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How start-ups are made easier by hiring a software development company

Posted on: January 16th, 2018 by Simon Swords

The Atlas Team

It’s very easy to dream up a business idea, anyone can do it, the real challenge for a start-up (or startup if you prefer the American spelling) is in the execution of that business idea.

To quote entrepreneur and start-up founder of CDBaby, Derek Sivers – “Ideas are just a multiplier of execution.”

Now if you are a non-technical founder (which there seems to be a lot of nowadays) of a start-up, you’ll need some help and your options (in no particular order) are:

Not many options there, but let’s tackle each one in slightly more depth so you can judge for yourself your best course of action if you are contemplating starting a start-up (pun intended).

Find a technical co-founder to build your start-up


This request comes up a few times every month on popular entrepreneur hangout Hacker News (HN), “IT Co-founders needed” or “Ask HN: are you looking for a co-founder?” Where someone comes up with (what they think) is a great idea for a start-up, normally a software-as-a-service (SaaS), but can’t build it themselves, so they try to find a technical co-founder to help them build their start-up idea, by posting a request on the Hacker News website.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad way to go about building your start-up, as you may find just the person you are looking for, but the reality is you probably won’t. Why is this? Simple really, you are invested in your idea (or you should be) and you need your co-founder to be invested also and trying to find someone to partner-up with on a website like Hacker News, is in my mind asking for trouble, maybe not today, but sometime in the future.

The other major problem with this approach is money, yes, sorry to say it, and telling a potential technical co-founder that they will get paid, “Once we go viral”, is not going to go down too well.

Also, you have to consider the division of the company (you’ve set up a legal company right?), is it a 50/50 split where no one person has ultimate control of the company? Or do you go the traditional route of a 51/49 split where you retain overall ownership and control of the company and if you go down that route will your technical co-founder be happy with you controlling, in essence, all the cards and power, while they have the enormous task of actually building the start-up?

Has this method of getting your start-up built worked for some people? Possibly, but in my personal experience, no. I’ve personally worked with various small start-ups where I’ve been offered “deferred payment” to build an idea; normally a minimal viable product (MVP) and I’ve never seen a penny for all my work when the web application or website doesn’t take off as expected.

Learn web development and build your start-up yourself


Fancy learning programming/coding from scratch to build your start-up idea yourself?

This is a viable option only if you have the required money to pay for the books and/or courses you need and a lot of free-time to be able to put what you learn into practice and if you are currently working this may not be possible, unless you stop watching Game of Thrones and Stranger Things to work on your start-up in your evenings and on weekends.

It should be noted that most (not all) free online courses are rubbish and you will learn and take away very little. Unfortunately, I’m speaking from experience here. Even online courses costing upwards of £299 are normally no good for really learning enough of a programming language sufficiently to code your own start-up web application or website.

Then there is the big question that you will need an answer to, what programming language do you even learn to build your start-up? Do you opt for an older, well-established language like Python or PHP, or go for a newer language like Ruby on Rails or ASP.NET MVC? A lot will depend on your own background, how much programming experience you have and like previously mentioned, your resources and available time.

Unfortunately, there is no ‘best’ language to learn to build your start-up. Every software developer or programmer has their own take on the ‘best’ coding language. But in truth there is no easy answer and all languages are not created equal, a single task, say connecting to a database might be easy in one language, and difficult in another language, but the easy language might be difficult when it comes to other tasks like setting up user registration and accounts.

Then once you have learnt enough of your chosen programming language you’ll need to get your web application or website hosted (and your database) on a web server somewhere.

Do you sort that out yourself and go shared-hosting or co-location? Or do you opt for something like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Heroku, which are both platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers?

Web-hosting in itself is a whole other nightmare and going the do-it-yourself (DIY) route can be a minefield. Do you really want to deal with the set-up and running of your own web servers on top of designing, building and running your web application or website? Also, don’t forget you also have to run your start-up on top of all that, do you really want that headache?

Hire a software development company to build your start-up


This leads me nicely to the third option, hire a software development company to build your start-up.

Now your first thought is that this is too expensive. Well sorry to burst that bubble, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are considering learning a programming language that will cost more money and time than you probably realise then you are better off using that money and time to pay the right bespoke software development company to build your start-up, even if it is just version 0.1 or what’s known as the minimal viable product (MVP).

What you need is an experienced software development company that has worked with lots of different start-ups and ideally launched their own software products so they understand exactly where you are coming from with your ideas, budget and timescales.

What you will also need is a software development company that can take your start-up idea, turn it into a comprehensive set of technical requirements and then turn those technical requirements into a working HTML prototype, before going forward with the minimal viable product (MVP) version of your idea. This then allows you to see if your start-up gains any traction before you move on to have a more feature-rich version 1.0 built with all the real-world customer feedback you receive.

The bespoke software development company you pick will have an easier time calculating the costs and timelines involved in your software project if you take some serious time to flesh out your idea. The more detail you can provide, the more accurate the development company can predict the potential cost and timescale. Don’t get hung up on how you document your requirements, a napkin is fine but using diagrams and providing a sample of the screens you wish to include is always advantageous.

Don’t phone or email potential software development companies saying, “I want to build the next Facebook.” You need to be as specific as possible, say “I want to build a social network that connects users and lovers of widgets together where they can share stories and photos and leave comments and likes in the same sort of way as on Facebook.” That isn’t perfect and I could go into a lot more detail, but it gives you at least some idea that you really need to get into the nitty-gritty details and think about exactly what you want and how it will all work, to the best of your ability.

You should also contact more than one software development company and pick, as previously mentioned, software development companies that have worked with start-ups and launched their own software products. This will give you a software company that understands you and where you are on your entrepreneurial journey. Even better they can probably offer you some valuable advice from the “Start-up Trenches” as they have already been on this journey and will understand start-up launching, marketing, churn-rate and the whole start-up ecosystem.

Conclusion


You have few options if you are an entrepreneur wanting to launch your first start-up, but hiring a software development company isn’t as expensive as you might think.

It might just be the answer you are looking for if you want to concentrate on running your business and gaining the traction your start-up needs, instead of searching for a ‘unicorn’ of a technical co-founder or spending a year learning a programming language and then having to spend even more months learning a new version that is released that changes all your code (yes Ruby on Rails I’m looking at you).

We can help


Here at Atlas we have helped many first time entrepreneurs launch their first start-up (like Company Secretarial Software and Hospital to Home) and we’ve also designed, built, launched and marketed our own software-as-a-service (SaaS) software products and we understand what it is like to be a first-time start-up founder and the challenges and pitfalls you will face we have faced too.

We’re here to support you on your journey, even if you just need some bespoke software development services or software consultancy and advice. Call us at +44 (0)800 133 7948 or email us at hello@atlascode.com it could be the start of a profitable relationship.

Simon Swords

Simon Swords

Director

Managing Director

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