Developers · Minimum Viable Product

Difficulty finding reliable developers?

Jim Sim

May 21st, 2015

So just some background about me: Though I've been in technical leadership positions for the majority of my career, my current project is my first entrepreneurial venture so I think it can be assumed that I am unwittingly contributing to my current predicament and could use some input. In short I seem to be in a rut connecting with developers to build my MVP.

Months ago, after some time searching, I connected with a developer who was both qualified and excited about assisting me with building out my MVP. We had a month of conversations detailing out the goals & milestones and worked out a SOW while we waited out some funding challenges that I needed to suss out (I hid none of this detail from him ). Two weeks after our last discussion, once I got the greenlight, he disappeared. Even his team mates would't respond though I can't think of anything I would have done to offend him.
I then came across another developer who was both qualified and excited about my project but after some strong early discussion he proved lax in response and unreliable producing even basic output like a SOW or pricing.
I've since had several semi interested folks but cannot seem to connect with anyone both qualified and interested.

So questions:
1. Not being a developer myself, I've heard opinions from either camp stating that I do or don't need a technical co-founder. In my opinion I feel that if I had a personal relationship with a developer from the start who were interested in being a co-founder this would be a no brainer but since I don't wouldn't I run a greater risk connecting with someone who do not share my values? I may not have a full understand of the risk / reward factors here.

2. Where would one go about finding good developers? I've been to FreeLancer, Reddit, Craigslist and dozens of developers forums and have only been able to achieve the above results.

3. Is starting the relationship with NDA a faux pas? I've had several developers flat out reject initial discussion due to my request for NDA review. How do I protect myself if I plan on sharing details of my project?

Sam McAfee Building Popup Incubators for Corporate Innovation Programs

May 21st, 2015

You are asking three separate questions, each of which have been asked elsewhere on FD. I'd encourage you to read the answers there (maybe someone will post the links?).

1) Whether you need a technical co-founder or not depends on the technical complexity of your startup. Is it an exclusively software play, or are there other more central business components? If you're building a technology-focused company, you will need a technical leader at some point. That said, you can get away with not having a tech co-founder if you can make enough traction in the business with regular services and tools, and only bring in a developer when you have reached the limits of your capacity manually to deliver the service. If you can prove that you can sell a service to people, and that they really want it, before you have built the fancy automated version, you are probably justified in building the fancy automated version. But I would try to get some checks for some cobbled-together manually delivered solution first, if I were you.

2) You might want to read my post on finding a co-founder (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-find-technical-co-founder-your-startup-sam-mcafee). Basically, you need to go in person to where entrepreneurial minded developers hang out. Join some meetups, go to hack-days, work in a tech co-working space. Get to know some of them and what they are about. If you're idea is good, and you have progress to show, you'll attract them eventually.

3) At least here in the Bay Area, NDAs scream lack of entrepreneurial experience. We have a culture (and I think it's spreading) of over-sharing what we're working on. There are a million ideas, and no one wants yours. What matters is execution. If we met in a cafe to talk about your startup (which, as an engineer, happens to me all the time), if you asked me to sign an NDA, I would probably do it. But I would think that you were a little too old-fashioned for me, and likely not pursue the gig too seriously. Hate to say it, but it's really a red flag for me and most of my colleagues.

That's not being flippant. Really, what the NDA says is you're too attached to your idea. If you came and said, "here is a market, and I see an opportunity there," I'd want to work with you to learn about it and crack it open. There are probably cases (and you'll see in the other discussions on this) that people really think you should have an NDA. Maybe this is one of them. I just rarely run into anything like that myself.

Ronnie Guha DevOps & cloud software development

Last updated on March 6th, 2017

Good inputs thus far. Here are some things to consider. NDA - unfortunately, it's very immature.. We build products for entrepreneurs and it's true that our clients ask us to sign NDAs as well.. but in reality it should be the opposite .. you should talk to as many people as possible.. It actually helps more than it hurts.. Ultimately, ideas are dime a dozen - execution trumps it.

Next - are you someone that can sell on a powerpoint? If so, go sell first, get the first letter of intent and then build the product. If you can't get someone to commit to buying based on your powerpoint - you need to build the MVP.

Finally - from what I read, it seems like you want a co-founder with sweat equity (I might be wrong because you mentioned "basic output like a SOW or pricing".). You can find such developers at the usual places (e.g. hackathons, meetups etc but not freelancer sites) but one thing that you do need to re-consider is the level of involvement that this co-founder can provide you (for free).. Typically, the developer needs to pay his/her bills as well (no matter how awesome your idea is - they still need to eat), so they will not be able to dedicate a whole lot of time into this..

As you are well aware of, time to market and idea validation/finding product-market fit is most important.. Are you willing to wait for 7-12 months for your co-founder to find time to develop the product before you can go to market? Could you hire someone to get to market faster? Would getting to market faster benefit you? These are all questions that only you can answer and come to a decision yourself..

if you have funds available, I don't know why software development firms would not be willing to take on your product development.. If you share more about how you were trying to engage, maybe I can shed more light.

All the best Jim.

Sudeep Bhatnagar I develop apps, talk apps, live apps.

May 21st, 2015

Hello Jim,

Are you partnering with developers on profit sharing basis or for free? I'm asking since most of busy developers don't look for revenue sharing or partnership, but prefer doing it for free. I'm saying this with experience as I'm a development company myself. Let me know what are you offering, and then we can discuss more....

I'm glad to assist anyways with my team, we are into app development business from 2010, and following is our website - www.agicent.com; there is no issue with the trustworthiness and expertise if you are looking for fee based development; we don't take reveshare offering this time.

And asking for NDA is no sin, that is and should be mandatory so much so that developers like us have put such NDA on our website itself; I'm assuming that the issue is arising as you are talking with individuals or a group of individuals and not companies for development. Talking to individuals for partnership thing is okay, but if you are looking for product outsourcing etc then go for companies.

Freelancer.com etc. are nothing but another playground of insanely low cost bidders, been there done that and you may hardly see any quality there. So, utilize genuine networks like this or quora or linkedin to meet and join hands.

Jon Clement Founder at TruthKit.com

May 21st, 2015

Sounds like you've gone into a lot of detail of laying out scope, design requirements and expectations.  Though, keep in mind that holding a developer to an exact quote per feature requires a lot of overhead.  Half the effort of the implementation is in the design and planning.  Ensure you're opened to accept some of the risk involved in developing deep technical solutions by absorbing some of the extra and unexpected costs.

David Schwartz Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev

May 21st, 2015

Have you built a prototype yet and determined that you've got a product-market fit? 

(People seem to understand that in the world of physical gizmos, a mechanical prototype is pretty much a requirement. But in the world of software, too many folks go from the back-of-the-napkin state directly to MVP.)

Ideas are a dime a dozen. As a software developer, if you come to me with an idea then ask me to help implement it, I'm actually bringing more value to the table than your idea! Besides, there aren't a whole lot of new ideas these days -- just old ideas recombined in different ways. The value-add is in the implementation, not the idea.

Also, people are often focused on the wrong thing as their unique value proposition. I was at a meeting where a guy told us about an idea he had for a unique kind of "wired vest", and he wanted to know about patenting it. After further discussion, is occurred to some of us that while it might be hard to patent the vest, a more useful and restrictive patent might be on whatever means he used to plug the vest into something else. In other words, the INTERFACE, rather than the vest itself. Not being very technically oriented, he didn't really get the relevance of this notion.

The point is, you cannot really protect ideas. You can protect EXPRESSIONS of ideas (via copyright), DESIGNS and RENDERINGS of ideas (via patents), but along the way, the creative people you're working with are the ones expected to take your idea and get it to the point where it CAN be protected.

If you're not paying someone, I'm not sure how much an NDA is going to help, because at some point the creative person may realize there might be far more value in going another direction that you're not seeing. If they're not being paid, you really have nothing holding them back, since you probably don't even want to discuss this other thing because it's not in your focus.

I cannot tell you how many times I've had conversations with founders / managers / marketers about things I'm working on for them where I saw some possibility for the work I was doing that was in another direction and ended up getting quite an ass-whooping for having the gall to suggest something outside of their focus! These days, if I see something like that, I'll feel them out by casually mentioning it, and if they dismiss it, I'll assume they're not interested. These kinds of things are definitely NOT covered under NDA as far as I'm concerned, and they'd have a damn hard time making a claim that they are, especially after clearly and emphatically stating it's not something the company is interested in or focused on.

Jiemin Li Entrepreneur and Investor

May 21st, 2015

Most of developers are busy with their day jobs.  They might be excited at the first, but have a second thought after knowing more about the project, or they are just too busy to support this project.  NDA is good, common professional practice.  I am not sure what's in your NDA.  In the earlier stage, you can try to use mutual NDA.  One of my companies offers the MVP development for startup as an investment.  If you have an excellent business idea/plan and seek technical partner/investment , you are welcome to give us a call. 

Imran Rashid Owner, DeltaShoppe

May 21st, 2015

Hi Jim,

Looks like something is not connecting with the developers about your project. May be it is the way you present the project or may be you have simply had bad luck coming across developers who were not really a good fit. Either way, it sucks.

Being a developer myself, I can offer my services. I mentioned in aother thread, I am in the top 1% of Elance developers. Elance is one of the largest portal relating to outsourcing with over more than 200,000 developers. 

Even though I consider myself to be pretty good at my craft, still, at time, I find it difficult to connect with "right" clients. 

I have signed NDA's with many of my clients and I have never had any trouble regarding that with any of my clients.

So if you want to proceed, you can let me know. I can even connect you to my previous or current clients in the US/Canada.

Thanks.

Becky Cruze Editor of "How to Start a Startup: The Book," Board Member of Women Get It Done

May 27th, 2015

Hi Jim,

When I was working on my first startup, I ran into some of the issues you described above. Thankfully, I had a technical co-founder but with just a team of two (only one of whom was technical), we were in need of external developers to help us build out our MVP more quickly.

We tried several times to find a great developer to work with, including studios overseas and individual developers working solo here in the Bay Area, but ran into problems with both. With the former, we had a lot of communication difficulties (in terms of explaining the project requirements and goals) and also had time zone challenges. With the latter, we had reliability issues (with some of the developers seeming to be interested but then flaking out).

Later, after we'd already moved on from this startup, I heard about an app development company called ThinkApps, which seemed like it could have been the perfect solution for us at the time. They are based in the US (San Francisco to be exact) but have a network of 1,000+ designers and developers around the world. This model essentially ends up providing the best of both worlds - the more reasonable prices you would expect to find with overseas developers but easy communication with a management team based in CA. Also, their network includes experts on a variety of platforms (web, Android and iOS for mobile, Apple Watch, etc) and technologies (APIs, streaming video, big data, etc). So no matter what your project entails, you can find a team with the right knowledge and experience.

Hope that helps, and best of luck!

Stan Podolski CEO at Nimble Aircraft.

May 21st, 2015

3. I say, big NO, NO.

To start with NDA is not a good one, you afraid of somebody stealing your ideas? Just ask yourself - how many ideas are floating around, how many ideas are going to be implemented. How many ideas can be sold at the stage of idea (well, 0, obviously). You afraid of big company getting you idea and implementing without your knowledge? Well, you can just try to offer it for free, the answer would be "we are too busy", or "we have something like that"

Or I can put it other way. How many companies were bought by Google or FB and then just put down. Again, it means their ideas were quite good and still can be reused, but how many people tried to reuse it?

So you have two options, try to convince somebody to work for free (ie options) or pay for the services. Even if you can get a developer as a partner, you still would need UX guy, designer, CSS guy, DB architect, sometimes unix admin, sometimes game designer. Of course it would be much easier to lure a tech cofounder if you have done marketing research and can prove you are going to have your early adopters at the beta stage.

Having said that, ping me. If the idea is right and clicks with us, we can offer either reduced price or work for options (ie free). The solution would be the edge of the technology, we work with Meteor, the very new cross-platform framework well suited for both mobile and desktop environment.

Steven Rubenstein

May 21st, 2015

1. Whether you need a technical co-founder really depends on whether you are a marketing company or a technology company. If technical is crucial and your primary differentiator, then you probably need to constantly update it -- in which case a co-founder is better. If building a system that you can market without daily/weekly changes, then you can survive without one.

2. To find developers, referrals are obviously best. Meetups are great -- even just showing up and sponsoring with pizza will probably get you some serious interest! But you need to be more specific as to what type of developer you need, e.g., mobile, web, game, video, general, etc.

3. Having been on both sides of the table, I would walk away from anyone who starts a co-founder conversation with an NDA. If you are hiring me (read "paying cash") then I am potentially willing to sign an NDA, but not before an initial overview.

In other words, tell me about your basic project and let me determine whether it's a good fit for me in terms of time, capabilities, interest, etc. Then if we decide to move forward, I might sign an NDA so you can share the rest of the details so I can put together a full spec and proposal.

But if you want me as a co-founder, that requires huge amounts of trust on both sides. So I would never sign an NDA. It's like asking me to marry you, but before you tell me anything about yourself, forcing me to sign a pre-nup. If you cannot share even a 5-minute overview without an NDA, then you will be quite lonely.