Non-tech founders, it's OK to offshore your dev
If you’re a non-technical founder, you know that the most frustrating part is not being able to build the thing you want to build. You have to get it out of your head. If you don't, you may go crazy.
When I started LaneSpotter, I was lucky enough to have an angel investor give me $50k to build an MVP and test my assumptions.
Since I couldn't build it (shakes fist at sky), I had to find a dev shop that could do it for under $50k.
The hunt began. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to build, since I'd been spending hours every night writing detailed specs — thinking about which features needed to included in the MVP. Whittling something down to only what's absolutely necessary is hard.
I asked around for a few recommendations and did my research online. I reached out to a handful of dev shops and ended up speaking with five - two in the United States, two in Ukraine, and one in Poland. After my first call with a company based in Vinnytsya, Ukraine, I knew I'd found my team.
I made a decision. I wasn't just going to outsource engineering, I was going to offshore it.
Because the way I looked at it, I really only had two options.
Not build it.
I wanted to build it.
My main point of contact in Ukraine was Inna. My project manager was Andrey. I was completely at ease with both of them from the very beginning. They were so nice, and the language barrier was minimal.
After talking through my specs with them, I was confident they understood what I needed.
Every morning at 8am, I logged on to Skype for a daily standup with Andrey, three engineers, and a designer. Working with this team recharged my energy every morning. It helped so much to see people, on the other side of the world, who cared about what we were building together. They believed in it.
We didn't just talk work. We talked about our weekends, our hobbies, our families. They sent me pictures of the cool bike infrastructure they'd come across in Eastern Europe. We connected on Instagram and Facebook. These people were helping make this thing a reality. I appreciated them so much that I shipped a giant box of LaneSpotter t-shirts and stickers to their office in Ukraine.
Over the course of a few months, they completed the UI/UX work and built the MVP for web and iOS. They were fast. They had an excellent process for managing the development. We successfully launched the MVP together, proved out some key assumptions, and gained the traction I needed to raise some money.
And then I made one of the biggest mistakes I made at LaneSpotter.
I decided to stop offshoring.
I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to raise money. I was afraid of what investors would think.
What followed was a series of bad contract hire, after bad contract hire, right up until I made the bad contract hire that brought LaneSpotter to its knees.
Don't be afraid to offshore your dev. Just be prepared.
The biggest way to minimize risk working with an offshore dev shop is to have a clear definition of product scope. Create a wireframe and explain what you want your product to do IN DETAIL. Yes, take the time to write super detailed specs.
If you've never done either of these things, you can absolutely learn how to do them.
At the end of the day, I wish I would've cared less about what others thought of my decision to offshore my dev. It was working for me and it could've continued to work for me. Who knows, maybe LaneSpotter would still be around today if I had.
It's not easy finding the right people early. Committing to the wrong engineer, a single person who holds your fate in their hands, seems riskier to me than offshoring. ||
But what do I know?
Here's what some other peoples have to say about offshoring your software engineering...