Algorithms · Building Teams

I have been working on this project for 2 years between 3 different companies...

Mighty Inyang Founder, Inyang Group. Serial Entrepreneur

Last updated on February 16th, 2017

I don't want to get TOO lengthy but I will sum this up the best way I can...

I began working on a project a little over 2 Years ago. In the beginning I interviewed over a dozen firms before I eventually narrowed it down to someone I thought had gained my trust and had a portfolio to match. Unfortunately That company was unable to deliver the project manager was very inexperienced and the team that was outsourced over seas could not grasp the concept of the industry that I was in. They Burned through thousands of dollars in discovery phases and I have not one line of code to show for it. I am currently fighting to recoup some of those losses.

The Second company seemed like a sure thing. VC backed and with an onshore team consisting of the top 1% of talent in the industry I was sure this was my answer. The quote they gave me was HALF of that of the first company backing their service with their "Gigster Guarantee" insuring on their website that the price would not change and when the going gets tough they don't abandon their clients. Well thats exactly what they did. 2 Months into the project the PM calls me and says the budget he has is to small to continue the project and I would have to come up with more money to continue.

The 3rd Guy I met on LinkedIn via some personal networking. Believe it or not this was the best experience I have had thus far with exception to a few things. He never meets a deadline. What was projected to be 3 Months is now going on 6 and a half months. In the last 3 months communication has been very poor and production is minimal. Even things like weekly deliverables extend for another couple of days. We may speak on average a total of about an hour a week.

I am tired...and losing hope. Is there anyone with the skill sets that can bring this thing to life!??

Might I add I am not technical so right now my goal is to get a skilled programmer on the job to pick up the bricks and finish this thing! Even working side by side with the current guy is an option.

I dread having to explain my project in detail to yet another person in fear that for a 4th time I will be left high and dry. Nothing TOO polished... Just an MVP to get some real automated traction and a virtual proof of concept....

My Project: 3

Devs: 0

Is there anyone fit for the challenge!?

Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks in advance....

Hugh Proctor Founder of LayrCake Low-Code Software Outsourcing

February 16th, 2017

Hi Inyang,

I hear your pain though I also understand the challenges from the other side of the equation - the developers.

I've been working on a system that automates the development process up to around 80-90%, for years I've been doing this living off £100 a month (my rent is being subsidised by my very understanding and not well off girlfriend).

You have to understand the kind of commitment that is required by a development team or a sole developer. First, I think that what the companies that you'd previously approached and had contractually hired and accepted to do the job is horrendous and honestly you should take them to court and your within your right to mention their name and slander them for taking your money and not providing... in the building construction industry, they would be called Cowboy Builders.

We in the industry have methods, processes and procedures specifically designed to understand the scope of a project before we attempt it - agile, UI design, kanban, scrum, waterfall.

I did work with a guy who had had an idea, he thought it was amazing and usually an MVP with a full time developer might take up to 9 months to get working, it's a complicated business. He wanted a 70-30 split but I disagreed I pushed for a 50-50 split ownership for the project and I was working for free, he was still working. I wanted to try to prove my system so I was going to try to do it in a month. I cracked on in... I spent the best part of that first month with technical issues - servers, azure, xamarin and problems with my system. So in the second month I was racing, and the project was coming together brilliantly, but some of the 3rd party solutions weren't working properly so I had to fix them. The solution included video capture and replay, photo capture, whatsapp chat, notifications, leader boards, betting, CDN and personal profiles and he wanted it to be available for iPhone, Android, and Windows.

I was working 14 hour days supplemented with ProPlus caffeine pills; he was supposed to be project planning, marketing, financial planning, business planning and investor management but when ever I phoned him up he was always at a pub, restaurant, some show, or playing golf... in the third month he even went on 2 weeks holiday in Florida to play golf!! Nothing was done in any of the thing he was supposed to do.

At the end of the 3rd month I had a pretty good almost full working copy that was available for early adopters on HockeyApp. I told him that he wasn't dedicated to the project. He went ballistic, called me a liar and all the names under the sun. He had invested nothing and I had killed myself to produce a polished product. He said that he fired me!

I have to say that I now hate people who come to me with 'an idea' - you have to build it. You know how I learnt to build software?? I learnt by Google, I studied and got jobs, I got paid £80,000+ a year. I charge £80,000 because not many people can do what I do. There are millions, no, billions of people out there all thinking and all with ideas, but only few are willing to sacrifice everything to get it done.

To get it into perspective, image you had an idea for a book and you go to a guy who can write English - is he a novelist or can simply write English?

If you want to get into this business, you NEED to have a business plan, you HAVE TO HAVE a financial projection - realistic one, you should put together a Facebook page and a Website (yourself) and get as many people to pre-subscribe to the website.... and I don't mean your friends and family - if people who you don't know want your product then you might think about producing it to the stage of an MVP.

You say that the development team spent all your money doing investigation?? well why hadn't you done this for them?? If you came to a building company and said 'build me a house' well you'd expect a brick... it's a house for spiders and mice.

And don't fall back onto the 'I don't know how'... Google!!! Learn, research, read and work on this big project of yours, YOURS...

Practice your 30 second pitch.

The world is currently full of Wannabe Entrepreneurs thinking that it's some sort of Hollywood dream, it is definitely not.

The fact is that everyone will what to work on your project and everyone will tell you that they have the skills... the fact is that 80% of them can write code just like they can write English... but look at their hand writing, grammar, punctuation, design, story telling and 90% of them will write badly... which if this is the case then, yes you get a cheap start, but the maintenance cost will be never ending. Why do you think Facebook didn't build LinkedIn, didn't build WhatsApp, didn't build EBay.. because the cost of development is huge and the cost of maintenance is 70-80% of this.

Watch Dragon's Den, go to Pitching Networks, go to developer networks... if someone is willing to put their life into your project, then your on to a winner.

Yuriy Savytskyy Full Stack Developer, Software Architect, always open for new opportunities

February 16th, 2017

I'd recommend to partner with technical guy who can help you to understand the scope of the project(from technical point of view), review what you have so far and how to move forward with that... He can help you to make real time/cost estimation, build the technical team, lead development,.... take the technical part of the project and leave you the business part. You need the guy who will be interested in the result not in the process ( to get money from you).

Rob G

February 16th, 2017

Because this is such a common and expensive problem there must also be a business opportunity here. Experience tells me there's likely plenty of blame to go around here. You likely have not done everything necessary to maximize your chances for success in the path you've taken. The developers/dev companies you've worked with did the same - i.e. did not do what was necessary to maximize the chances for success. therein lies a business opportunity. Don't get me wrong, this stuff is REALLY hard. I'm sure you've learned a lot in the process. The all too common and not so helpful retort is "go find a technical cofounder". Easier said than done. I think i'm safe in betting my next paycheck that you and everyone else with your same scars have tried this and continue to work at it. the #1 skill set of successful entrepreneurs is tenacity - finding ways around barriers. So while finding a qualified technical cofounder is clearly the preferred approach, that doesn't happen over night and sometimes takes years and you still need to make progress while you are searching. And even when you find one things can change. In the mean time you can't just put your project on hold waiting for Mr/Ms. right - i.e. has the necessary technical skills, is in a financial/life/family position to forego market-rate compensation (read 'work for eqity', has compatible work ethic, personality, is passionate about the space and tech... the list goes on. Seems to me there's a business opportunity to build a company/service to put a dent in this problem. In the corporate world, this is problem is usually tackled with a combination of product management, project management, program management and executive sponsors. Basically this service would combine those skill sets AND some automated tools. Along the lines of some of the freelance market places, but WAY more rigorous. Said service (call it 'success inc.') would have the tools and skills to help/force both sides (non tech and tech) to deliver the required success inputs before any agreement to proceed with development. On the non-tech side that would be basically a clearly defined and well documented business case: vision, market opportunity, team resumes, business model, revenue models, marketing plan, go-to-market plan, staffing plan, AND complete well defined specs - overviews, logic diagrams, UI mockups/wireframes... the whole enchilada. All things you should be capable of. Basically force the non-tech side ("side A") to prove that they know what they are doing. Probably provide some sort of rating system to 'grade' the non tech side. Success Inc. could provide some services and tools to help Side A to build and deliver the needed inputs. Success Inc. would do the same for the technical side of the project - prove to us (us being Success Inc. and the non-tech side) that you know what you are doing. Given some info about what is to be built (likely need some sort of vetting system and legal foundation before side A is willing to provide details) Success Inc puts Side B through a rigorous vetting process for each project and rates their ability to deliver. would need to provide tools and templates for delivery, validation, communication, oversight, code reviews?, source control, demos, etc. Basically a well defined and proven and predictable set of processes and tools to maximize delivery and proof that satisfactory progress is being made and the technical chops/tools to validate what is being built/delivered. Assuming side A is budget constrained there would be tools to format a compensation/payment arrangement including, equity, etc. Success Inc. would have a rigorous vetting process for tech providers (Side B companies) to include references, legal, IP, skills testing, etc. - basic qualifiers to be a part of the marketplace. There are plenty of incubators and accelerators that do some of this. Founder DAting and CoFoundersLab do some of this, but i've not stumbled across a service that provides a rigorously vetted marketplace for both parties. There are some market places that do some technical vetting and skills testing, but far from a complete, rigorous marketplace. These are all processes that every non-tech founder goes through or should go through anyway when vetting possible cofounders. Granted, there are plenty of developers who have a steady flow of market-rate work and won't have an incentive to jump through the vetting hoops and thus won't participate The 'Side B' companies are more likely to be individuals and small companies hungry for work - possibly off shore. The above is all stream of consciousness stuff so feel free to pick it apart. And, of course, this does nothing to solve Mighty's immediate problem.

Ron Bentata Digital Product Manager | Web Technology Executive | Looking for fresh interesting ideas

February 16th, 2017

hi Mighty.

I relate to your story. I'm sure it happened to most of this website's users.

A major conclusion from my experience is that "cheap is expensive". Don't always go for the cheaper option, no matter how attractive it may seem, because it will turn against you, making you loose more money and time. (similar to the 3rd developer experience you had).

Regarding the 2nd company you mentioned, it seems that the specifications, requirements and scope of the project was not appropriately planned. And this was probably what resulted in the lower ("half") cost estimation.

How to proceed:

1. You can look for a technical partner. Who believes in the concept, and will develop the initial MVP, with you.

2. You can look for a development company, not one of the cheap ones, and be willing to put your money on your idea/dream.

3. You can look for a company to build the project specifications and requirements with you. And not necessarily be the same company that will develop it.

4. You can describe your concept here in general terms, maybe someone can guide you to specific company for your specific needs.

If you want, let's connect and discuss your project, I'll be able to guide you better, technically and business-wise.

Good luck

James Park Small startup founder.

February 16th, 2017

HI there. Story like yours is common. I've gone through this myself few times already and I'm certain most people reading your post have. The path I ended up choosing and on right now is to have a co-founder who has his/her skin in the game and build the product *together*. MVP, in my opinion, cannot be outsourced. It will require endless iteration. But if finding technical co-founder is not a viable option for you, drop me a line and I can get you in touch with few specialty teams in the silicon valley.

kraig Into ICOs, fintech and saas

February 17th, 2017

I’m not surprised your having problems, a few thoughts, based on a quick view of your profile here.
Some of this may be tough to hear, but you need to know it if you want your project to succed.
A cofounder/partner/employee is better than a dev-shop, because they will tell you the hard truths. The dev-shop wants to maximise their pay, so their unlikely to tell you if there is a better cheaper way of doing things. That’s why I’m not surprised LinkedIN gave you the best result. The trouble there was with the weekly deliverables, (either the scope was too great, or the pay was too low) and the communication was too low.
Your MVP is probably too complex. How did you come up with the MVP? Was it your idea and then spec or did you work with your technical partner to work out the underlying business logic of the grand vision and then pare it down to MVP?
To take the house analogy further, you don’t just need a developer you need an architect(there is a reason system/software architect is a real job title) Somebody who will take your vision, handhold you through the blue-prints, and can then provide spec and implement some or all of it.
I agree with the general consensus hear. Although I think different time-zones can work. Both parties need to be upfront and agree on who is going to being working what hours. One I’ve seen is where you take one day a week, and take it in turns to work in each others time-zone. Alternately there are those who prefer night/evening work anyway. I think cross-language is more of an issue, even English/American is enough to cause confusion, and that is when both parties, can easily correct each others mistakes.
Trying to get a programmer to pick up the bricks isn’t easy. Even if the whole project has been well documented, the new developer has to get up to speed, which is time they are not developing your project. Based on your story I don’t trust any of the developers to have properly documented and commented all their code, so you know need someone to essentially reverse-engineer it.
You (possibly)don’t have an amazing almost built just needs finishing product, you quite possibly have a dilapidated wreck, built by cowboy builders.
You may be better off tearing down the whole thing and building anew so to speak.
I also get the impression (perhaps erroneously)your trying to sell enterprise software. That is a whole extra level of difficulty(to borrow an Americanism, a “whole ‘nother ball game”)
That’s not the same as selling software to enterprises, a vital but important distinction. Where with non-native speakers of English you could easily

I’m guessing your looking for something built on top of something like this below, although it’s possible I’m wrong and you could pair your MVP down even more. I can’t tell without specifics.
Finally I really hope you get your money back.

Ahmad Iqbal Principal Software Engineer at Aurora Solutions

February 16th, 2017

Hello Mighty,

Just wanted to give my two cents worth.

I am a software architect in my company, and we have successfully worked with various other companies and individuals with their software MVPs and beyond.

I do know there are a lot of skilled technical people in the industry, however there may also be those that lack either technically or in terms of project management, as has been your experience.

Your story does seem like a string of bad luck. I am curious to know though, is there a high level of complexity in your project, either in the business domain, or the technical requirements? Your first story does seem to be quite unfortunate, especially since you've mentioned the company had a portfolio that matched your project.

I suppose a couple of measures can be taken to avoid such project woes. Development can be done in an agile manner with frequent milestones which have some tangible output. And secondly, more frequent communication with the project team, at least at the beginning of the project. Both can help ensure there isn't a rift between targets and actual progress, and can at the very least be an early warning sign for where the project might be heading.

Chicke Fitzgerald 𝗘𝗻𝗴𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗳𝗼𝗰𝘂𝘀 𝗼𝗻 𝗴𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴. 💡 I zig where others zag #͏z͏i͏g͏w͏i͏t͏h͏c͏h͏i͏c͏k͏e

February 16th, 2017

Unfortunately many of us have this same story, different names and faces, same result. I agree with Ron, you can't go for "cheap" as your guide.

I am working with some offshore firms to try to get them to develop a proper incubator support group that actually takes equity and/or a revenue share on the product that they help to build. In my vision, the senior developers are asked to join this elite group that can earn over and above hourly rates and become a part of the entrepreneur's team. The development firm would also be able to earn equity/rev share. This isn't a replacement model, but an adjunct to give their teams a growth path and keep them from being poached by other firms that pay more.

Development is a commodity if this problem cannot be solved. For those of you that run development shops, you are on a treadmill that consists of only being able to make as much as you have hours of staff. Ask yourself how much unbillable time do you have and do an experiment and take on one experimental project. Buy in to what you client is doing with those hours and teach your team to think like an owner.

Sebastian Pereyro

Last updated on February 16th, 2017

Migthy I think you are learning! this thing about building MVPs is not as easy as you might think. Sometimes requires a lot of time and effort on your own, and if you do not want that to happen for the 4th, 5th or 6th, you must explain everything in detail, and multiple times, and write it down, and review it, and meet with the team regularly, and constantly review that the project is going in the direction you are envisioning as you make progress. That work needs to be done, either you are technical or not. I would start by indentifying what didn't work from previous experiences, define a real MVP, not an MVP that looks like Facebook..and it will take years to build, it should not take more than 3 months to build your first MVP. Sometimes teams are not as good as they say they are, some times the project owner doesn't know what he wants, sometimes is both, but with hard work and great communication and humility, you can get your desired product in time and budget.

David VomLehn Why would you prefer a computer that breaks?

February 16th, 2017

If you have a business plan that continues to make sense, don't lose hope. Some suggestions:

  • A tough criticism: you said something telling--"I dread having to explain my project in detail to yet another person..." This suggests that, in three engagements, you failed to write down a description of what you want built and a design overview. You need to do the first and participate in the second. Without these nobody, including you, have anyway to track what's going on.
  • A reality check: most programmers hate writing things in English. You need to work in concert with them on the design overview both to make sure it gets done and that the result is comprehensible.
  • I know lots of people love the savings from offshoring. They don't mention that there is a huge cost from working long distance in different time zones. Personally, I think anyone who does development of their crown jewel software offshore, at least before its been released for a while is ignoring basic human relations. Whether the problem is language, infrequent contact, loss of opportunity to simply sit down over coffee and a whiteboard and explain things, or outright theft of your product, there is too much risk for my preferences. Once the corporate culture is in place, the product launched and making money, and a corporate identify established, then you can look to save money by offshoring.
  • Software is complex. Even a very ordinary product has more pieces than any mechanical device ever built. This means that software engineers, who are generally hopeless optimists, unable to do a very good job of predicting when things will be done or how it will really work. So, you need an experienced software developer to lead the product development, someone good technically and with good people skills. Secondly, if your product will interact with people and probably even if it won't, some variant of an agile approach is a good idea. At its core, it means you development a little, evaluate a little, design a little, then repeat the process. Otherwise, it's a little like shooting a bullet and not knowing where it went until it hits something.

Best of luck!