Is it okay to outsource MVP to a development agency?

Many founders are confused whether to outsource their MVP development to a development agency (or a freelancer) vs. build it fully in-house.

The confusion lies in the fact that many investors / serial tech founders often share that one should own everything in-house and not outsource the development.

If you are /or have somebody in the team somebody who can code , of course you should be developing it in-house (or making all the important decisions and work with an agency).

But, if you are not the coder in the team and don’t have a strong engg person in the early team, you have an option:

1. Either learn coding (as Paul Graham would recommend you)


2. Outsource the development.

Option 1 doesn’t come easy to many folks and it is important to also understand that in the early stage, you should be playing to your strength and not weakness.

Option 2, i.e. to outsource or not is not an easy decision. Conventional wisdom tells you to not outsource, but you have to decide whether to ‘let go of your idea’ vs. ‘getting a basic/minimal version out’.

Lean how to build MVP with our free product management course. Apply for the invite.

If you decide to not kill your idea and instead, go ahead with dev agency – you aren’t the only one. Even companies like Slack had outsourced their entire design + development to an agency.

In late 2013, Slack hired us to help them turn their early prototype into a polished product. We did the logo, the marketing site, and the web and mobile apps, all in just six weeks from start to finish. Apart from a few tweaks here and there, much of the product remains unchanged since the day we handed our designs off to the team at Slack.

In July 2013, I got an email from Stewart Butterfield. I recognized his name immediately. I was a big fan of Flickr, which he co-founded and sold to Yahoo, and we were both based in the Pacific Northwest. He had big news: he was shutting down Glitch, the game he’d started in 2009, and was working on something new. He wanted us to design his new team chat app [Andrew, MetaLab founder/via]

Mistakes founders often commit when outsourcing MVP to an agency

Giving away equity for development.

That’s the biggest mistake non-tech founders often do, when outsourcing MVP to an agency. This mistake hits badly in the long run, when you are trying to raise money and investors feel ughh when they look at your cap table.

Even if you are running low on money, you should speak to multiple agencies and get a tech advisor to evaluate them. Worst case, if you are giving away equity to an agency, tie it to mid-term success (i.e define MVP success metrics).

Always remember that an idea that has come alive is better than the one in your head (and will be part of a your regret basket later in life).

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