2. Software architecture:
If you don’t know #1, then #2 is utterly hopeless. And if you can’t discuss the 27 different ways almost any product might be built, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each, what happens then? You put 100% confidence in your outsource provider, who almost always sells what’s either most lucrative or most comfortable for the sop.
3. The build:
Is it going well, way behind, heading down a rathole, on budget or off? Do you also hire people to answer these questions for you?
Some founders, typically from the business side, can’t even have a healthy conversation with a techie. They don’t know what questions to ask, can’t tell a bs answer from a brilliant one, and this often leads to horrible hiring decisions, let alone management and design decisions.
How can they bring these skills in-house, without hiring brilliant (and expensive) fulltime software architects? Advisors, coaches, and mentors can often fill the bill.
Silicon Valley answers this issue with the “hacker/hustler” metaphor: always more than one founder, with one focused on tech/product and the other focused on customer development and later sales and marketing. To me, outsourcing either of these functions falls in the “outsourcing your aorta” category.
Most investors tend to share Owen Davis’ opinion—without a tech co-founder who plans to manage the build day-to-day, fuggedaboutit.
I’ve used consultants many times to augment competencies of internal techies when new challenges came up or we were about to spend a pile of money and I wanted a “gut check” on my internal person. These are relatively easy to recruit, and I’ve often asked either a friend or another techie I’ve worked with to do the final interviews of CIOs and CTOs for me, since they know the questions far better than I do.
The key lies in a founder knowing exactly what he or she doesn’t know, and recruiting the talent and leadership necessary to assure that the core technology—the heart of the startup—is as strong and well-developed as all other elements of the business model.
Maybe the next stage of internet mania will bring fully outsourced startups with a founder simply recruiting a bunch of contractors and then managing all the contracts for design, build, IT ops, sales, marketing, finance and more. Think of how much a startup like this could save on rent, coffee, and donuts!
Until that unlikely scenario unfolds, non-tech founders need to “seek professional help!”