By Pablo Ruiz
When it comes to building a startup, there are many ways to get started. Some entrepreneurs hire employees, others hire freelancers, others build it themselves (if they have the necessary skills) and others hire a company to do it.
When it comes to hiring a company to help you build your startup, you need to know most of them are generally working with many other clients and they won't have 100% of their time and resources just for you. Even though that's perfectly fine (after all, would you really want to work with a company whose sole client is you?), you should make sure they are excited about your project and that they are going to give the best of them to help you build a successful product.
Having a team that's really excited about your product is one of the most important (if not THE most important) thing when hiring a company as they will help you shape your product unconditionally, they will help you identify problems with your idea early on and they might even help you save costs along the way!
On the other hand, a team that doesn't believe in your vision, that isn't really interested in the concept will just undermine your efforts. Sooner than later you'll find yourself fighting with them over the scope, accusing each other of not having chosen the best technology and spending money on building features that make no sense.
When starting, you don't need "just a provider", you need a partner, an experienced company that will play in your team and make things happen for you, sharing their experience in previous projects to help you build an amazing product.
In this article we'll explore the 5 signs that show that the company you've hired (or planning to hire) to help you is not only the best provider but also the best technology partner for your startup in the long run:
1 - The founders of the company are excited about your product
I can't stress enough how important it is for the founders of the company you are hiring to really believe in your product.
They are the ones who call the shots regarding what gets done and what doesn't. When resources are scarce within the company, which product do you think they are going to delay? The one they love, that's going to give them great press coverage and more exposure? Or the one that they don't believe in?
How do you make sure the founders are on-board? Meet with them! Don't just hire the company whose salesman was convincing enough or gave you a good price. We are talking about you startup's future here. You should save some time to meet with the company's founders and ask them what they think about your project.
Meet with them in a relaxed environment, become friends and share your thoughts with them, and have them share theirs with you. Not only you'll learn if they are excited (or at least if they actually know about the project), but also it's a great opportunity to learn from them.
As the founder of such a company, I can tell you that this point is key. I may not know about your business, but having participated in the making of more than 50 apps and tens of startups I know exactly what does and doesn't work in general. And if I love your idea I will certainly invest my time in learning exactly what makes or breaks startups in your specific industry.
2 - They want a piece of your company
Nothing shows more commitment to your project than having the hired company ask for equity in your startup.
Most companies will ask you for some equity after you have talked with them a few times, and most of the time after they've sent you a proposal which seems too high for you. A great tactic companies use is to give you a discount to match the price you are willing to pay in return of some equity.
I'm not against that and it's something we usually do, but if it happened that way it doesn't necessarily mean the company is interested and excited about your idea. It could be, but most of the time it just means they want the job and they are not willing to just give away some money.
When I say that them wanting a piece of your company is a great signal, it is when they REALLY want it. You will be able see that on the first meeting you have with whoever is in charge (and with enough authority to ask for equity). Tell them your idea and see how they react. Do their faces brighten-up when you tell them your idea? Do they get excited about it? Do they ask the right questions? And finally, after you've finished telling your story, do they ASK you for a piece of your company? If they do, it's great sign you are in good hands.
Just a note: If they don't ask you for equity immediately, it shouldn't be a deal-breaker. It doesn't have to mean they are not interested. Maybe the person you are speaking with is not authorized to make such proposal, or they just don't work like that, or they think you are too big and wouldn't accept it.
3 - They can't stop asking questions
Hiring just a provider to build your startup isn't enough. You need someone by your side that will not only do what you say, but also help you make decisions.
You need a team that will question your decisions for the greater good of the product (and not because they want to save time and costs). Each time you propose something should be done, they should ask why.
Why? Because it shows they care about the product, they are not just doing what they are being asked, but they are doing what they believe will help shape the product and make it successful.
Of course that there are some decisions that should go unquestioned, specially with what has to do with the business side of the product. Remember you are still calling the shots, but that doesn't mean you can't ask for their opinions and thoughts in order to make informed decisions.
4 - They present you with opportunities
After years of being part of this industry and even more after spending some time working in the same city (Of course it's Miami, in case you are wondering), I've developed and nurtured many great relationships in the different communities with other entrepreneurs, journalists, investors, event organizers and service providers.
Having access to such network of great people who are willing to listen to me and help is one of the most important things I have and it's something I like to open up to the people that work with me (and also to those who don't!).
Working with a partner that has such connections and is willing to share them with you is of great help and shouldn't be underestimated. At some point you'll need access to investors, or service providers in other areas that are not easy to find, or to establish partnerships with other companies, and having someone by your side that is respected in the community will certainly help you.
Of course this is something you can build on your own, but it takes time. Networking is so important in this world and it takes so much effort and time that having someone that can help you, even if it just a bit, really adds up.
Warning: just as you can associate with great people that will make things happen, you could also associate with people with a bad reputation that will prevent things from happening. Be careful and do some research about the people you'll be working with and their past experiences!
5 - They make you part of their family
Who doesn't like to spend some time hanging out with interesting people, talking about anything and not just about work?
Even though this point isn't directly related with your project, it is just as important to make sure your partner is into you and your business.
Being able to meet with your team outside of the working environment is crucial to create affinity. When we like people and we feel comfortable around them we tend to work better.
Do they like to hang out with you? Do you like to hang out with them? If you can't stand them (or they can't stand you) how do you expect to work alongside for the next months or even years?
If you are getting asked to hang out with them outside of work it's a great sign they want you to be part of the family. Specially if they invite their own partners or other team members. And this is a great opportunity to learn more about their culture, their story, their ideas for the future and how they see themselves working with you in the next few years.
I know we are all busy, but you should save some time for fun, it won't hurt you and it will allow you to meet new people and get some much needed distraction!
Bonding Tip: There's no better excuse to hang out and still do some work (and networking!) than going together to an event. Next time there's an event coming up in town that is related to your industry, invite them! Not only you'll have a whole day to spend together but you'll also be able to meet other people your partner knows and even thank them with a few intros of your own!
Hiring a company to help you build your startup can be the best decision you make or the worst one. I hope this article gave you some eye-opening tips to make the right call when choosing who to work with.
Have you ever worked with a company that ended up being the wrong partner? If yes, can you share what went wrong? I'd love to hear some stories in the comments section below!
Pablo Ruiz is the Co-Founder of InfinixSoft, a Miami-based company that develops apps across iOS, Android and the web. Through his company and blog, Pablo helps entrepreneurs design, build, grow, launch, manage & support their startups.