Tips to hiring SaaS firms with local and offshore talent – Fred von Graf, Web3Mavens
Staying lean is a priority for startups and cutting costs while maintaining quality is key-especially during the development phase. With the challenge of finding low-cost, quality engineers, startups might turn to SaaS firms that use a blend of local and offshore talent to build out their product or website.
Fred von Graf, founder and managing partner Web3Mavens, a Tempe-based SaaS-based software development company, said, “Three years ago, if you would have bet me if I would have outsourced oversees, specifically in India, I would have bet against you.”
Fred Von Graf – more startup tips on hiring SaaS dev. | run time 2:52
Von Graf’s experience working with overseas talent stemmed from his corporate experience managing developers all over the world for Intel and leading business development for Avnet; more recently he was senior venture manager at ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation where he helped mentor startups who needed SaaS engineers.
Von Graf said that for early-stage startups, it can become too expensive to go overseas and find the right group that may or may not their needs-most likely they’ll end up with a ton of frustrations. Language barriers, managing ones’ team from thousands miles away, time zone communications, not knowing what you’ll get in the end and receiving clean code, are just some of the headaches.
However, von Graf said there are plenty of diamonds in the rough and producing excellent work for their customers including Insight, Avnet, HomeSmart, Thunderbird School of Management and more.
“I’ve worked with a lot of developers over the years and these guys (our engineers) are incredible,” he said. “Thus far we’ve grown organically from the developers that we have and maintained 100 percent retention.”
Having been on the customer side von Graf has seen the dark side of outsourcing development holding code hostage, lack of communication for weeks at a time and fixed pricing so each iteration is yet another check to write, are just a few nightmares, he explained, Web3Mavens takes a very open approach to customers.
“We are very transparent. We focus on frequent communications and customers always have access to their code. We also work on weekly sprints so the clients can iterate quickly,” von Graf said.
Von Graf offered advice to startups and businesses looking to hire SaaS development companies with local and overseas engineers.
Access to Code
Make sure you as the client will always have access to the latest code. That can be as simple as having access to the code repository such as GitHub or Team Foundation Server. Unfortunately some developers hold the code hostage if there’s ever a conflict in the future, avoid this by always having access to the code.
Who are their clients?
It helps to know that a company has worked with others that are either in your sector or at your level. Now there are amazingly talented developers out there that have never worked in your space, but if they have it certainly helps. Also, ask for references and examples of past projects.
Size of the project
When working with a development company you want to make sure they can support your project / venture as its grows. If the shop is too small or over capacity they will not be able to grow with you. I suggest to ask up front about their development team, how they engage with the clients, how they allocate developers (per project or shared between projects), are they able to add additional developers to your project as you need it, and will they be there after the project is done to support you?
When evaluating a development company, it is good to have them provide sample code they’ve created to determine coding style. Also note if they are they following industry best practices, commenting the code, creating reusable code, etc. Coding style also helps determine how manageable the code will be when your internal team needs to take over ownership.
Yes to everything
If the development company is apt to say yes to everything, claiming they can do everything, that should be a red flag. Each development shop has specialized skills, so look at their specific skills and determine if it aligns with your needs, and proceed with caution when they never say no to anything.
Talk to capabilities
Again, find out if the shop aligns talent with your needs. Also find out if they have partnerships with other resources to provide a more complete offering. By example, W3M partners with larger development shops, digital marketing agencies, and more experts to help clients establish a strategy.
This becomes especially important when working with earlier stage ventures that are creating direct to consumer solutions, as we all know, ‘if you build it, they will come’ never works outside of the movies, there has to be a plan beyond the software.
CTO or project manager
For startups that don’t have the funds to hire a CTO, find someone who is a technical project manager and outsource overseas. Make sure that you find someone who understands where you are going and your business, not just technical.