So you’ve got an incredible idea, are well connected in your industry, and are ready to kick-off your new business, there’s just one problem… how you're going to build your product. You’re not a developer yet alone a CTO and neither is your co-founder.
It can be tempting when you’re in a high opportunity, time poor situation to outsource your technology so you can move rapidly but in doing so, you may be jeapordising your business’ long-term prospects.
Unless technology plays a supporting function in your business (which is unusual these days), it’s imperative that your tech and product leaders have the same passion, energy, prioritisation and commitment that you do and that means being part of your core team.
Product and technology agencies are an effective way to accelerate development of your product but leadership always needs to be in-house. The buck needs to stop with someone in the business otherwise you’ll expose yourself in a multitude of ways.
Product market fit right away is rare: Most products require several iterations before they begin to demonstrate product market fit. Think of going live with v1.0 as reaching base camp, not climbing Mount Everest, i.e. the real work (and refinement) is just beginning. Using an agency can become rather expensive after several iteration. .
Take a ticket: Agencies have multiple clients and multiple priorities, what might be a critical bug fix for you may be considered a medium priority for your agency. Think about it, why would they prioritise your over work from a larger (i.e. more profitable and stable) client who can spend in a way that you simply can’t? When your product is down and the proverbial is hitting the wall, the last thing you should be doing is negotiating with your developers to prioritise your work over someone else's.
Fast, cheap or right? With no ultimate technical owner within your business that reviews architecture and code, an external developer may deliver the functionality you want, but how it’s delivered may be sub-optimal. Buggy products and technical debt are very easy to accrue if your team is thinking short term.
Missionaries or Mercenaries? Your team’s motivations, principals and outlook on your business all play a key part in the quality of work they deliver. Are they just there for an immediate pay cheque or do they believe in your long term vision and mission?
Look at it this way, if you were going in to battle, mercenaries are an excellent way to fill out your army with experienced, capable soldiers but you’d be mad to hire a mercenary as your General.