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Start Up 101, Tech

October 7, 2015

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Intimidated By Tech? Try Outsourcing!

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You have an idea for the next billion dollar mobile app. You've come to Found., and you're ready to make it happen. Your mind is dreaming about that amazing new website you’ve planned. You fantasise about becoming your own boss, building a global company, or becoming a leader in your industry. 

But you don’t know how to code.

‘Ah, well … it was a cool idea.’ And that’s that.

Don’t let that happen.

The only thing worse than not doing what you want in life is knowing what you want but not knowing how to get it. This is especially true in an industry where so much is dependent on highly refined skills, knowledge, and experience. Combine that with the costs associated with either obtaining those skills yourself, or hiring someone else to do that, and it’s no wonder that many potential entrepreneurs stop themselves from turning their dreams into reality.

To those entrepreneurs, I have one bit of advice: outsource, stupid.

Outsource is a dirty word nowadays. That’s understandable; everyone knows someone who knows someone that worked with someone that got scammed, worked with atrocious developers, or had their money simply stolen.

Outsourcing is also a red flag in other ways. As an investor, the moment I see a pitch deck and find that the entire technical team is outsourced, I pass on the spot. 

And indeed, outsourcing can have its problems. But there is something far, far worse than outsourcing, and that’s intimidation. Being intimidated by new things, or the risks associated with working with strangers, or delving into something you know nothing about. Because intimidation begets paralysis, and paralysis begets inaction in pursuing what you want to do.

Outsourcing can be tricky, but like all things, it's a skill that can be learned. Learning how to manage projects, deal with engineers’ expectations and, above all, refine the idea in your head into an actual product. When you outsource, you are forced to understand the process of how things are created, and that is an incredibly important quality for any entrepreneur to have. You can augment your home tech team with outside help, and that's totally fine. In fact, that will give you more time to focus on other aspects of your business, like marketing and product design. Let the programmers do the heavy work: you can build a strong brand story and improve your messaging instead.

What to do you, then?

My advice to potential entrepreneurs: think of an idea, and outsource for it. Something simple, silly, a service that you would get value out of, but not something you expect thousands — or really, even dozens — of people to use. What’s important here is that it has real-world value and use, and it’s simple to develop. A mobile notification whenever your favorite show comes on; an application that allows you to use your desktop keyboard to type messages on your phone; you could even try appropriating mainstream applications into something personalised for you.

Think of an idea, go on popular outsourcing websites, and find someone to do it for you; Elance-Odesk is one well-trafficked example. Devote a few hundred dollars to this; if it’s simple enough, you can still get something fairly useful. And once you have that, not only will you have a finer appreciation for the process of creating and launching your own product, but you will also overcome the paralysis that handicaps so many other potential entrepreneurs trying to overcome the technical hurdles associated with their ideas.

So, what are you waiting for? Go build some shit.