More Outsourced Software Engineering Success Stories

For years, whenever an entrepreneur asked my thoughts on outsourcing core product software engineering, my response was that I haven’t seen it work. There were too many disconnects between the startup team and the software engineering team – nuances around the actual product goals – resulting in a poor user experience and frustration during iteration while being enervating for the entrepreneur. Now, while building products in-house is most common, more startups are finding success with some or all of the core product being outsourced, especially to get started (I still think in-house software engineering is a must once the startup has traction).

Here are a few thoughts on the rise of outsourcing core product software engineering:

  • Open source provides more reusable components, both for the frontend (e.g. Bootstrap) and backend (e.g. Rails)
  • General collaboration tools are stronger and more widely used (e.g. Slack, Basecamp, etc.)
  • Product management-specific collaboration tools are stronger (e.g. Balsamiq, Aha, etc.)
  • Certain software development firms have come to specialize in building products, as opposed to most that do one-off consulting projects
  • Non-technical entrepreneurs are more technical, on average, due to the more pervasive use of technology, and thus are better at communicating product needs

When entrepreneurs ask me about building their product in-house, or outsourcing it, I still recommend building it internally, but outsourcing it is much more viable, and thus deserves some attention.

What else? What are some more thoughts on outsourcing core product software engineering?

3 thoughts on “More Outsourced Software Engineering Success Stories

  1. We currently build everything in-house. I get hit up at least 3-4 times a week from different outsourcing firms and, candidly, I can’t tell one from the other. I’d love to find a vetted, founder-driven list of quality outsourcing firms that others have successfully used. This would help weed through the BS.

  2. At Silicon Straits Foundry we offer MVP development services for dozens startups and small companies in SEA region the last 2 years. Totally agree with you about availability of tools and platform to make outsourcing core product development not so … scary anymore. Especially with the lack of engineer talents everywhere, especially those with Product mindset which rare in such under-developed region like SEA.

    And the catch for entrepreneur to employ this strategy instead of developing in-house is to find a good tech partner who experience in product development, not just pure outsourcing work (for big enterprise). The partner should have the design capacity as well so they could aid with on-going changes and learning during the development and beta launch. And they should also look for those who could provide them technical advices, acting more on Consultant role rather than just pure dev works.

  3. Yeah I agree with buihaian, one of the biggest issues facing entrepreneurs (especially new entrepreneurs ) outsourcing dev is that many agencies or dev shops focus more just building “the thing”, instead of providing some direction on if “this thing” should be built. This results in very large products being built with lots of cash sunk in on a product that may or may not fly. Of course proper customer development should be done, but what people say the will do vs what they do are usually different things.
    I help run a network ( focused on building mvp’s for startups, and we’ve taken the approach to keep things small and quick in order to see if the idea is worthwhile, while working on partnering the startup with a pre vetted developer that could be a long term player for the startup. We think focusing on long term relationships between the entrepreneur and the programmer is a better way of doing things and not just one and done model as is so common.

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