I would love to hear about how others worked with developers and how to avoid common mistakes. Has anyone tried Shakuro.com? Alternatively, are there any highly customizable easy to use programs that allow one to design their own app in a way that would be worth trying?
If your startup's functionality is more of e-commerce functionality you could try using WooCommerce (https://woocommerce.com) OR Shopify (https://www.shopify.com), it's pretty easy to setup but you may need a developer to integrate some advance features.
However, if you need extra functionalities you may consider hiring a developer, Upwork (http://upwork.com) is a good place to find good developers but in terms of partnership, I can't really tell, but I think most developers in Upwork are in for the cash, i.e you give them the full concept of what you want to build/develop, then after completion you activate the payment in upwork, also upwork will allow you to split project into milestones, check it out, it's pretty easy.
But make sure you verify that the developer is competent and can deliver on time before hiring.
I'm a web/app developer, you can contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org for more insight or partnership.
Have you developed the concept and have wireframes to review? Based on your need you can use a site like UpWork and contract with an app developer. I have used the site and found individuals to complete an app.
Congratulation to you for readying for a real venture: your app.
Websites such as Upwork are for the projects which have had "everything except xxx", then you go there for specific skill "xxx". They are NOT for the projects whose stakeholders (such as you) have had nothing but a business idea and a few scatches on paper or in ppt.
If you don't know much about software development, you are likely to lose money without accomplishing your objective by just hiring/partnering with a developer.
My suggestion is "implementing your business idea by serving a few customers by hand and simple tools". I always use eBay as the example: its founder started the venture by soliciting "things for sale" from sellers via emails and sent "things for sale" emails to a list of subscribers. This method can be applied to most (if not all) ideas of new business services.
If you can pass "manual validation" phase, and still decide to develop the app, you should find a partner (not hire a developer yet) who knows your business concept (your requirement) thoroughly and who is highly experienced in software development. This partner can do the work himself as well as knowing how to work with others to accomplish the objective.
If you want to know why hiring a developer is likely a money drain unless you know software development inside-out, please drop me a note. I'll be happy to explain, but it is going to be long and boring.
Best luck to you and your venture!
Let me show you a couple of steps that will help you to choose the right developers:
1) Set up a call to discuss your product.
The right developers will discuss ways they build the app which will solve your problem.
2) Get a rough estimate of features you want to build.
Pay attention to how they discuss requirements. They will be talking to you until they clarify some hidden points and industry aspects. That's the point which shows their quality.
3) Ask how the development process will look like.
From my experience, communication skills play a huge role as the startup should be flexible for changes. Clarify if they are going to talk to you every week (or even every day) and discuss next steps.
In my opinion, communication and task management process should be transparent and well organized. The companies which work in this way will bring you more value because you will be involved in the process and understand what's going on.
As about programs for designing your own app, it depends on the app complexity. In some cases, you can create video MVP or Concierge MVP without hiring developers. On the other hand, you may hire developers to build an MVP with the main functionality.
With the MVP, you will be able to prove the idea to decide either to move forward with this idea or not.
Drop me a line if you need any assistance in product development strategy.