Minimum Viable Product · Odesk

Odesk for an MVP ?

Maïté Grisard Field marketing expert

September 16th, 2013

Hey all,

I got my MVP, working now on wireframes but I don't have a technical co-founder (yet). 

So I am thinking about using Odesk. 

Anyone got experience using that platform ? Any tips on what to do and not to do ? 

Thank you!



September 16th, 2013

I'm a developer, I build MVPs for people and I just recently put up a profile on oDesk.

Here is my honest behavior when I browse available jobs on oDesk.

•  I've never applied for a gig that with a fixed-price structure.
•  I've never applied for a gig that I think will amount to less than $3,000
•  I've never applied for a gig that requires performing a test.
•  I've never applied for a gig that requires answering a ton of questions.
•  I don't apply to jobs that I personally find uninteresting, or jobs that I feel have weak business models.  I want to work on something with potential because life is too short to do uninteresting things, and perhaps I secretly want to be more than just a contract programmer one day.
•  I like when a Job Post asks if I have any general ideas about the project.  This makes me feel like I'm working with someone and not for someone.  It gives me a chance to demonstrate I am more of a teammate than a disembodied contractor.  Plus, if their idea is poor, this makes me feel I can contribute ideas, to improve the product, and give myself something more interesting to work on.  In my opinion, great ideas come from people with deep knowledge in specific areas.  If you are building software without a technical background, brainstorming should be done with your developer.  Ask them about everything because you are at a disadvantage.   These days, a lot of the great entrepreneurs are developers themselves.  They know how to think when it comes to building software.  If you want to compete with them, you better have good help.  

An example is this project (on a development server so it might take 20 seconds to load) which I was recently hired to build on oDesk and have put in only 80 hours of work thus far.  It simply queries the Amazon database and allows people to put products in groups.  It's an affiliate marketing business model.  I think it's going to be very cool, and the owners of the project are super excited about it.  However, their original idea was completely different (it was a boring and generic commerce site).  Yet, they were open to ideas, I felt comfortable enough with them to contribute and entirely new concept, and now we're going to have a much more interesting product.

Best of luck to you with your project!

Kindest regards,


Jonathan Saft

September 16th, 2013

Be as detailed as humanly possible. I've had two bad experiences using Elance that were caused mainly by issues in communication. Sent from my iPhone

Malcolm F. Current Obsessions: Ultralight travel & tackling the problem of ocean plastics

September 16th, 2013

I was in a similar situation and I decided to go the oDesk route. I am currently working on an MVP with a great developer but it took 2 tries. 

My approach and experience:
•have detailed specs and a clear plan of attack
•Find someone that can do everything. The 1st time I tried working with separate back-end and front end devs and the schedule coordination led to a disaster almost immediately.
•Don't take hourly rates at face value. The current developer costs about 3x the amount of the 1st but his work is at least 3x better and his communication skills 100x meaning we get a lot more done than 3x with a whole lot less stress on my end.
•When looking for potential developers I...
-only look at near perfect 5 star ratings. 1 bad review is 1 too many to take a chance on.
-set up calls with multiple candidates and do a thorough interview
-I only considered candidates that worked as full-time freelancers(vs. moonlighting)
And the biggest piece of advice I can give:
•With the current developer we agreed to do a "discovery phase" in which he created a doc outlining the full technology stack he would use and justifications for each choice. I took the risk of paying for this time but I think it's totally worth it. Then, being non-technical myself, I presented the findings to 3 developer friends that acted as unofficial "technical advisors". They all gave the plan rave reviews and confirmed that I had found the right partner. 

Still a little while until the MVP is ready but so far so good!

I hope that helps.

John Pettus Founder at Fiskkit

September 22nd, 2013


I have just gone through this exact experience and have had good success with the developer I got through ODesk. If you want to have a look, we just soft-launched on IndieGoGo and are going full-launch on Tuesday. 

You can see screen caps of the tool she built both in the video and some stills in the Media Gallery tab at top. 

Some advice from my experience:

2) Write up their proposed technology stack and explain why they made the choices they did
3) Propose a workplan, with milestones and estimates
4) Code up a single page from a wireframe, with some basic functionality. 

At the rates I was getting on ODesk, it was going to cost only about $750 for the test phase. But it saved me a whole lot more than that. 
One guy was fronting a group and didn't follow my instructions. He put in 30 hours (said he'd only charge me for 10) and did a good job on the page. He never turned in the tech or work plans.
Another guy (with ridiculous qualifications), didn't hit the deadline, didn't seem to be working on it. Then he emailed me the night before the deadline to say that he had been sick and could he have an extension. I gave him another couple days and he sent me a file that I couldn't open with a browser. No tech or work plan. 

Then I got a 2 page tech plan, a big MSFT Project Gantt chart, and a page of working code from a woman in Sri Lanka, who would email me every couple days with clarifications. Her page looked the worst, but that's because she followed directions and crammed it into 10 hours. And she did her homework and took the time to make sure she understood me.

So my takeaway for you is this: You can do it. Run a process. Put a PREMIUM on communication skills, because you'll be emailing back and forth and miscommunication will cost you a lot. You want someone who doesn't assume, but instead asks questions to make sure she knows what you want. 

Things are going great for us and we just hit 35% funding at before we've even hard--launched. I'm looking forward to my ODesk Developer taking us all the way to completion of MVP some time in February. 

Feel free to ping me with any other questions. Happy to help.

Aravind Nirmal Kumar Formally Informal

September 16th, 2013

Yes odesk is good, but you may try as well.

Maïté Grisard Field marketing expert

September 16th, 2013

Well I do have some code academy badges ! ;)
I know it's a bit tricky but the more I have done the better chance I have getting a co-founder who knows I m serious about this. 
The MVP needs to be functional, design can be minimal at first I guess... beautiful is always better but I m picking my battles ... one at a time.

Meghan Conroy

September 16th, 2013

may - do you want it to be cut into CSS - or does it need to be functional? I am wary of outsourcing - when you can not check code - from experience.

Ranjit Sawant Product Management and Marketing at Vaayoo Inc

September 16th, 2013


Check out Vaayoo does exactly what you want but without the. Hassles of managing individual contractors/Ux designers/tester etc..

Entrepreneurs come to vaayoo with ideas. Product managers from vaayoo then brainstorm the ideas with entrepreuners giving feedback on business model , market etc. Vaayoo then engages its award winning designers to come with UI designs and iterate those designs with the entrepreneur. Once the designs are approved by the entrepreuner vaayoo engages a team of developers and testers to develop the application iteratively within 6 to 8 weeks. The Entrepreuneur tests the app continuously giving feedback.

All this is done at low monthly costs which the entrepreuner starts paying after he accepts the final build. The low monthly costs include feature upgrades, hosting ,bug fixes etc. Vaayoo acts as a CTO office taking care of all technology issues. You don't have to worry about hiring right dev, test, or some one leaving etc..Vaayoo has launched about 22 startups with ideas from dev, architects, pilots, sales men, teachers, businessmen etc. 

If the idea does not work in the market you stop paying vaayoo and you move on to the next idea. This way you have lowest costs and low risks. 

Send me email if you want to discuss further:



Maïté Grisard Field marketing expert

September 16th, 2013

Great thank you all for this ! 

I'll check that out!


September 16th, 2013

It's very common for people to first try a low-rate developer, then 'learn the lesson' that cheap developers are expensive. However, there are market rates for good developers and for each skill there is a sweet spot range that you should be paying. Also, don't worry too much about occasional bad reviews - there are as many bad clients as their are developers and good developers will occasionally get bad reviews. Look for steady volume of solid reviews, instead.