I am a non-technical founder hiring a development firm. What is one thing I can do to ensure they are the right fit for me before I write a check?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Ask These Four Questions
To ensure your company’s development needs are met and exceeded, ask the potential firm these questions: 1) Which projects have you completed similar to mine? 2) Do you have relevant case studies? 3) What is your process for development and is it collaborative? 4) What are your internal processes for source control, quality control and project management?
– Björn Stansvik, MentorMate
2. Use an Incentivized Payment Structure
More often than not, development firms deliver the product later than promised. Structure the payment in the service agreement so they are incentivized to deliver the product on time as promised, if not earlier.
– Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC
3. Look Them in the Eye
When you’re embarking on a any new major initiative, take the time to meet a potential hire or team in person and gauge their energy. If that means getting on a plane, get on that plane. In person, you can better determine how they are going to serve you, if they are passionate about your relationship, and if they have space in their world to treat you like more than a job.
– Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
4. Add a Trusted Technical Advisor
Hiring a technical team without technical knowledge can be risky. Your best bet would be to add a technical co-founder, even if they don’t do the majority of the coding and simply interface with the dev team. If that’s not an option, look to add a technical advisor you trust to help vet the technical team. This way, you can’t be bamboozled by techno-jargon.
– Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com
5. Provide a Clear Scope of Work
I’ve always said that development projects live or die by the scope of work. Take every effort to clearly define the project, the features and performance requirements so your firm can be very clear on your expectations. Show them similar examples or elements that you wish to include. Lastly, ask them what experience they have that relates directly to this scope of work.
– Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies, Inc.
6. Speak With Non-Tech References
A development firm may be great for clients who “speak tech,” but for non-tech founders, making sure you’ll have a common language is key. At my company, it’s always been essential that we speak with similar not-at-all-tech-savvy references.
– Alexis Wolfer, TheBeautyBean.com
7. Get a Technical Founder First
If you are about to dive into a startup with heavy tech needs and you don’t have a technical co-founder, then you need to slow your roll and partner up with one. There are too many issues that are going to come up that someone with an ownership stake needs to be responsible for. There is a reason why VCs typically don’t fund companies that don’t have a technical co-founder.
– Seth Talbott, CEO and Startup Advisor
8. Give Them Equity
Find a development firm that will take some portion of their payment in equity. Startups need partners willing to have some skin in the game. This will help align their interests with yours while reducing your cash burn. As a result, the development firm may go the extra mile to help you succeed and is less likely to nickel and dime you on cost.
– Jason Seldon, P4RC
9. Learn About Their Accomplishments
My advice would be to ask them to show you a sample of a recent sprint or milestone of one of their most recent projects and to explain it. By going through the process of what that company has done on a recent project similar to yours, you are able to see if you are comfortable with the way they work.
– Kuty Shalev, Clevertech
10. Test Them
You should test them on something small to get a sense of how they operate, how they keep you updated, and how efficient they are. You have to keep in mind that any firm will have its best foot forward on a test like this, but it can still be eye-opening.
– Josh Weiss, Bluegala
11. Check With References
The best thing to do is talk to references. Ask for three, then ask for three more, and talk to the latter group. Don’t just have a friendly conversation. Instead ask what their weaknesses were. Everyone will have weaknesses, and you’ll need to be aware of them.
– Rameet Chawla, Fueled