IOS Development · Contractors

iOS app development: Hire in or contract a company?

Ken Banks Founder of | FrontlineSMS | Means of Exchange

July 28th, 2015

I'm close to securing an angel investment of $100k to build a working prototype of a mobile giving app. This is going to be a six month project and the budgets work, but are tight. I'm in the UK so have exchange rates to navigate as a starting point.

I was wondering if anyone had any experience/thoughts on whether I'd be better hiring a talented iOS developer and have them working for me in-house (bearing in mind ongoing costs and tax contributions for staff), or contracting the work to an iOS app development company? With a staff member I know I'd have their full-time attention for six months (with the option of them staying on once we get further investment), but with a company I'd have access to a wider team and resources.

Any help weighing up the pros and cons welcome. Thanks.

Lucy Kovalchuk Recruitment services

Last updated on May 1st, 2018

Dear Ken,

It's a really difficult decision. As an owner, you want to control and track all tasks that are in a progress at the same time you can't be always divided into the development process because you need pay attention to marketing and sales issues to make your app more profitable.

I guess an appropriate way is to find a good development partner, whom you believe and may trust. This task is difficult also, but it helps you to make your work more efficient and easier.

Cheers, Liudmyla

Andrasz Husti Co-founder at Begemot-Begemot app dev company

July 28th, 2015

I believe Mr. Webster has had a rough time with outsources, and I do sympathize. Yet, I strongly disagree. Outsourcers differ. What Mr. Webster is referring to is the kind of work a very young outsourcing team or a freelancer would provide. The more experienced a company gets, the better they are with documentation, expertise, UI/UX, etc.

I myself have an outsourcing company (we make mobile apps). Clients had never stuck with us untill we started seeing their products as our own, warning them whenever there might be a critical situation or a mistake on their behalf, making sure they fit in their budget and deadlines. This is what differentiates a good outsourcing company from a lousy one.

My take on this issue is that each entrepreneur should have the full experience: work with a freelancer, lose faith and money, work with a cheap outsourcing company, lose faith and money, and hire an in-house team, lose a lot of money :) In other words, you have to find out for yourself what good quality in IT means and what it takes to provide it. In my experience, this knowledge always costs a lot. At least, a lot more that you expect.  

I suggest finding a good team you think you can trust, hire them for an MVP and then take it from there. If your product takes off, great: you start hiring a team. And please, start with a product manager with a lot of experience. This will save you tones of money and time. Or you can continue with the outsourcing team if you have enough money and you like their work.

I hope this helped.

Paul Haris Business Development manager at mindinvetory

Last updated on October 3rd, 2018

The world is changing with the arise of smart phones. Next generation is looking the world with eyes of smart phone applications. Facebook is connecting next door friends and whatsapp is taking the communicator role between groups. People find it more important to play with smart phone rather than meeting their buddies face to face.

With popularity of applications, smart phone users are coming up with their own unique ideas and few are capable enough to change the world. The question is who develop this applications/ games and what is quality? Off course, answer is an iOS developer but it is very important to know that he is working on his own or he is working in an organization.

The answer of the above question will decide future of application. The developer who works for his own is a Freelancer, his own boss. There is no one to control him, no one to ask him, no one to help him. Now when this happens, off course there would be issues coming when he develop the application and that will make sure that your application is delayed or never completed. What is next step for you now?

Noah Webster Co-Founder at Joir

July 28th, 2015

You can outsource if and come out ahead if you know how to produce good documentation. In my experience that is where outsourcing works: giving exactly what you want to the company. They will not solve problems for you, or point out design issues; that comes from in-house expertise. But as you said, they can give you a much larger pool of talent and options to pull from.

Personally I'd hire someone in house. It gives you someone who could grow with the company, and you could give them a mix of cash/equity on a vesting schedule to lower your total cash flow costs, and at the end of the 6 months have in-house expertise on board.

Salman Iftikhar CoFounder RagTag , Entrepreneurship

Last updated on October 3rd, 2018

I hope you are doing good. Every startup went through this same phase as I am currently helping many as tentative CTO. Here is a million dollar tip: Act smartly not emotionally. Outsource it to company and get your MVP done to secure funding for next round. If you got funds then only hire in-house team for future work. Keep getting support from outsourcing company unless your team is fully trained.

Diego Fiorentin

July 28th, 2015

Hi Ken,

my recommendation is to outsource,
you should focus on the biz development, not in running a software factory. 

If you want I can provide you with referrals.


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

Last updated on October 3rd, 2018

both options are doable; though you've to figure which one suits your current management bandwidth and costs; I run an app development company (serving customers like you), and let me tell you that it is easier said than done to hire and retain talented developers, for any technology and since mobiles are hot these days, it has only become tougher.

Now, coming to facts - outsourcing to an offshore mid size app development company like us would cost you $ 15 to 25 K for a 6 months' longer project (assuming it involves only 1 or maximum 2 resources); the same campaign in house would cost you at least $ 40 K along with other expenses and management burden.

While it apparently gives you more flexibility in terms of managing changes, do iterations when you've an inhouse team; you can gain the same by properly managing the offshore team as well; just you need to be more communicative, planned, and good on documents. We, the offshore guys can also understand your concepts and goals (doing so already offcourse) and convert them into quality weekly releases; but you would need to work as a team owner.

One more advantage of outsourcing to a company (not just an developer) is that you'd interact with not only the developer doing the code but also with a solution architect of that company who is mostly a seasoned techno-commercial guy doing all sort of non-code but important things for you; like doing R&D for the right SMS gateway system, proposing you best options for payment gateway, or suggesting you right kind of backend system etc. Apart from that, the same guy would be managing the grunt part of the development management; keeping the backup resource, maintaining repos, handling change orders; spending hours with you on skype and what not.

So, the overall package that a professional company can give is not comparable with having an inhouse developer, except the only fact that the latter is sitting near to you.

You may better hire a CTO (if you are not the one technical), who can manage the development team (be it your inhouse or an outsourced one).

Also, reconsidering having inhouse team and infra if you don't have solid longer dev plans. I've worked with inhouse teams in India, US, and Singapore and also did outsourcing and now running an outsourcing company - managing internal team when you are a startup is sometimes more cumbersome than managing a professional vendor working for a fee.

In any case, the goal of your campaign should remain fulfilled; so choose your plan based on your requirements and not on the basis of what sounds cool.

Anton Trakht CEO at Kultprosvet Full Stack Web & Mobile Dev

July 29th, 2015

- In-house team member is always better if you have budget for this and the CTO who is able to interview the needed person.

- If you don't have the budget for in-house developer, but you have a good project manager, then the most efficient (cost&quality) is to hire out-staff developer. There are a lot of outstaffing teams in eastern Europe, so you can work in the same time zone.
- Hiring a company is something that is cheaper then having your own CTO, project manager and the developer, but it's not easy to find the one which can provide the required quality level.

Jesse Landry

July 28th, 2015


Just sent you a LinkedIn connect and note.

Have the perfect person to connect you to.

This isn't something I typically do here but felt you should at least know Karen.

Hoping we can link up.

Narjeet Soni Mobile Apps and eCommerce expert, Lean Startup and Agile evangelist , Entrepreneur, EU resident

July 28th, 2015

To ship a mobile app or for that matter any tech product - you would need a complete X-functional team - iOS/Android Developer, Backend developer, UX Designer, Usability expert, Functional Testers and Technical Architect. Now let's do some maths. You have $100K - Reserve 40% of this for marketing (never burn your cash on just development). You are left with $60K. Take your salary $12K. You are left with $48K. Now how many people can you really hire? Not a lot!

If you are validating, slice the product down to bare minimum. If you have managed such a product before good, else get a Co-Founder who can act as a Product Owner and can manage the offshore team. He should define all user stories and should know what deliverables to build, so that it's a smooth transition later from external team to internal. Bring him on some cash vs equity model. You will be left with $36K.

Get a good external team, who has experience with European customers - ask for references and check those references. Email them or call them or Give them a small test project of 2 weeks and see if it works out. 

Anybody who says Agile, Outsourcing, Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Social Marketing etc. doesn't work, is probably not doing it right. It sure is working for a lot of other people