Previously, we’ve shown the inevitability of validating the problem you want to solve with your B2B startup. When you’ve homed in on the market segment where the problem you’ve discovered counts as a top priority, you can concentrate on creating the solution.
There are numerous questions to consider and decide on before starting development. In addition to planning your idea, it’s time to think about business and growth plans. All of these will evolve/change over time, but this upfront activity will set you on a firm foundation. And there’s the need to reach a conclusion about how to implement your solution. All these points deserve their own article. Today, we focus on who should develop the minimum viable product (MVP).
1) Rely on Yourself
It’s fortunate if you have the programming knowledge and skillset to create your own MVP. In this case you have the chance to invest your own time, energy, and nervous system to have a testable product. You’d anticipate such investments anyway if you intend to launch your own startup. This path might not be the quickest, but you will know every bit of your product. (Nonetheless, DIY-QA will also be your bugbear.)
Following the success of your MVP, there might be demand for features that are out of your programming comfort zone. At this stage, you can still outsource some or all of the development tasks to a reliable software development team. You may also consider employing dedicated programmers with the desired skillset (this option may prove to be slower than outsourcing, but let’s leave this topic for another time).
Considering future expansions and scalability (among many other factors), having a precise and detailed documentation of the MVP you develop is a must, along with orientation material for new developers, testers, and technical staff. This way, if you need to extend the development team (either within or outside your company), the experts involved can help your product grow without hindrance and struggle. So, think in advance, and spare time and money by creating proper documentation.
2) Let Development Be Your Co-founder’s Headache
The same applies if (one of your) co-founder(s) can develop the MVP: you have the chance to keep development in-house. However, it’s not a great idea to start a company with a co-founder merely because they have the technical knowledge to get at least the minimum viable product up and running.
There are plenty of sites out there following the logic of dating sites, with the promise of matching you with your perfect co-founder. However, even if you find an expert with the desired knowledge, experience, and maybe even a promising personality, founding a company and committing to working closely with a total stranger for years is simply too risky.
If you want a co-founder, don’t pick them because of their development skills but chose someone with whom you’ve already worked with on a project and it was a fruitful experience. Find someone you know you can collaborate with effectively, and who is as committed to the common goal as you are. Most importantly, communication between you and your co-founder must be seamless, you must be able to solve problems efficiently. Ideally, you should complement each other in qualities related to business and leadership.
Having no technical co-founder to develop the MVP, employing someone for this task might seem to be a logical option. It must be borne in mind that selecting the first employees of a startup requires almost as much consideration as finding a co-founder. Your first employees will become the pillars of your success; they can make or break your company, while their employment means a long-term financial commitment from your side. That’s why the creation of long-term employment positions at such an early stage is far from the best alternative you have, especially when funds are limited and when the solution isn’t a technology offering that could take a long time to culminate even as an MVP.
3) Outsource Development
If you and your co-founders don’t have the technical skillset to create your MVP, outsourcing development is usually the most viable option. First, you need to check whether development can be outsourced without any difficulty considering the nature of the problem you intend to solve. Then, you can start searching for the right software development company.
When Can You Outsource Software Development?
Paulo Dotta’s article gives an easily applicable, practical guidance on when it’s worth outsourcing the development tasks and when it’s better to keep it in-house. In the next few paragraphs, we summarize these tips from a B2B startup’s perspective.
First and foremost, you need to reflect on the problem you wish to solve with your startup. If your problem is not technological in nature, and software is merely a tool to get to a solution, you can outsource development without hesitation. The generation-specific ATS mentioned in our previous Startup101 articles is a good example for such a problem. In this case, difficulties in recruiting younger candidates is not a technological issue. The ATS is simply a tool (which happens to be software) that helps to reach out and select employees from generation Y and Z in a more optimized, efficient manner.
A product supporting software developers in testing, creating documentation, or debugging is a different story. In this case, the problem is technical in nature, and it’s usually more beneficial to keep development in-house.
If you are not sure which group your startup idea belongs to, you may want to categorize your market segment in addition to your problem. If the target audience of your future product consists of technological companies, developers, testers, etc., it’s likely you need someone within your company to be an expert on the field. On the other hand, if you target any other type of business (such as recruiting agencies or the HR department of a company) truly understanding the problem of this market segment is way more significant than technological knowledge. In this case, the logical, user-friendly and effective solution, the clear workflow, the idea itself are what matter.
The last aspect you need to consider also fits to this train of thought. If the main value proposition of your product is the application of a new, groundbreaking technology, you might want to develop the product within your company. (Then again, if you or your co-founder are embarking on a new technology or a ground-breaking application of an existing one, it’s likely you have the necessary knowledge to create the MVP on your own.) In contrast, if you intend to apply an existing technology to solve the problem you discovered, outsourcing is a great decision. The main value proposition of your product will not be the technology used to solve the problem, but the logic of and the idea behind your solution. The essence of your startup will be the offered functionality, the well-baked workflow, and the additional services that help your clients effectively solve their problem.
Choosing the Software Development Company
Even though outsourcing could sometimes mean a bigger financial investment upfront compared to an MVP developed by the founders, it can give a head start to your business. Thanks to outsourcing, the knowledge and experience of an entire development team will be behind your product. Development time may shorten, so you can test your market and get feedback from your users sooner. You may also receive valuable advice from implementation experts, sparing you from early pitfalls. To get all the advantages of outsourcing, you need to choose the outsourcing software development company wisely, like Indiana Jones did when choosing the Grail!
In addition to the technical knowledge of the software development company, the attitude is also a high priority. You need to seek a team that prefers to work with you for the long run, so the success of your MVP will be their interest, too. This potentially means many useful advice regarding your MVP including honest guidance about scoping the first viable version. Sincere advice will spare you excessive or misplaced investment (as the team will help you chose the necessary features and leave the extras for the future), while your first users will meet an actually viable, useful product with essential functionality.
Precise and clear documentation and constant knowledge transfer is also a must. These aspects ensure that you can take development in-house at your discretion, if that fits your business and growth strategy.
No matter which path you take to materialize your MVP, the product must be able to have its basic functionality ready for solving the validated problem by the time it reaches its first users. If you want to know what else makes a successful MVP, check back for our upcoming articles.
If you are in search of a reliable software company to develop your MVP, check out our services or contact us.
ATS (Applicant Tracking System): A software system aiding the recruitment process.
B2B (Business-to-Business): This is a business model where a business sells its products and/or services to other businesses.
MVP (Minimum Viable Product): A first prototype of a software product which has limited functionality, but viable enough for release for the early adopters/users.
Outsourcing: Hiring a company to do certain activities of your business (in this case software development tasks) instead of your business.
Startup: A privately held micro or small business with a high growth potential aiming to reach huge (commonly) international market in the foreseeable future and to evolve into a big corporation.