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7 Tactics to Build an App Without a Technical Cofounder: Part 2

Inaka Blog wrote this on August 30, 2013 under advice, startup, tips .

Want to build an app but don’t have a technical cofounder? It can be done, but things will run smoother with a little work and research. Inaka's founder Chad DePue came up with 7 Tactics to show you how:

  1. Know the Tools
  2. Know the Iceberg Model
  3. Determine the Relationship
  4. Consider the Platform
  5. Don’t Take Shortcuts
  6. Don’t Over-Design
  7. Don't Stop

We’ve already discussed Know the Tools in Part 1. Knowing what good developers use to build an app -- git, agile management tools, deployment, testing, and analytics -- will keep you in the loop.

Now, it’s time to tackle the next two steps, both of which should be done before you even begin building: Know the Iceberg Model and Determine the Relationship.

Know the Iceberg Model

Before you begin, you need to have a realistic idea of the long-tail of development and iteration. True, there is an upfront cost. But it’s equally if not more important to realize that the development process will slow as developers work to fix bugs, and those hours add up.

The total cost of development is an iceberg, hence the Iceberg Model. At first, you only see the upfront cost, or the tip of the iceberg. It’s during development that you will discover the rest of the iceberg -- what's underwater, so to speak -- and it will probably be much, much more than you might have anticipated. So, to save yourself a lot of headache and heartbreak, you need to have a realistic budget before beginning.

The best way to get a good total estimate is to look at real-world examples from your competitors. It also doesn't hurt to take a look at prices for companies in other fields, too.

For example, in the case of Campus Sentinel, a crime and safety information distribution app for public schools, 40% of the allotted budget was spent on building the app. The remaining 60% was spent after its initial launch on iterations and improvements.

For another real-world example, check out answer 1010 in response to a question on Stack Overflow. It’s a frank look at the hours that go into developing a project.

Determine the Relationship

The next step is to determine the relationship you’ll have with your developer. Like most relationships, good communication is key. Is this a partnership? Are you splitting things? Will they work for free? Keep in mind that not only will this determine the flow of money, but it will also determine how the developer and company view one another, and how they both view the project.

What is meant by that, exactly? Here’s an example: early on, Chad worked with a team of developers to build a bidding website. They wanted an equity arrangement and Chad agreed – but since he didn’t spend any money, he started blowing it off. He didn’t dedicate his time or full attention to it, and in turn, the company didn’t respect Chad’s time either. Eventually they forgot he was a part of the project.

Now, Chad still agrees to partnership and equity agreements, but both parties always make a cash investment. Always, always. With the investment, a level of respect is set within the relationship, and both parties have a real incentive to make it work, and to make it work well. This was Chad’s partner strategy with Whisper, which is currently the fast-growing social network in the iTunes app store.

With these three tactics -- Know the Tools, Know the Iceberg Model, and Determine the Relationship -- you’ve done all the prep work. Now, you’re ready to begin developing.