Business Development · Business model

Is there space for consultancy services to startups for non-tech founders?

Rafael Miranda

January 20th, 2016

I'm running a web development firm in Sao Paulo (Brazil) for 12 years. The last 5 years we're focused on helping entrepreneurs to build digital business startups. We've been successful, we launched 5 new startups last year, couple of them are receiving great investments and we're receiving good feedback from these entrepreneurs.

What we're doing is basically our web services but with a good consultancy stage before, helping entrepreneurs to improve their ideas for digital environment. This is especially useful for ideas from real world which need to be translated to digital, but from founders without technical skills.

This is my scenario here in Brazil, but I want to know if there is space for my business model in other countries, especially Canada, where I want to open a branch very soon.

Do you know other businesses like mine? How do you see this approach in your country?

Rob G

January 20th, 2016

@ Rafael; US tech companies and many tech startups are used to outsourcing.  We are also used to poor results when we outsource.   THE #1 issue is "common understanding" - and understanding of how work gets done in the US/Canada. This is closely tied to "trust and transparency" followed closely by "efficiency".  I realize these are somewhat nebulous terms, but i have a lot of experience with off-shore development.  I can reference 100 cases where startup projects were outsourced, to off-shore development firms, that failed in the customer's eyes because expectations were not met.  In my experience the common thread is a lack of understanding/cultural understanding of how business gets done in the US - Canada is pretty similar in my experience.  So focus on really understanding how business gets done here.   The best way to do that is to spend time here (or Canada in your case) to 'live' the local business experience then take that back home.  When you can show US/Canadian customers that you "get it" then the business will follow.  Understand that your primary advantage is cost so if you can provide high quality (by US standards) services at an attractive price you will have all the business you can handle. happy to chat offline if you have questions. 


January 20th, 2016

Hi Rafael,

My 10 cents...

I am that classic no-tech start-up boss who has just spent 12 months working with a digital agency in London to build an MVP and BETA. All good except a slow dawning sense that we should have committed to build an in-house team from the get-go (it's difficult for an outside resource to feel any sense of real commitment); then there's the issue of IP (which have managed to cover via full legals)l and, finally, there is investor perception, which in itself is linked to IP.

So there may be other start-ups, like us, who will only wish to outsource as a last resort, if we were to go through the same process again.

I wish you luck, anyway...

Akshay Rangnekar Co-Founder and CTO at Source - Lifestyle at your fingertips

January 20th, 2016

Hi Rafael,

I've been doing a very similar business for a couple of years in London - I think your response to Mark and AJ is absolutely on point and the biggest challenge that I see. 

We're not an agency, and we think that working with agencies or development body-shops is often a route to failure for non-technical entrepreneurs. I launched YComplex exactly because I saw business school classmates and McKinsey colleagues spending way to much money getting a product out the door. 

I think there's a massive opportunity out there, helping people who have the ability to execute to build tech-enabled businesses. In my experience so far, the people that see the difference between what you're offering and what they can get from an agency are the ones who typically have the capability to execute on the rest of the business. 

Andria Younger, MA

January 20th, 2016

Hi Rafael,

I'm a personal branding strategist. My clients are entrepreneurs, founders, consultants who are branding and positing themselves as paid experts.  There is definitely a need in helping them build a digital business at an affordable price point.  Most of them are not tech or digital savvy, I really like you include the consulting.    A lot of entrepreneurs and paid experts leave money on the table because they don't understand the importance of creating a solid foundation to drive their branding, marketing, digital strategies to grow their business.   



January 20th, 2016

See the non-profit that my friend Janine Warner has started to provide digital expertise to media organizations and entrepreneurs

Gerry DeSeve President, Climateon

January 20th, 2016

Rafel, does something very similar in India. Best of luck with your venture! Gerry - Gerry DeSeve President Climateon, PBC p. (267) 516-8532 e. t. @Climateonpbc

Haider Alleg Managing Director at Kainjoo

January 21st, 2016

From a Switzerland point of view, this side of the business is still fresh. Many entrepreneurs can have ideas, funds but not the proper help to grow. This is why a lot of them go to other countries to accelerate (the market size is not helping if volume is your thing). On the other hand, we helped startups working in Switzerland to conquer the closest countries such as Germany, France and Italy, and depending on the product, it can be sometimes even better to prepare the company for a multicultural setup. Accelerating in the US would be then still doable via the UK. So if you are looking for new business in the area, I guess the Swiss market is good, and the sea is still big enough to welcome a new fish.

Marilyn Tullius Opportunity Strategist/Advocator at Delta Strategies for Marketing | Ace Words Etc.

January 23rd, 2016

I'll echo Andria Younger's comment. As a branding professional, she covered priority issues. Two more though, Rafael: How about forgetting "countries" and thinking instead of a few select hubs, or cities, preferably leading in tech app breakthroughs. You might look to Europe, India, U.S. and Asia to find specific centers where the new thinking is bubbling up. Concentrating on a fast-paced hub or two can keep you on the edge of innovation. Second issue is that when a prospective client expresses the need for a web presence, realize that this may be the only form they know to articulate their need, depending on their level of naivety. From your initial web conversation, you may need to move forward with educating the client, and you may benefit from building your front end consulting into the scope of work as a mandatory requirement. I don't see how you can develop a quality result without this, which might encompass identity, name, logo, USP, UX research, market research, competitive trending, future opportunity analysis and branding.

Dinesh Agarwal

February 16th, 2016

Thanks Gerry for mentioning (I'm the founder). 

@Rafael, we have seen great success while working with clients across the world. We have worked with people in America, Europe and Asia. I don't think communication and proximity is a big issue in our line of business as long as you choose the right people. We usually write off the IP to the company and always take equity in the final product so that way our long term interests are always aligned. 

- Dinesh

Mark Wing Client Engagement Director at Small Back Room

January 20th, 2016

This is common practice in the UK. Indeed, my own business covers similar offerings. As far as I am aware it is the same story in Canada, where we have had a couple of clients in recent years. The thing you need to be aware of is that some of the ground you cover is also offered by national and local government initiatives/incentives. These will vary from country to country, but worth investigating as you may even be able to tap into and/or provide services as part of their framework agreement.