London is among main European hubs for startups, one could even say it ranks #1. You don’t need to look too far to see evidence of this. My old stomping ground – Old Street – has now been rebranded as part of London’s Tech City/Silicon Roundabout. Where I struggled to find something other than the one (greasy) cafe at the end of the road from my office, now sushi and coworking space abound.
And where there are people together, bursting with startup ideas, and money to spend on the next unicorn app, there are also development companies and freelancers. If you are a founder with no tech experience, there are a few different routes that you can take through your London startup journey. For this blog we wanted to look at this jungle, consider some options, and give some advice.
When it comes to reliable app development there are three main options if you are not technical yourself: find a technical co-founder, hire developers to start an in-house team, or outsource the project to an agency.
Finding a Tech Co-Founder
The life of a solopreneur or solo founder can be a lonely one. And if you add a lack of technical experience into the mix, it can sometimes feel even more isolating. In a digital age, armed with an app idea and based in London, a major startup hub, you can start to feel like a fish out of water, however good your idea might be.
But never fear! There are plenty of events and coworking spaces that encourage you to mix and meet the tech co-founder of your dreams. Most people think that a great way to begin their startup journey is to find a techie who is passionate about your idea and offer them equity in your startup in exchange for their hard work getting your app built.
It seems like a quick win. You save money, you’ve met someone new who is excited about your project, and you bring skills to your team straight away.
Stuart McClure, Founder and CMO of Love the Sales, didn’t have a technical background but knew he wanted the core skills he needed to build his platform in a co-founder.
‘Knowing that our site would be fairly unique (as we are the first to do it) I opted to find a tech co-founder. Building an aggregator platform is tough, so requires some serious expertise.’
But there can be a downside. Katy Cole from Wayward Fest, didn’t feel that they would get the same passion from a co-founder who hadn’t been there when they first came up with the idea.
‘Initially we had partners but we struggled to find people who were as dedicated as us with a crazy founder mentality.’
Finding someone who doesn’t just share your passion for an idea, but is also committed to working hard for it, is tough. In London developers are well paid and there are many job opportunities. Working for equity and pizza might not be the dream they had in mind when things get tough. And you don’t want to have to struggle to work with someone who isn’t fully committed but still has a stake in the business, and therefore a say in what happens.
There are certainly ways to make the co-founder route work. If you go for this option, pick someone that truly loves your project and shares your vision. Why not work with this person at a hackathon, or similar tech event, to see how you get on in a more work-like situation? Look at your network within the London startup scene. Are there people that you know through friends that you would be happy to work with?
Hiring a Developer
If you don’t want to go to endless co-founder ‘dating’ events and aren’t keen to give equity in your business away, another route to consider could be hiring a developer to work at your startup.
This is often a costly solution. As we’ve already mentioned salaries for developers are high in London. Higher cost of living, as well as competition between the best companies to retain staff, means that you need to be able to offer a competitive salary.
If you have raised funding then this is something to consider. Rachel Carrell, CEO of Koru Kids, got VC backing early on for her London-based startup. Having raised funding, she started to build a tech team following advice from an investor who told her to ‘get tech in the DNA of your company.’
‘I’m not gonna lie, it is not easy to hire your lead developer without being technical yourself. But you can do it. I had technical investors and advisors, I had people who formulated and evaluated coding tests for me, and I took technical references.’
Outsourcing Your App Development
We’ve already talked about how big the London startup scene is. And where there are startups here are digital agencies, service providers, and marketplaces, based both in London and globally, that can help you if you decide to outsource your project.
Outsourcing can be a great way to get your project done, on time and to budget. As Ian Wright, Founder of British Business Energy, notes ‘outsourcing was a great way to scale up without taking on additional staff.’
There’s a lot of noise around outsourcing development, so if you decide to go down this route how do you find someone that can deliver? Ian found that ‘the major downside is it can take a lot of trial and error before you can find people who are reliable and do good quality work.’
It is important that you ensure that whoever you work with is reputable. Ask around your startup community and see what they say. It is always good to hear from people whose opinion you trust where they’ve found great people to outsource projects to. There are also online sources for reviews. Here at Yeeply we are very proud of our rating on the directory Clutch.
If you are considering outsourcing to someone, ask to speak to previous clients. If they have done great work in the past they will be more than happy for you to speak to someone who can give a reference for their work.
Another tip from Ian is ‘start small and build from there. Do a few small test projects and see how they go before jumping in the deep end.’ We are so pleased to work with developers and development teams from our marketplace over and over on different projects. Building these working relationships is so rewarding.
Sahar Meghani, Founder and CEO of Trunkaroo, used outsourcing to put together an MVP in the first instance.
‘The idea was the put our product sensibly out to the market and learn from testing and feedback before pouring too many resources in terms of time and finances into the initial offering.’
This idea paid off, Sahar goes on ‘we learned and iterated from feedback and so have been able to work with our outsourced team…to make adjustments to the site in a timely way.’
Why Outsourcing Through Yeeply
During 2016 we pivoted our business model and relaunched Yeeply offering handpicked developers and designers for mobile and web projects. A custom-made service specially addressed to startups and digital agencies in constant need of technical talent.
One year after this change we’re sure this is the right way to do IT Outsourcing, because we solve main problems stated by clients who are used to outsource: fluent communication, technical reliability, exclusive project management, great value for money.
As members of London’s TechHub, we are present at the very heart of Tech City. Tell us your project or make your way in our platform by requesting a free quote. Let’s talk!