Fraud · Startups

How do you handle an unprofessional external team of programmers?

Bernard Ang

September 18th, 2016

I started engaging a team of programmers since July 2012 when the company was fully into building websites for consumers.

Since then, they moved into logistics management and gave me the feeling my project was an unwanted distraction.

I have voiced out several times but they have dragged their feet and delivered junk, far from the agreed deliverables.

Along the way, I have paid money, in accordance to progressive work schedule but am left with an unwanted baby.

My fears were confirmed when I stopped chasing them since June and they went off the radar, just quiet.

This was one of the first few encounters I had as part of navigating the startup environment, and I am extremely aggrieved.

I am based in Singapore.

Anyone who has an idea what I could do?

I've reported this company to the Consumer Association of Singapore and am looking at lawyers as options.

Michael Feder Founder and CEO at PrayerSpark; Finalist: Global Business & Interfaith Peace Award

September 18th, 2016

Pull the plug, and start again. You are not in the legal action business-  you are trying to make something. Keep focused on that. Yes, it is painful to take that hit-  but in the long run, you will be better off spending all of your valuable time and energy building a business, not trying to litigate offshore.

Ashley Titus Founder at RAGS Solutions

September 18th, 2016

Its important to get a good feel of who you are going to be working with considering that the tech scope gives substance to the idea that you want to bring about. In that sense I launched several enquiries when I decided last December to get a tech company involved to put meat to my idea and after starting a discussion with a few, I settled on a company in India. That did not stop me however from getting on a plane and seeing for myself who and what is involved at this company and spent the best part of the day explaining the concept (even took a third party to witness the whole meeting). Upon my return I was able to comment on a detailed scope of work that they prepared, which has been the basis for what has been achieved to date. Yes this needed a high level of commitment from my side and was able to do that practically on a full time basis since we kicked off in earnest. Today we are probably a week away from market and yes a couple of months behind schedule, which is due to customer feedback and what we needed to include before going to market....I am new at this as while I was employed when I initiated the idea, the oil and gas industry fell flat and accidentally cast me into this venture full time.... I hope my limited experience helps!

Parker Fairfield Chief Strategy Officer at Yunnex.com

September 18th, 2016

Asides from a confrontational approach, you could approach them as a business approach.

Would they agree to 'sell you' all of your source code, as well as one employee to start up an internal group?

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

September 18th, 2016

Does Singapore have an official government office of consumer protection? That's what I would do here in the US.

C J Information Architect with eCommerce, Business Transformation & Business Acceleration Expertise

September 18th, 2016

Hi Bernard, You are not too late to pullout the wire. It seems you have spent almost 4 years with them. if they based in Singapore, better to check with legal counsel over whether you can sue them and seek the damages. If its not, your chances are minimum and best option would be pullout the wire and go for another provider.

Josh McCormack Owner, InteractiveQA - Marketing, Web Dev, Testing, Data & Market Analysis

September 19th, 2016

If you're working all together in the same office space developers might feel a sense of urgency to produce functional code and move the product along. Really what you need, though, is organization and well articulated plans, requirements and expectations. It sounds like the team you have has lost passion for this project, so in all likelihood, you'll want to move on.

I can understand the frustration you're experiencing. I've been there. You need an experienced technical project manager to handle this and move it forward. There are just too many things to advise on here. 

Max Garkavtsev CEO at QArea, TestFort

September 18th, 2016

If they are large, most probably they have good contracts and you will be to blame for sure. If they are small, they will just dissolve if you win - I bet they are not insured. 
So unless you are in a business of law, the best bet is just find a way to get a code, find more money and continue with someone else. 

Max Garkavtsev CEO at QArea, TestFort

September 18th, 2016

If you are both are in Singapur, why don't you visit them? That could help. Personal contact does wonders. But "team of programmers" entity doesn't sound good from point of view of liability

David Austin Relentless problem solver and innovator.

September 18th, 2016

This is more often the rule than the exception I'm afraid and is in large part why VCs won't do series rounds when the technical team is external.  You say you've been paying them according to a schedule... I don't know what that means, but this does not sound agile in anyway.  I'm sure some will disagree but in my experience waterfall with an external team spread over 4 years is a disaster in the making.

Legal wrangling will definitely ruin any chances of getting anything worthwhile out of them.  I doubt you will be able to get your investment back if you've established a pattern of continuing to pay them when they've not performed according contract (be it a written or verbal contract).

At some point you'll need to choose between cleaning up the system via legal action (a fool's errand, such code chop shops are a dime-a-dozen)  vs salvaging what you can and make tough decisions regarding paths forward.  Whatever you do, quit paying according to a schedule and pay for performance.  If a code shop holds your code ransom move on (one reason startups should follow an agile model).

If they've grown tired of your project (happens) they may happily to cooperate with you getting the code in transferable condition. Many coders (self included) reel at the thought of someone inheriting their poorly annotated spaghetti code and and will do much to clean it up and properly document it once they learn another programmer will take over it.  Sometimes just having that discussion is enough to turn the ship around.  From what it sounds they're thinking "we can get away with carp so let's deliver crap". Performance only comes to those who reward only performance.