5 Different Ways To Build A Startup

When you have an idea, the next step is to figure out how to execute it. There are many different tracks to make it happen. You can code yourself or hire a team to do it. You can also find a tech co-founder or a virtual CTO. So what’s the best choice? Let’s dive deep into it and learn about the pros and cons of different methods to make the best decision.

Different-Ways-to-Build-a-Startup
Fig: Flowchart to choose between CTO agency and freelancers

1. Learn To Code

A lot of literature out there points out that everyone should learn to code or founders should know how to code and so on. Yes, you can also code your way to your startup BUT, what you have to keep in mind is that if your idea is a little bit complex, it is going to be a tedious journey of trials and errors.

You may or may not get your idea built because development is a skill that takes years to really be of any practical use. Think of it this way- You can learn about playing tennis in a month. You can hit the ball and sometimes your smashes can be accurate as well. But does that mean you are ready to face Nadal or Federer? You have to work a lot to hone any skill to make it really useful.

It is the same for programming. You can learn the basics of how a product is developed but to be able to build a scalable, high-performing product is a difficult skill that could take years for you.

Instead, the skill you better require to learn is product design. Product Design is learning about user experience, usability and creating prototypes that you can test with real users and get your idea verified. Once, you have done that you are already ahead of the curve.

This is when you can rather find a cofounder or hire a team to do the needful. The important thing to understand here is that while on the development work, you can have someone to replace you, on the product design front, you are irreplaceable.

It’s like when you are the captain of the ship you have to choose what aspects you should spend your time on. Shouldn’t you be learning navigation and routes to find the best options to sail your ship and lead the team towards it or should you learn about the art of throwing coal into the furnace or managing the throttle? While it is good to know how those things work, you don’t need to be doing that every day.

All being said, it is always useful to learn to code but just be aware of your capabilities. If you can really code well, take the responsibility to code your idea, else just learn enough to understand your developer’s work and be able to test it. For the rest of the time, you will have enough on your plate related to strategy, growth and sales.

2. Find A CTO

Having a partner to complement skills is a tried and tested method amongst teams. While one founder can focus on the business side of things, the other can be the CTO to take the calls on the technology side. It is a great match to build technology startups.

Having a full-time CTO is always a good choice. The benefit of growing with a person who makes sure that the right practices and technology choices have been taken care of right from day one saves a lot of time and effort in the long run. Also having a good CTO in-house is viewed favorably by investors.

An ideal CTO candidate is expected to be really good in technology but also be able to understand the business and be able to combine both in making decisions.

For example, a CTO should be able to create a roadmap for the product development thinking through the various stages, estimating the time and as well as proactively thinking of the blockers that may come on the way. No this is not so straightforward task. It requires years of experience and enough knowledge of all the moving parts.

Add to it commitment, passion, reliability, expertise, leadership skills and you are already looking at a rare breed to find. Add to it the complexity of committing your future with someone. You will have to hack your way through relations and references to have a better chance to get the ideal CTO.

Look for developers that are just below CTO level at other startups, go to places or networking events where there is a chance to bounce into someone. Once you find someone that clicks, start small and gradually bring them into the role.

I always suggest having a technical advisor on board before hiring a CTO. This way you are not right away needy and get a first-hand view of how things run before the CTO comes in. Do not get committed to a half-matched person trying desperately to fill the role.

Ayush Jain

I am Ayush, co-founder and CEO of Mindbowser. At Mindbowser, I and my CTO teamed together to build an agency that can bring the best of tech and knowledge for founders. In case you would like to discuss your options further, feel free to get in touch at ayush@mindbowser.com or book a 30 minutes free consultation call.

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3. Have A Virtual CTO

While planning a tech startup, the need for a CTO is urgent. But for most founders, it is hard to fill in as discussed earlier. The interim solution to the situation is finding a Virtual/On-demand CTO.

Virtual CTO is a cost-effective and time-effective solution to your CTO needs. A virtual CTO takes care of all CTO responsibilities like setting up the technology best practices, technology vision, resource planning and so on but works for multiple companies and is a consultant.

The pros of this arrangement are getting started with a CTO quickly without having to commit long term. The cons of the arrangement are that you will still have to keep working at some point to find a full-time CTO, once things get growing. Also, a virtual CTO may get busy with other gigs over time. He/She would not have the same skin in the game as you would expect from a cofounder CTO.

That being said, virtual CTO is a great way to get started quickly. It is a better option than having no technical guide at all. With a virtual CTO at the helm, you can build a team with senior developers who may even remain in contention to take the CTO spot when the time comes.

4. Hire A Development Agency

Hiring a development agency has been a successful way to build companies for numerous startups. The choice to outsource or not may have to do with the type of startup you are building. If your startup is around enabling automation and technology for a manual process, outsourcing can do wonders. If your startup is about inventing technology then having in-house resources makes more sense.

Another thing to consider is the type of person and experience you come with. Not everyone is poised to attract a great A team and sell a vision on day one. Unless you have already experienced successful exits, you hold technology patents or you are coming out of FAANG companies, it is going to be hard to convince people to join you. Hence, engaging an agency at the start can be a good way. You can read more about considering an agency or not here.

An agency that comes in with its best practices can even cover the needs of having a virtual CTO and can be a good fit for you especially during the early stages of the company. Get your scope underlined and have the agency run it. This way you can save a lot of time in hustling through the various options.

Having an agency also mitigates your risk around compliance, HR functions, labor laws etc that you may like to skip till your company shapes up. The plug and play option offered by most agencies can help you at ease with different skill requirements that a startup requires like DevOps, data science, automation, design etc apart from backend and front end development. A good agency is always a good option to have later in your journey as well to complement your in-house team.

Risks involved in hiring an agency are continuity of personals, lack of control on team culture and risk to intellectual property. The good news though is that all these challenges are solvable with the right intent, engagement and contract. Another disadvantage is that for many founders, the comfort that a good agency provides may lead to internal team-building initiatives taking a back seat.

For most founders, having your idea attractive enough for others to join, takes time. Money is another issue. Hence, considering the above aspects, hiring a software agency can be great. Just keep the contract right and hire the right agency that has the right processes and is extra motivated to work with you.

5. Using Freelance Developers

Here is another method to get your idea off the ground. Just like horses for courses, one can engage freelance developers on an ongoing basis. The pros of this strategy are the ability to hire anytime and from anywhere. The disadvantage would be the lack of control and best practices as the company code would grow under the experience of different developers.

Say, the developer is a PHP developer, he/she may convince you to use PHP for your product without helping you make the right choice or without knowing the pros and cons of it. For individual freelancers, it is against their interest to suggest you alternate options as they risk losing your business.

The only possible way to counter this threat is to have a senior engineer/CTO in-house who sets the practice and expectations and freelancers have to adhere to that protocol.

The advantage of hiring freelancers is that they could be turned into permanent hires. When engaging with freelancers, make sure to check on reliability, proactiveness, trust and quality. It is a great option to use to save cost and also find talent but as mentioned above the processes and quality aspects have to be managed.

It is not a recommended option if you are a sole founder or a founder group with no technology background or help available because in that case, you may find yourself having no clue of the technology choices being made for your company and taken for a ride.

Conclusion

There are many different ways to build a technology startup. You can start by building your own team right away or can hustle with different options. You can even choose to keep a hybrid team that is a mix of in-house and outsourced components. It all comes down to the type of startup and your own personality type, owing to what you are most comfortable in. The list gives you a glimpse into an understanding of the various models you can use.

Ayush Jain

CEO, Mindbowser

Ayush works closely with customers guiding them on their idea and execution.
Reach out to Ayush on ayush@mindbowser.com

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