I've read all the posts and articles against non-tech founders, I get it. That's not my question (this time..) My question is how does everyone feel about the idea of outsourcing development to a firm? A web design and development firm? As opposed to hiring developers in house or outsourcing to freelancers?
The reason why most advise for tech-founders is so that you can really understand what needs to be done and dive in to fix the problem when stuff really goes bad. That said you don't need to be tech savvy or a programmer to still get stuff done, you need to be great at finding and outsourcing work to the right providers and also be able to manage them very well. You need to have an eye for detail, be very specific about what you need done, how you need it done, what results you need delivered and how you plan on evaluating the results.
When it comes to outsourcing you have several different options depending on what you can afford and also your specific needs, you can go the freelancer route or go through a firm that can provide the people with the skills you need. Either way, you want to verify their portfolio, talk to their past and current clients, and also test them to make sure that they can indeed deliver.
Since you are not tech-savvy find a co-founder who is or hire someone on a as-needed basis to be your extra eye and translator because sometimes even though you know what you want, being able to express it in the language that the developers understand might be an issue, hence said person can be your go between in cases like this.
In the mean time try to learn as much as you can about the basis of the programming languages or tools that will be used to deliver you work because the more you familiarize yourself with them the sharper you get at managing your outsourced team and fishing out issues ahead of time.
I hope this helps! If you need to view video interviews of Entrepreneurs who without prior programming skills were able to outsource and manage the entire development process of their mobile apps, let me know and I can provide the links to the videos on my blog for free.
A web design and development firm that you have vetted well is a great solution. Make sure that you talk to previous customers who did work that was relatively similar in complexity.
Given that you have found a good shop it's a great way to go. They will have more individuals with more concentrations which will result in a better product.
The major caveat to the approach is money. If you are well funded because you concept is so amazing (or your own pockets deep) that you can afford a professional shop then go for it. The type of shop you are talking about working with will rarely trade services, or take reduced rate for ownership, or all the other things poorly funded companies ask.
Disclaimer: This is coming from someone who ran a web design and development firm for 5 years and now does independent consulting.
There are Pros and Cons to both.
Web Design Firm It is going to be more expensive, but you will have specialists in their respective fields handling that end of things for you. You definitely need to check references on previous clients to ensure you are getting a strong team. Their responsiveness, ability to communicate and obviously quality of products are all important factors in how good of a team you get.
In-House You are going to have to manage that and realize that that attention will come off all the other things you need to get done in your business. If your product is a tech based product, sounds like it is, then a lot of your attention can be eaten up by that.
I would say if you have the money to afford a firm, and can find one that really fits with the type of product you are looking to put together, then go with that.
Focus your start-up on the business you are in -- and outsource functions which are not part of your proposed competency.
If the very foundation of your company is the technology platform that you are looking to have developed -- then strongly considering building the team internally.
But if the programming you are seeking is to provide support to the core function of the company -- then strongly consider outsourcing it.
For a variety of factors there is a strong tech bias to this board -- but the overwhelming majority of startups are not technical, web-based, applications, software or mobile aps -- and there is absolutely no need for those companies to build the operational and functional capacity of a web development shop.
In fact if they did-- there would be very little work for all the web and software design and development firms and their associated software products!