So, you’ve come up with an absurdly cool idea, and now you’re wondering how to choose the right software developer for startups. Congratulations—and, we can help with that.
But first, a story: Goji Labs was founded while our founders, David and Adam, worked out of a (kombucha-filled) coworking space.
As they met their fellow coworking co-workers, they realized they were surrounded by brilliant founders with project ideas that were in trouble or paused due to technical issues.
Unfortunately, these founders had chosen the wrong developers and sunk precious initial resources into shoddily-built, unscalable, and unsustainable prototypes that were never able to gain traction.
Long story short, David and Adam began helping these founders out of their technical rock bottoms using their software and product backgrounds. They lovingly called these “rescue projects.”
And now, here we are today, hundreds of successful deployments and 30+ employees later, writing this very Goji Blog.
…So, how does a founder with little to no technical experience choose the right software developer?
Let’s find out.
The Role of the Initial Software Developer for Startups
Before we answer how to choose the right software developer, we should map out the goals of product and software development.
Generally, when a company is just starting, the goal is to produce a tangible, excellent MVP/MLP (minimum viable/lovable product) on a relatively quick and efficient timeline. The reason being is that when a company first starts off, it usually has very limited resources (time and $$).
Basically, if there is no investment, the team generally works for free. So, they’re forgoing income or taking a serious bite out of their lives by working a day job as they moonlight as founders.
Alternatively, if a company does have a seed investment, it is generally relatively small and precious, absolutely never to be squandered.
And, in both scenarios, much like the magnificent Bluefin Tuna, time and money are not sustainable resources.
The general beginning of companies is a revolving cycle of securing resources—the “Funding-Development Cycle,” if you would.
It goes like this: the better the pitch or initial product, the more traction, resources, and funding it will receive, the better the product will become, the more funding it will get, and so on.
Ergo, the founders’ initial goal should be to create a beautiful, sustainable, and scalable MVP in the most efficient timeline possible and choose the right software developer to build it.
The Risks of Choosing the
Wrong Software Developer for Startups
So, where did Goji Labs’ first “rescue projects” have their mishaps?
Generally, when they chose the wrong software developer. So, before we define the right software developer, we should define the wrong one.
The wrong software developer is:
Chosen under a “cost-minimization” mindset:
We often meet founders in technically-sticky situations who chose their developers under a “cost-minimization” mindset rather than of “resource-optimization.”
Basically, these founders invested their precious initial resources with the attitude of spending as little as possible or building the most functionality with as little capital as possible. This logic sounds intuitive, but it’s not right.
Instead, you should choose a developer who’ll build a high-quality, scalable, sustainable MVP that’s truly an MVP and MLP—emphasis on the “M” (i.e., minimum.).
That means isolating the most essential value-add functionalities of your product. Then, after you choose those, you should “ice-box” the rest for future development once you’ve gained traction and secured more funding.
We know everyone has to start somewhere. But, especially as you’re entrusting your baby with a development partner, they shouldn’t be learning on your dime.
That goes for subject-matter expertise as well. For example, if yours is a SaaS product, you want someone with experience building SaaS. Ergo, someone who is familiar with (and efficient in using) industry best practices.
One-time and short-term:
These are developers who are hired for a quick project/buck, who might not take the time to understand your long-term vision. And, likely, they simply won’t be invested in your product’s long-term success.
Without long-term investment, and even with the best of intentions, they may build the product the easy way. For example, they might use incorrect syntax or object model. Or, they might build a product that isn’t scalable or doesn’t serve as a sustainable technical foundation for the future.
Throughout development, you need someone who will keep you in the loop. So, even with the most detailed specs and high-fidelity wireframes, you need someone who will often give you detailed updates and previews.
Otherwise, you may end up with something like this:
So, who is the Right Software Developer for Startups?
Simply, the right software developer will be experienced and strategic, long-term, and transparent. Basically, all the attributes we listed above, but the opposite.
So, you should choose an experienced developer familiar with similar software architecture, who will know the best way to tackle your project based on industry best practices specific to your domain, and in general. Therefore, they’ll be able to contribute knowledge and ideas to development.
Additionally, they’ll be efficient and know the best structure for your object model, project architecture, and production server.
Lastly, they’ll know which languages and frameworks will best serve as a scalable and sustainable foundation for your product.
A senior developer will also know to test as they build, and they’ll be transparent with you about any updates or kinks in development.
And, the fact that they’ll know what they’re doing will enable them to give you accurate and efficient timelines and budget estimates and give you a heads up about any problems that may come up.
They’ll know how to manage the development to stick with deadlines.
You should also choose a long-term software developer and technical partner. Because, you want someone who will take the time to enthusiastically understand your vision, help you strategize its product roadmap, and will have the incentive to play the long game with you.
Ergo, they’ll take the time to develop whatever domain expertise they may need to complement yours.
Well, this was a lot. We know.
Coincidentally, hi, we’re Goji Labs—a product and software development consultancy with experience in designing, “rescuing,” and deploying hundreds of products.
Looking to develop a new app or revamp an existing one? Need some product strategy or development help?
Have any general questions about who we are and our authority on the subject?
Reach us at GojiLabs.com.
– Goji Labs