Marketing · Marketing Strategy

swapping expertise to move startups forward

John Zhu Can help MVP development in exchange of sales expertise

September 13th, 2017

I would like solicit opinions/experience from entrepreneurs about swapping services as a way of acquiring expertise in order to move your startup forward.

I have seen a lot of founders struggling to find technical expertise to get their dream products/service off the ground. On the other hand, a lot of developer founder are experiencing hard time of marketing and selling their products. I wondering if anyone has tried swapping services. e.g. I give you 20 hours/week to get your development work started and you get my online marketing off the ground.

I am a developer who tried for a long time to find sales/marketing cofounder(s). I am now thinking if service swap is a possibility. If you have any advice and/or experience, may you share? If you are interested, please let me know.

David M

September 14th, 2017

Oladapo voiced my concerns. I have met a number of startup entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs want to call themselves "serial" because it sounds cool right? :) But most entrepreneurs in fact just are not. A serial entrepreneur is constantly looking for the cross collatarilzation element and thrives on it. Hes the type who after he shares his share yours and he is just as excited about yours as his. Most you will notice will quickly start daydreaming and not share your passion. That is because they are one trick ponies..nothing wrong with that. You just have to recognize as to not waste your own energy or excitement on them. But for the serial Ent, your concept could work. I can do better with 5 companies than with one because I see the ability to connect the dots. Most I meat just cant juggle all the connector points...where I thrive, they have pannic attacks. Also as Oladapo points out, most entrepreneurs only care about their "baby." They are very self absorbed and self centered to their company which is one reason SOOO many fail...they have blinders on to their world and opportunities beyond them and their company which are often the very needed elements for success.

The quickest way to get people marketing or selling your product is to offer them commission and vest them into your company. sell the infamous widget. You believe in it but you cant pay sales or marketing guys. So...say "Hey I will offer you 25% of every widget sold, and if you sell 10k units, I will write you into non dilutable equity of x percent." Just don't give away more than you dont want to lose money selling your product..or lose your company.

John Zhu Can help MVP development in exchange of sales expertise

September 18th, 2017

Thanks to those who commented on my post.

Quite a few posts I have been following have to do with "how to find a tech cofounder for an MVP?" or "should I find a tech cofounder or should I hire an agency?". This indicates to me that a lot entrepreneurs need some development help in order to move their startup forward. On the other hand, a lot of tech people are agonizing for lack of progress of market and sales developments -- I am, for one, in this situation.

So I have a concrete suggestion to those who are good at sales and are looking for some technical help: why don't you help me get N customers (I am selling to restaurants) in your area, or help me in local SEO. In return, I will do a piece of clearly defined technical work to move your projects forward.

I agree that such a mechanism is no a substitute to having cofounders. However, I believe It could be a viable pathway to that end. To be honest, when I hear someone ask the question: "should I find a CIO or outsource to agency?", I know the person is NOT ready for a cofounder. However, if he/she has a viable business design and can help me, I maybe able to help him/her go over a few early technical huddles.

Although such a mechanism does not bring in cofounders (tech or business) as everyone wants, it does put a few lucky ones in good positions to do so.

Dapo Oremade Founder of AssignmentMe/ Co-founder of NachoBirthday

September 13th, 2017

I think it is an interesting concept, and in theory will solve some of the founder/co-founder limitation. The challenge that jumps out to me though is the passion for your start-up that makes you give it a 100% vs another job. Swapping service can easily fall into another 20 hours of work vs "my baby". Except if there is a way to measure the quota/value of your work to the other founder and vice-versa. As a developer, it might take you 2 weeks to achieve something someone without the knowledge believes should take 2-3 days. So if there is a good metric measurement of value of work it might be worth a shot.

Pankaj NAURIYAL Looking for a full stack "rock star" developer

September 14th, 2017

Hi John, Good idea but not applicable to startups in my opinion. Developers, Designers, Marketers, Founders join startups because they believe and buy into the vision of what is being built. Smart ones weigh the team, its ability to execute and must agree with the success factors. Their reward is the potential upside if successfully executed. Its a longer term commitment.

"Swapping services" to fill in the gaps which you lack is a good short term approach which may work for some tasks (such as legal work). But for tasks, which are core to the startup's survival and continuity (like product development), you need committed teammates.

I am in a similar situation right now. I am the founder of a four month old SaaS startup. Have put together a core team. Have built an MVP. We are talking with perspective customers to get the product / market fit feedback. As our needs are evolving, I am looking for a hands on developer / CTO to join the core team but am having a hard time finding one. Although I can offer to swap my entrepreneurial acumen and BizDev expertise, I don't think I will be able to swap back a seasoned, hands-on developer to meet our needs.

So I must recruit and I am continuing to do so. If you or anyone you know is a driven, results oriented software developer with a background in cloud services, and is looking to join a startup, please feel free to reach out to me.


Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

September 15th, 2017

This is something you will find highly encouraged in many co-working spaces. If you're in an environment where you find many different people close by that have complimentary skills, it does have some benefit to barter services. If you have to go out and seek people to barter with from the general business public, this is more likely to be a waste of time because these more established businesses who have permanent offices don't have nearly the same need to or interest in barter, they have paying clients.

One of the advantages of barter is that you don't pay "retail" for other services, you often trade for time. It depends on the situation of course. Not every person whose services are expensive to customers will expect to barter based on price, though some will. A lawyer who can bill at $300/hr might not consider their hour equal to a developer who bills at $85/hr.

Again, barter is fine when available, but if you're not immediately adjacent to the person you want to trade with, offers to barter may be seen as insulting. It's a cultural thing.

Manoj Sharma Successful networker

September 14th, 2017

Kalum Kris CEO

September 14th, 2017

Hi John,

Very good idea! What are you trying to market?