Alex Periel , CBDO
Technical advisors are mentors that lead startups to success through the expert knowledge and advice. But usually it’s not enough to just offer theoretical support, a struggling startup will often rely on the tech consultant to deliver practical help. This usually means finding a tech vendor that will fulfill your ideas and bring the project to fruition. However, finding a tech vendor that will be just right for the startup you’re mentoring isn’t always easy. You need a skilled team which is offering more than just reasonable rates and timely delivery. The good vendor has to:
- offer the right cooperation model, be it outsource, outstaff or something in between
- work with modern tech that will be up to snuff when it comes to implementing your suggestions
- know how to improvise and improve upon your ideas, creating a mix of scalability and reliability
Today, we’ll talk about the right approach to picking a vendor for startups as well as large companies. We’ll also discuss ways of cooperating with vendors and finding a balance between keeping your control over the process and letting the vendor have some creative input as well.
Let’s go through the options point by point and see the ups and downs of each one. Eventually, your own experience in conjunction with this overview will help you settle on the right decision for your situation.
Implement Your Advice By Yourself
Your first option is a time-consuming one and it’s probably out of the question for those who are already busy with mentoring and other ventures. It does, however, help you retain pretty much full creative control and deliver your ideas precisely the way you envisioned them. So if your vision is important to you or you want to really work for that 1% equity, implementing the advice on your own is certainly an option.
An experienced tech consultant usually has a few years of a high-ranking career under their belt so you’ll most likely have everything you need to succeed on the project by yourself with minimal input from others. It is worth pointing out that this approach puts the burden of quality solely on your shoulders and you also have to act as your own “editor”. There’s no room for error in this scenario and it’s only recommended if you’re really eager to do the task yourself or if you’re helping an early stage startup that has neither internal resources for the job nor the funds to hire an outside tech vendor.
This also presents the danger of clashing with the company’s goals or timeline. Sure, as a mentor and advisor, you’ve familiarized yourself with the environment and requirements, but there’s always the chance that your way of development or the number of hours, that you are able to put into the project, might be a point of contention for the in-house specialists. The relationship between a tech advisor and a startup can be fragile, so it’s best not to be disruptive as your reputation is on the line.
All in all, it’s a situational choice but this approach usually isn’t worth the risk and the time you’ll sink into it. The best case scenario for it is if the project is something you’re extremely passionate about, where you won’t regret pouring your skills and hours into it. The worst case - spending hours on the work and either not having the result fit your needs or feeling like you would’ve been better off with a team doing that work instead. Not exactly a tech advisor’s dream.
In-House Development Under Your Heading
This second method is a more lenient approach that combines creative control, zero extra cost, and compliance with requirements. As the mentor with some weight behind your words, you should be able to not only choose a team from the company’s own experts but lead them with a steady hand. The latter, of course, isn’t just because of your privileged position but thanks to your years of experience in managing roles. A seasoned CTO shouldn’t have any issues leading a small group of developers in an in-house project. Especially when you’ll be boosting them with your own tech expertise.
There are, of course, nuances to this approach as well. For one, you won’t always have the exact right line-up available in-house. Especially if you’re advising a startup with few employees, they might simply not have the right people for the job. And even if things go your way and the right experts are already working for that company, they might just be busy with another project. You could take them off it but only if your input is a matter of utmost importance. Otherwise, you won’t look good doing so.
There’s also the question of cost because, in reality, using the in-house team might not always be cheaper and definitely isn’t actually free. Shifting the labor of several valuable developers, QA experts, and other staff to your task means they can’t progress the stuff that’s already in the pipeline. For a budding startup, these first goals are crucial because they help exponentiate the growth and propel the company to relative fame and success. So, in reality, you might be looking at a much more substantial bottom line while you’re trying to save some money for the startup.
Still, this approach isn’t all bad as using the in-house team means you’ll be working with people who already know what the company needs, how it approaches things, and keep their work to a certain standard. You’ll also, in all likelihood, be working directly with the team and on site. No need to do conference calls or coordinate remote staff. This streamlines the process somewhat. And, of course, in the right circumstances, an in-house team can indeed be a quite affordable option. If the company has available staff and you know they’ll be a good fit for the task, it makes sense to use them even though the direct overseeing of their work will definitely add onto your own workload. If you’re fine with longer hours and the inherent risks of using an in-house team, this approach might be viable.
Freelance Platforms and Constructors
The dream scenario is, of course, to find some tech whiz (or several) from a region of the world where prices are low and talent is plentiful. So you can go onto an aggregator site and sift through hundreds of potential candidates and maybe even find someone suitable. They will be good in terms of price, seemingly viable in terms of their tech stack, perhaps they could even have experience on a similar project. What’s the catch here?
Usually, it’s the fact that good freelancers are worth their weight in gold and get snapped up quick. If they are always available and have a good, reasonable price set for their services, there’s usually a catch. Be it a problem with deadlines or a lack of attention to detail, it’s not always “safe” to work with untested people. Especially considering that putting together a team of freelancers bears another big risk.
Let’s say you build a development team out of several promising freelancers. They have the skills, they have the time, they have the reasonable cost. What are they lacking? Unity and structure. These are strangers who were just thrown together onto an ambitious project. While a good professional will know how to act and quickly get their sea legs underneath them, not everybody gets on great with strangers. Time will most likely be spent on getting comfortable with each other, structuring their work, etc. So a team of freelancers only truly becomes a team after a few days or even a week pass. Before that, they’re just a bunch of separate people who just happen to have landed on the same project.
To sum up, freelancers are likely the actual “zero-budget” - friendly option and they do have the possibility of pleasantly surprising you. There are plenty of talented developers who go freelance to have more freedom in choosing their projects. However, you’ll have to contend with a lack of coherence in the team you choose, a risk of picking a less-than-perfect candidate, and all the other headache that working with a freelancer can bring, including a lack of centralization.
Reliable Tech Vendor
The last method is one that’s arguably most popular these days, all thanks to the wide-open outsourcing markets in Eastern Europe, India, and other parts of the world where the industry isn’t booming as quickly as in North America and other key tech hubs. Most major companies are hiring trust tech vendors from countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, etc. to do tasks that in-house staff might not be up to or simply has no time for. It’s a budget-friendly option that eliminates the issues one gets by using freelancers.
By linking with a tech vendor you’ll get a flexible team that already has a streamlined work process, an array of experts whose work ethic is proven by them being part of the collective, and experts who’ve worked on major projects, not just small freelance tasks. It’s also easier to get the ball rolling since using a tech vendor means getting the whole team right away, not getting people together one by one.
It’s also important to note that choosing vendors is easier because you can learn a lot from the company’s portfolio, history and culture. Take SysGears for example. Established by developers, the company has high standards for the people it hires which means every employee has exceptional tech expertise. Another big point is Apollo Universal Starter Kit - initially an in-house toolset, now it is available as an open-source software that makes development much speedier and substantially more cost-effective.
When you’re doing tech consulting for a startup it’s your duty to find them a vendor that’ll fit their budget, provide a quality service, and deliver a work ethic that’s going to prove you made the right choice. And, while we’re talking candidly, it wouldn’t hurt for that vendor to give back. Something like the referral program from SysGears would be beneficial to you, your client, and the vendor.
All in all, this is the optimal approach as you can still retain control over the vendor while getting real professionals on the job with a reasonable budget. You’d be working with high-level developers who have proven themselves on projects and this kind of method helps establish useful connections and find a team that you can use again and again.
To end our overview of tech vendors and methods of working with them, it’s best to reiterate that you, as a seasoned expert, lead the project. But the team you put together is just as important because it turns your ideas and advice into tangible prototypes and products. So whether you’re advising established companies or a brand new startup, choosing the right vendor is key.
SysGears knows all about choices, having made our name on projects that serve up as much variety as they do quality. There’s no better team to work with if you need a scalable solution that’s modern, made by experienced developers, and suited specifically to your current case. So contact us right now and let’s get started on the project.