You have a great idea, business plan, and initial investment. Probably, you need to develop a product from scratch or you already have an MVP and need to scale. So, you face the need for an experienced team of technical professionals.
Startup Development differs from development for small and medium companies. Especially during MVP and scaling up phases it requires extreme agility and adjustment to uncertainty. Your development partner should be able to follow this speed and employ appropriate development methodology.
The biggest mistake is to consider your technical partner as a one-off engagement, just as service you get and forget. After your product is developed you then need updates, maintenance, and support and it is more convenient to complete it with a team that builds it from scratch so they know all peculiarities and are able to make it easier, faster, and better.
In the material, we collected the factors to pay attention to when choosing an IT company for your startup.
Why company instead of freelance developers
- If you haven’t worked with developers before, it will be rather difficult to have clearly defined project specifications for freelancers since most of them are not so motivated to deep dive into your project and offer creative solutions. At the same time, with a software development company, you can even go through a discovery phase and understand how you will build your product better.
- Sometimes there are problems with less responsibility. Freelancers might disappear in critical moments for your project. For companies, it is more difficult and brings damage to their reputation.
- Faster and easier scaling of your team. Most startup IT service providers are able to offer additional quality staff in several weeks while looking on your own might take months.
1- Research your technical partner before the first meeting
1. Existence of the company. Depending on the location of the company try to check local registries online to find out whether the company officially registered and how long it is on the market.
2. Review sites. Use them more for finding their clients and projects. Do not believe all their reviews blindly (the whole industry of writing fake feedback exists), better contact their recent clients directly.
Check at least their Clutch, Goodfirms, and Upwork profiles.
3. Google. Search company’s mentions beyond their website. Try such Google operators as:
«company name» -site:company website
link:company website -site:company website
4. Information about their leaders. It may include a biography, stages of work, professional and personal qualities, etc. You can find their names either on their website, or LinkedIn or The org company profile. Employ Google as well by using the same techniques as with the company name.
2- Portfolio discovery
Most materials about choosing the most suitable development company suggest considering those which have had similar projects before. However, we think each project needs a unique approach, so it’s better to check the variety of projects, industries and expertise. But do not believe all what they are telling about projects on their website. Check their recent products by yourself and make sure you are satisfied with the quality.
At the same time, find out whether a company has positive experience with startups, because as we already mentioned it requires a different approach.
Pay attention to their website. Why trust the development of your web/mobile application to a company that has an ugly website, which isn’t adaptive and doesn’t have fast download speed?
Verify whether that software development agency hasn’t worked for your competitors before. If so, they may be still under NDA or various competition clauses.
3- Software development company culture
Beyond technical ability (UX/UI design, software engineering, testing, etc.), the right partner will have a strong company culture, too. Software development isn’t solely technical, with the creative side being equally important. Strong company culture is often a good indicator of the quality of work that an organization will provide you with. Custom business software requires close involvement from developers and their culture in your company. When you hire a developer, you’re welcoming them to be a part of your team.
Ask about their hiring process, team diversity, and inclusiveness, take a deep look at decision-making procedures.
4- Employer brand
A software development firm’s image on the global and local tech market has a huge influence on how well and fast they can attract tech talent. It relates to the question — how fast you can scale your team upon demand. A software development provider with a reputable employer image is less likely to have problems with employee staffing and retention. Therefore, when choosing it services for startups, reviewing your organization’s employer brand is crucial.
For startups, the price might be a decisive factor. But make sure the low price is reasonable, sales managers are honest with you about why the price is too low or too high compared to other offers. Request detailed information about what services the price includes and what it doesn’t. Ask about their pricing model and choose payment by milestones — it is more convenient for an unstable and fast-pacing startup and technology environment.
All innovative approaches and ambitious claims of companies worth nothing without appropriate legal protection. Legal documentation may vary from project to project, but basically, you should expect the following set, that meets international standards:
- Client Agreement
- NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)
- Secure Data Storage
- Code Warranty
- Personal access to data about employees who have access to your project information
- Guarantees. For example, Digis offer 2 weeks free trial and replace our employees if they do not suit your project
- Application Ownership or intellectual property rights on your product. To avoid any ownership conflicts in your project, make sure you have a clear agreement with clear wording that follows the law of the governing country
- GDPR compliance is also vital because, without it, you will not be able to market your products in European countries
- Security. Ensure the chosen company uses proper security protocols during product development. Ask about their security measures.
As we mentioned in the beginning, working with an custom application development company is a long-term partnership in most cases. So you should make sure at the early stages of your relationships that you understand each other to ensure a comfortable and streamlined work process.
Besides your mutual sympathy, you should pay attention to time zone differences (not more than 2-3 hours), the language they speak and how well, their communication tools, and how fast they respond to your messages.
Best software development company should provide you with a transparent process and be honest with you about limitations, possible delays, and best solutions.
Besides checking how they are honest and transparent in a personal meeting, discover public updates on the company’s changes in their social media and blog.
Ensure you will have access to the project files. In Digis, we give our clients access to the source code (Gitlab, Github), project management dashboard (Trello, JIRA), regular transparent reports, production environment, and instant messenger. All these things help you keep control over the project and improve your communication flow.
As a startup, you need to be able to change your plans fast and with no or little loss. New technologies, scaling, quick updates, switch between multiple pricing models, and more. For now, it is only possible when the agile methodology is used for product development.
You can verify the team agility by asking what methodology they use and propose some hypothetical changes in requirements, and their impacts on both cost- and time-wise.
10- Consider future maintenance and support
Nevertheless, software development is usually a long-term partnership, one day you might need to change your provider. So from the very beginning, you need to ensure that you are given in writing about providing software configuration, software orientation, software customization, software maintenance, and software backup services, and other project knowledge and best practices.
11- The best partners want you to grow
They do not chase fast money, instead, they understand that they can grow together with you in a long-term perspective. In Digis it is one of our operating principles.
The sign of professionalism is disagreement and active dialogue. The best software development teams often violate a famous “customer is always right” rule. They will never add a single feature to your product if they consider it irrelevant. They will ask you many questions — brainstorm on the product value, try to understand end-user experience in every detail, and suggest changes to make your product viable.
13- Choose agencies that offer complementary services
So to make a final decision, you should consider the company’s special services and competitive advantages. It may be marketing support, business development, etc.
Digis, for instance, offers help with business strategies, fundraising, also we can invest with our own money or by developing software. It is a great option when you suddenly face a lack of resources but need to continue operating. Here you can check our similar case which we have recently worked on. Besides this, Digis is a sister company of business accelerator RichelieuV.