Outsourcing Your Product Development? Prepare to Die.

Or waste a lot of time and even more money

Or waste a lot of time and even more money

If you want to start a startup, you need to have a product, right? I hope your answer to that question is yes. Now the question is, how do you get a product built? The initial thought is to outsource. Smart move, young padawan. Most likely, you’ll get your idea built by someone for very cheap overseas, then you’ll have your product/software that you start marketing/selling, then you become the next Mark Zuckerberg. It works something like that right? Why don’t you ask Steve. Oh! I heard a response!

“No Business Plan Survives First Contact With A Customer”

STEVE, say it again for the people in the back!

Why should you care about this quote?

I know you don’t have a business plan but whatever you think your customers want, you’re wrong. You’re not Steve Jobs. You’re not Mark Zuckerberg. You’re you. You are awesome but you aren’t an exception. Neither are they. They just outworked and out-witted much of the world.

The product you are asking to be outsourced is going to change rapidly as you learn about how your users react to it. Every time you make a discovery about what a user wants, are you just going to call up Freddy to tell his team to make these changes? Sure, it may only cost $500 but what about the time it takes to get done?

If a user or enough users show behavior that leads you to changing a feature, it means they may not be satisfied with the current model. Do you have their attention span for another 5 days while it gets changed and reshipped? Not all of them. Maybe not any of them. Remember they have the power. The users have all the power.

Startups move too quickly to work with someone overseas or even an agency in town. There are exceptions. Coplex, in Phoenix, is one of them seeing that they aren’t a build one and done kind of place. Nevertheless, you need speed on your side and you need $$$ on your side too. Spending hundreds here and there for sub-par development that gets shipped rather slowly is not going to get you to where you need to be.

So what are your options?

  1. Sell someone to join your team and build your product

  2. Learn to code

Sell someone to join your team

This is hard. Really hard. You need to convince another person to give up their valuable time to work on your idea. You need to convince them why the idea is going to win and why you’re the right one to bring it to market. You need to convince this person to take into account the opportunity cost of joining your team versus waiting for another opportunity or starting their own startup. It’s fucking hard.

Took me about 30 pitches before I pitched Travis. Luckily, I found the best programmer in the state of Arizona to work on my idea. Travis and I clicked and we went all in.

“30 pitches”

30 people told me nonverbally that they have better things to do than build my idea, as they should! They don’t owe me anything. They are the ones who learned to code and got to be in this position. Finding someone to build your ideas gives you two valuable lessons(or tests, depending on how you look at it)

Can you sell?

Want to start a startup? Great, welcome to 10 years of sales (if you’re lucky). You need to sell investors. Sell customers. Sell potential employees. Sell the press. Oh also, you might need to sell a product too ;)

This is a test to see how well you can sell the intangible stuff, because after you learn to sell your product, you will be selling the intangible stuff for the rest of your startups entirety.

Once you get them on your team you are officially agile. Need a product change? Call her up and tell her to make some UX changes and it will be done in a few hours. If you were as dedicated as we were (or crazy as we were), you’ll live together and if something needs to be changed, just throw a pillow across the room to wake him up to make the change.

Do you have grit?

You won’t get a “yes” often. You will get rejected. How long will it be until you give up? Could your next ask be a Travis. Not sure, but if you don’t possess grit, get the fuck out of the game.

Also, don’t pay them. They need to be in it for something other than the money. Give them equity and split it 50/50. Don’t be a dick. I’ll go into this in another post.

Some people won’t like that you won’t pay them.

You need to keep moving. That’s all you can do.

By the way, I found a designer. He was the best designer that ever could have joined the team. So much talent. Pete, if you ever read this, know that you were a really lucky catch, brotha.

Okay. So what if you can’t sell the idea? You’ve tried and tried. Well, there’s a better option. Build it yourself. Then your skills do the selling for you.

Learn to Code

There isn’t a fancy way to do it. You will try, you will be frustrated, and it’s going to be hard….BUT, learning to code could be the best investment of your time you will ever make. It doesn’t matter what language. Swift, java, C#, Javascript, etc. will all give you the fundamentals of learning how to code. HTML and CSS are not included in that list for a reason.

You need to learn to give computers instructions, not tell them what to look like. HTML and CSS are very helpful but there are more important skills you can learn first if you want to build your own products.

My favorite resource is Udemy. I am learning iOS Development from two sets of videos and it’s pretty dang cool. Another resource that has helped me learn to code is the Head First Javascript book. I ended up giving up JS for Swift but the fundamentals of programming exist in all languages and learning basic JS expedited my learning curve to learn Swift.


Don’t outsource or you’re probably going to fail.