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Four Concerns of Startup Founders About Team Extension
WebiNerds addresses concerns of startup founders about working with foreign web development companies according to a team extension model.
Tech startups have a short amount of time to get a lot of work done. They need to prove their viability through a series of competitive financing rounds. And as soon as money has been raised, the burndown begins. If a startup has funding for six months, it may take two or three of those months to find engineers. That’s why team extension for startups can be invaluable. By augmenting a core development team with external software engineers, startups can quickly increase their development capabilities while keeping their core development team and vital expertise in-house. It’s kind of like having EC2 for engineers.
While team extension can add important capabilities to a startup team, there are various misgivings and suspicions that tech founders have about relying on external developers.
Let’s be honest. We know you’ve heard horror stories about working with foreign development companies. I would suggest that these nightmare scenarios generally come about for one of two reasons:
- The foreign development company does not adequately understand business processes and startup needs, OR
- The startup does not have experience working with remote developers.
Large corporations rely on remote developers every day, but for many startups this is a new experience. Here are some of the things that can be difficult to perceive when working with remote teams:
- What is happening in the office.
- How much people actually work.
- The roles of project managers and other management (management structures may be unclear from the outside).
- The actual skill level of developers.
- The passion and concern of developers (or lack thereof) for their projects.
Let’s consider four substantial categories of concerns that startup founders have about working on a team extension basis with international development companies.
1. Intellectual Property Protection
Virtually nothing is more important to a startup than its intellectual property. Non-disclosure agreements signed with non-US entities can be challenging or even impossible to enforce. The procedure for arbitration is often not clear if a company does not have a US presence.
How WebiNerds Protects Your Intellectual Property
WebiNerds is based in the United States. Our physical office is located at 745 Atlantic Avenue in Boston. Though our engineers live and work in Ukraine, all agreements between a startup and WebiNerds are signed with our US entity. This means that non-disclosure agreements can be enforced and arbitration can be dealt with in the US.
It can be difficult to stay on the same page with developers who aren’t in the office. It’s bad enough that you can’t walk across the room or knock on the door. Worse still, many outstaffing and outsourcing companies direct all communications through a central project manager or perhaps the sales department. This wall of managers makes it even harder to be in contact with your actual developers (who may or may not speak any English). As a result, projects and processes that are happening abroad are shrouded in fog. Even when you do connect, you have to worry about time differences. What happens if you need something when your remote team isn’t available?
How WebiNerds Communicates Clearly and Directly
We get it. We’ve taken down the walls. Our full-stack engineers communicate directly with their colleagues in the US office. We also know that Skype and email plainly cannot replace one-on-one meetings and chats by the coffee machine. At WebiNerds we’re always available online – but we don’t believe that’s enough. That’s why we make business trips and even offer on-site representatives to help connect your core startup team with your team extensions. And as far as timezones are concerned, you’re in luck. Between Ukraine and the East Coast of the USA we have a 3-hour overlap during standard business hours. That’s more than enough time for daily communications. And if something comes up outside of our business hours, well… just let us know what you need – we’re listening!
A foreign development company can seem like a black box. In most cases, you don’t really see how or when developers are working. For that matter, sometimes you might wonder if they’re actually working on your project at all! This is especially unsettling on account of the strict deadlines that startups work under. Overseas developers don’t always feel the time pressure or bear the same responsibilities as employees back in the US office. Trust is hard to build when institutions aren’t transparent and when the personal commitment of developers is unknown. An additional concern for startups is due diligence. Investors ask tough questions about precisely who is was working on your project and whether your intellectual property is protected. You have to be able to trust your team.
How WebiNerds Builds Trust
Trust is built on firm handshakes, personal communication, and results. With WebiNerds you can directly interview any full-stack developer who might be joining your team. We want you to know their names and their faces. It’s possible for you to visit our office in Ukraine or even for one of our engineers to make a business trip to the States. But trust is also built on legal foundations. We prepare contracts that explicitly state deadlines and consequences for failing to meet them. We also suggest that startups sign contracts, including non-disclosure clauses and intellectual property considerations, directly with individual developers.
4. Code Quality and Documentation
Even if communication is great, intellectual property is being safeguarded, and trust has been built, there can still be anxiety about the quality of the final product. Specifically, there can be concern about the quality of code and documentation. Any code that’s written by remote developers must be understandable and supportable by in-house developers back in the US. Unfortunately, code is sometimes poorly engineered, obfuscated, or lacking sufficient documentation (or documented in a foreign language). US-based startups expect pixel-perfect results – and rightly so. However, the mentality of some developers in foreign markets may be different. Their mindset may be more oriented towards writing code that “works” instead of writing code that’s truly amazing.
How WebiNerds Writes Quality Code and Documentation
Our full-stack engineers follow industry best practices when engineering, writing, and documenting their code. This is how we write code we can stand behind:
- Agile Methodologies
- We use one of various agile methodologies depending on the specific project. Our Nerds can work according to virtually any agile method, are experienced with tools such as Jira, Redmine, Git, and SVN, and can write documentation in a style that meets an individual client’s standards.
- Test-driven Development
- We first write unit tests before implementing any new functionality. Then we build the minimum necessary code that passes the test. Once working, we refine our code. We test everything: all our methods, all our classes.
- We make code shorter, more readable, and more supportable by redesigning classes and methods. We also perform database refactoring.
- Industry Guidelines
- We follow Apple developer guidelines, CSS guidelines, Google’s Angular JS guidelines, and other industry guidelines for web and mobile technologies.
- Code Review
- Our technical leads conduct code reviews of all projects to ensure best development practices and clean, clearly written code that makes future maintenance as easy as possible. During code review technical leads offer advice to help developers improve their skills.
- WebiNerds Standards
- WebiNerds has our own coding style, meaning company-specific standards that originate from technical leads. Standard code formatting ensures that all WebiNerds code looks alike no matter who writes it.
- Quality Assurance
- Our team uses manual and automatic quality assurance testing methods.
- Design Patterns
- Our Nerds follow known design patterns such as the factory, singleton, strategy, front controller, and model-view-controller patterns.
- All documentation is written in English. We provide documentation for projects as a whole, as well as for every class and every method.
WebiNerds writes code that’s truly amazing by following known development methodologies and industry guidelines, by testing relentlessly, by optimizing code even after it “works,” and by documenting all components so that our projects can be supported for years to come.
WebiNerds Cares About Our Startup Partners
Time is money. Startup founders justifiably worry that remote development teams are merely burning cash. Regular communications, consistent source code reviews, and proper legal contracts with meaningful penalties all work to assure startups that their money is being invested, not wasted.
By safeguarding intellectual property, offering direct communication with developers plus in-office representatives in the States, building trust through results and solid legal agreements, and writing quality code and documentation, WebiNerds proves that we care about our startup partners. It’s crucial that startups collaborate with web development companies who understand not only programming, but who also understand business.
We are Nerds who mean business.