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Should You Outsource Your MVP?

Matt Oakley - 5 February 2018
Should You Outsource Your MVP?
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Beginning the startup journey comes with many challenging decisions for entrepreneurs. We aim to aid you in this process by discussing an important question that many businesses new face.

Should you outsource your MVP or recruit in-house developers?

We will focus on software products in this post but the principles can apply to any industry.

Outsource When Software Development Isn’t Your Primary Skill

When you’re leading the development of a product, you need to be certain that the process is in safe-hands.

Entrepreneurs come from varying backgrounds. I’ve worked with driven individuals from within Real Estate, Finance and even students.

Rarely though, does an entrepreneur come from a background of software development.

Whether a SaaS product, research platform, mobile app…building software is hard! It introduces many challenges that most project managers have never had to face.

Seed Money is Finite

As a startup, your seed money is your most precious resource. Fail to achieve a MVP and you risk losing your dream before it’s even begun to be realised.

Ambitious startups have often splashed their budget on an expensive all-rounder. A multi-talented, full-stack rockstar with a resume full-to-the-brim with buzzwords.

There’s no malice from either party but the decision is often the first nail in the coffin.

I’ve been Employee #1 for a startup. The full-stack rockstar that we all thought the company needed. I was sucked in by the dream, the CTO title, the seed money gobbling salary. And I was the first nail in the coffin.

It’s not that I wasn’t talented enough. If you’re hiring to build an entire product you’ll need someone brimming with talent. Experience is a necessity. These qualities come at a cost and one you likely can’t afford.

Don’t Limit Your Potential - Bring in the Experts

Give yourself a generous seed fund of £100,000 and it sounds like you can afford that £50,000 salary. Sure.

You’ve set aside £25,000 for admin resources, £15,000 for sales marketing and the remaining £10,000 as backup. Sound.

Should You Outsource Your MVP?

Here’s where the problems start. Your MVP is coming along nicely and you’re looking at launching on time. But with scaffolding out the features, the user interface is looking a bit bland.

Is this the first impression we want to make on our first and most important customers?

There’s nothing in the budget for a designer so where do you make the sacrifice? You needed every penny of that seed money. Surely your rockstar all-rounder can design the interface considering the salary you’re paying? And that’s where relationships start to sour.

That’s where sacrifices get made.

That’s where things start to go wrong.

When you work with an agency, you aren’t limited by the resources of a job title. You’re not hiring a developer but a team of professionals with their own individual skills. You get access to a developer, a designer, a marketer, a salesperson, a copywriter…

A good agency will work with you to ensure that nothing gets overlooked in your budget. You receive a project estimate and you can sleep at night knowing that you’re covered.

Hire In-House When You’re a Confident and Experienced Product Developer

The exception is when you, the entrepreneur, have experience in developing software products. You’re confident that you know exactly the skills and resources needed to achieve MVP.

You could be a software developer, a product designer, a project manager. You’ve worked on software before. You know the difference between front-end and backend, UI vs UX and that a product without users is…worthless.

Industry Experience Is Not Necessarily Enough

I’ve witnessed a pair of talented designers set sail on a SaaS product only to fail time and time again.

Why?

Their idea was flawless and the market proven. Their UI and marketing were stunning.

They hired one of the most technically talented developers that I’ve ever met.

Nobody on the team had experience in building a product. Their MVP experience scope creep. By the time they’d realised a problem, it was too late.

Staff got laid off whilst more funding was sought on more than one occasion. It was painful for them and a lesson I learned from.

Eventually they outsourced development of the product to an experienced agency. Within months they had an MVP in production and their first customers.

Their successful launch resulted in further funding. They now boast a successful platform with impressive revenue.

It’s interesting to note that they still outsource their product development.

Still Confident?

This is not intended to be a horror story. There are talented entrepreneurs that are capable of building products with in-house talent.

For every failed product that I have seen, I’ve watched another thrive. More often it seems that these are led by a hands-on CEO that is a confident coder.

If you trust that you can squeeze a hire out of your budget then go for it! But don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

In Conclusion

Seed money is the most precious asset that a startup has. It is the egg that will hatch into a dream if nurtured in the correct manner.

Ask for help unless you’re confident that you understand every demand of product development.

At Startup Heroes, we work with entrepreneurs to outsource their MVP. We help to maximise the potential of seed money.

We have helped many startups realise their first customers and opened the door to further funding. When the time is right, we’ll help you to hire an in-house team to take the product forward.

Hopefully now you’re more confident in whether you’re likely to outsource your MVP or hire in-house. Whichever route you choose, we’d love to hear from you.

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