The fear of using development firms among founders and investors is holding back entrepreneurs (especially female ones), argues Ellie Cachette.
While the debate about why there aren’t enough women in tech is ongoing, there is some truth that there hasn’t been sufficient generational mentorship. Many crafts require knowledge to be passed on from generation to generation, but for startups everything is changing particularly rapidly -- technological progress in the last fives years has been unsurpassed as we see with rising company valuations and recent IPOs. The sky truly is the limit, but telling female founders to just “learn how to code” isn’t enough, and the debate about how to get women involved doesn’t help the conversation either.
The true issue is that each phase of a company’s growth requires different skill sets. These can change faster than any group of people can adapt and learn. Yet so often "outsourcing technology" is seen as a turnoff for investors. When a founder is trying to raise money, especially on the West Coast, the first question is often, "Who is your technical co-founder?"
In an industry where innovation is worshipped, innovation can often stalled by niche product expertise without launching expertise or launching expertise without product expertise. Or marketing expertise without product expertise. There are so many important things to know and learn, and in the earliest stages of a startup, technology should not be the variable. Sometimes the winner is who can get their product mastered first. In this case, development agencies can be helpful to budding founders or those with experimental ideas.
While it's often only talked about in hushed voices, many successful startups leverage outside development agencies, and until your business has high security needs, this might work for mid-term company growth as well as short term. When time and "Go To Market" are your most important focus, here are three ways a development firm can help all founders, especially female founders.
Building products: Depending on where an idea is, having a MVP vs MSP vs PMF is the difference between raising your family and friends round or your Series A. Knowing what metrics to use and the quality of product can also save time on the learning curve. (Read more about how to build a MVP as a non-technical founder or reaching Product-Market Fit.)
User acquisition: One area where it can be helpful to have instant expertise is user acquisition. Building an app is one thing, getting users is another. Learning how to do this can be tricky and having those that are already masters of the craft can save startups time and money (Here are some user acquisition tricks that worked.)
Branding and marketing: Founders need to understand how to market their product, even if their idea is not in an area which they have worked in previously. Is your product for investors, consumers or enterprise? Most development agencies have a variety of resources and teams. Make sure to put in the time to do the research on how to market or hire for marketing while in a growth phase.
The debate around “Girls vs Boys” may never end, but what can change is how fast knowledge is transferred between people. If you are a new founder and looking at why or how you should decide on a development agency, ask yourself how much money you have and how much time, because, in the end, having a successful company isn’t about "learning to code" or getting the most financing. We already know women tend to get less funding than men. The real question shouldn’t be who your technical co-founder is but whether you are passionate enough to change an industry.
Do you agree that outsourcing technology is unfairly stigmatized?
About the guest blogger: Ellie Cachette is an advisor to Koombea, supporter of Women 2.0 and software product junkie. Named a Top 6 Women in Tech, she is passionate about well designed products. Previously, she founded ConsumerBell.