User Experience Design · Design

Would you use an agency to design and build your MVP?


May 22nd, 2014

Would you outsource to an agency (like to design your MVP over trying to find FT talent.  I keep seeing the struggle for good designers and wonder if people are willing to use agencies to get through the first iteration of their product.  

Rob G

May 23rd, 2014

some form of MVP is better than none. I would outsource and work on product/market fit while looking for FT resources in parallel.  


May 23rd, 2014

Yes for a few reasons:

a) good designers are extremely difficult to find so if you like their work then that's a strong start -- it seems significantly more difficult finding great designers than finding engineers for most web startups

b) right now, the best designers are very secure in their jobs or are very secure in their freelancing arrangements. more than almost any other discipline that would be valuable in a startup, I don't see that many designers keen to get in on early stage startup action.

c) if the design firm is doing design + front-end, it's 2x the vote. Communication from designer to front-end to backend can be really challenging -- so getting a design shop that can do more than deliver PSDs is very desirable. If the design firm is just doing designs, make sure their process is tight -- i.e. they need to hand over everything perfect for developers to work from (great grids, style guides, icon-fonts, clear interaction guidelines, responsive designs if you need them... the list is long). 

d) design work comes in ebbs and flows -- it'd be nice to have an FT designer on the team but do you NEED one at day 1? usually, one doesn't (there are exceptions of course)

Twice, I had designer cofounders and that was great -- in one case, that extended to front-end coding, and made the difference between success and failure. In most recent project, I reviewed literally hundreds of designers and tested 12 or more designers. Eventually found one who has freelanced. It only works because his process is great and even then, it's a struggle. 

Aji Abraham Proven Tech Cofounder, open to new ventures

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

In an ideal case, you find a talented and skillful technical founder and other founders. All of you sit in a room and start working on different aspects of the startup.

In reality finding fulltime talent to develop an MVP might be harder. Most talented developers have more work than they can handle. You might be able to find some freelancers or part time developers. You need to hire somebody to do product, UI, testing and project management roles. If you can take care of few of those roles, great.

So the question becomes how long an entrepreneur should wait to get the ideal team? It is upto each individual. I am a firm believer that a good solution today is worth more than a great solution later.

Good luck with your ventures. Start building.

Steve Owens Startup Expert

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

Outsourcing is no different in hiring someone full time in that if you pick the wrong person/company, or you do not manage them correctly, they will perform poorly.

The choice to outsource has little to do with quality - they both can, and do produce the same average quality. The choice to outsource has more to do with what type of company you are.

If you are small company with product turns every 5+ years, you can not afford to have a bunch of engineers sitting around eating up the fixed cost line - you hire a firm like ours for the 6 months it takes to develop the product.

If you are pre-funded start up, you have no choice but to work with a company that will accept "in kind" payment - again a company, not full time employees.

If you are a funded company, you have no time to put a team together with CAD, lab, processes, etc - you hire a company, and they start the next day - likely they already started with "in kind" work.

If your a big company, you already have a big team, with a LAB, lots of CAD and plenty of mature procedures. You do not need a product development company.

To answer the original question, yes company do hire product development companies. We have been in business for 12 years, done more than 1,000 project for over 200 customers. There are plenty of other companies just like us.

Kirsten Minshall Founder of UVD and CTO at Limpid Markets

Last updated on December 3rd, 2018

You know what the hardest thing about running a technology business is? Getting the right people, with the right experience and the commitment to make it happen. Doesn't matter if you're looking to outsource or to build a full-time team. We work with several startups on some pretty innovative products and they wouldn't have dared to build their own team because you know what? Not all entrepreneurs know where to start or how to recruit the right people and quite frankly, getting a team to work together - self organising being the holy grail of Agile and Lean - is hard, takes time and costs A LOT of money. So why not choose a company who are there already, one with a successful history of working with startups and product development, one that's learnt many of the hard lessons along the way and can help the same mistakes been made over and over again?

It's not for everyone but if you get therightteam, you could save a lot of pain.

Monica Zent Founder, CEO, Investor; Board Member, Advisor

May 23rd, 2014

I did and it was the biggest mistake of my life. (Feel free to reach out to me for the details, names to avoid). It was an absolute disaster with those guys. I have had to hire other developers (and was fortunate to find great ones). In retrospect, I would not have gone that route and never will in the future. Good luck to you!

Mehrad Karamlou User Experience Architect at Focal Healthcare

May 26th, 2014

Great topic. I  am working with a 3rd party team of designers and developers in Toronto that do exactly what you mentioned. I have not started my own start up this way, but I can see how I could have benefited from such development strategy. If you cannot get your hands on good designers and developers (and that's what you need) leaving that bit to others and focusing on business and marketing is the way to go.  

Dan Hubbard Founder, www.FocusedAgility.Solutions/

March 27th, 2018

There is no way to provide an answer to this question. It would depend entirely upon what the "MVP" is.

Daniel Weisman Head of Office at The Weisman Family Foundation

May 22nd, 2014

It's definitely worth consideration, but the devil is always in the details.

Apple chose IDEO for a reason. And yet, they also have Jony Ive... having at least one person with good design experience in house is essential IMO, even if you outsource for MVP.

Nikhil Gupta Product Management & Business Leader

May 22nd, 2014

Interesting topic... two questions 1. Will investors be interested to give you money when you go to a 3rd party company like this instead of FT 2. How do you trust 3rd party for intellectual property... anyone who has done this and can share experience.. i know more companies like this.. just curious applicability to a new venture..