in a dev team. It is important to clarify what you want from your dev team before you engage them. Do you want insight into the UI/UX? Do you want to focus on the front end or back end? Who is actually going to be building the app?
- Be clear on who the actual developers are. Most dev teams today are either overseas or supported by an overseas technical team. If you are looking to build something on a budget, this is a reality you are going to have to accept. Using an overseas dev team poses several challenges, including, coordinating with time zones, communication, the English language, etc. Make sure you understand who is actually going to be building your app. You may sign with a local firm, but if you are expecting to work with someone local, then you better make sure that is clearly stated in the agreement.
- Have a clear agreement. We have reviewed or drafted several developer agreements for both our startup clients and development companies. The quality of these agreements is all across the board. We highly recommend you have a general services agreement with and a detailed “Scope of Work” agreement with milestones and deliverables. Also, make sure the agreement is not one-sided. If you are getting an agreement from a developer, it is more than likely favoring them and limiting all risk on their end. Investing in a professional review and analysis of these agreements can save you tens of thousands of dollars and potentially months of wasted time.
- Get references Spend time doing some due diligence on the team you are going to work with. We have a company investigator service we use for our clients, but you may be able to see what comes up online. Note, however, that just because you find a good or bad review, it means they define the company. Some clients may have unreasonable expectations and they decided to voice their opinion online. Ask a potential dev team for a few references and see what you find online.
Fundamentally, the cliché, you get what you pay for applies to your work with a dev team. There are services out there that will help you get to MVP at a modest price, but you want to make sure have a clear written agreement laying out the expectations and remedies if the dev team does not perform as planned. Like working with any service provider, being clear about your expectations from the outset is critical. Keep the above five principles in mind, and you will start off on the right foot with your mobile app.
Founder of Carbon Law Group, Pankaj Raval has been practicing intellectual property and corporate law for ten years. He has worked with budding entrepreneurs, startups, and fast-growing companies. He takes a special interest in helping his clients solve challenging legal and business problems in an effort to build their ventures and make a positive impact on society.