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An Update on my Ask HN - 2223764
50 points by bks on March 18, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments
A few weeks ago I posted an Ask HN about what to do as my 3 next steps on a startup concept, and now I wanted to provide you with a quick update. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2223764

Based on some of the advice and information I received I decided that imperfect action was better than no action at all, so I went to my local San Diego Ruby meetup. I had some lengthy discussions with some of the folks that I met and concluded that as non-programmer attempting to manage full time hires was not practical and that subcontracting vs. full time was an appropriate next steps.

I then asked for recommendations, and along with a trusted and experienced PHP programming friend did some interviewing of the local talent. With the average cost estimates, timelines projections and learning curves - I figured it was time to expand my search rather than risk it with the two person companies that I was finding in San Diego.

I reached out to every provider listed on http://rubyonrails.org/ecosystem plus a list of people that they recommended to simply schedule an initial call.

My result, I was able to speak to 6 of the 17 providers that I called or emailed - the others did not even respond.

A few of them "disqualified me" during the initial calls as not having the budget, they suggested other trusted providers and sent me on my way. They did not get out of bed for less than $150,000 on a rails app and an additional $60,000 for the iPhone component. I certainly do appreciated them not wasting my time.

I had three fantastic conversations over the next two weeks and one of them said they said it was an awesome idea however they were not inspired to work in XYZ industry, but again I asked for the referral and called another set of providers.

After each of the calls and rejections I learned a ton about the vernacular and language of communicating my ideas to development teams and what is expected from the clients perspective in order to work effectively in an Agile environment.

So I refined my Keynote presentations, update my strategy and then something huge happened - I realized that part of the reason that I was not inspiring the providers was that I was not talking to them in the language that they wanted to hear....I was pitching business cases and they wanted 'user stories'.

So with the help of youtube / google I was able to get an immersive indoctrination into the distinctions of user stories, story carding, the differences between agile and waterfall / scrum and about 7 other Evernote notes full of info. After a few hours I was actually able to pick up the concepts and I have been giddy ever since.

Now I am not saying that I have ANY experience with the process, but it most certainly made sense! So I ended up building story cards and calling the providers back and communicating with a common language. What a difference that has made.

It may seem simple to those of you that do this for a living but because I did not want to use something as complicated as Pivotal Tracker and I needed to build cards really efficiently that I could sort and that the providers could have access to. I was unable to find any templates for the tools I already had so I build my own version in Keynote. (the template is located here if it would help anyone - http://bit.ly/i1phXs)

I am talking to my preferred provider tomorrow to see if we can hash out a plan and I have put my investor on hold until we all know what we are in for - both in time, and money.

I recruited the CFO of a company that I used to work for to build a financial model based on some projections and API costs and things have really come together nicely. I have also been following the advice and formatting of the "applying to ycombinator" - not because I intend to apply but it does ask some very important questions and provides great insight into the getting to the "why" of the project. (who knows, I might just click the submit button on Sunday after all of this effort)

This has been an amazing four week I have learned a lot - but it seems like a lifetime of experience 36 years :-) are really coming together to move mountains.

Thanks to HN for all the great insight and articles. As things progress, I will most certainly let you know.

As a principal of one of the firms you might have contacted, I do want to applaud your perseverance and attitude. Let's face it, a lot of folks in your position would call in with the assumption that engagement selection is a one sided process (because they are the client, like at McDonalds). They then get offended when people don't want to drop what they're doing to help an unprepared client work through their design and business plan (for free of course, in the name of sales) just in time to turn them down.

It can be very difficult to schedule the right resources even on a team large enough to work on several projects simultaneously. The demand right now is unprecedented. Most studios are getting cold called and emailed 5-8 times a week by people with vague ideas and $25k budgets. Obviously, we'd help if we could but we have a responsibility to the people we work with to be incredibly diligent about working with clients that seem like good bets. After all, in all of the videos you've seen you'll be bombarded with the notion that ideas are cheap, while execution is everything.

One of the strangest things I deal with at Unspace is people who are confused as to why we charge what we charge, or folks that can't imagine why a multi-person, four month engagement might run over $100k.

You know, you can't open a dollar store in a strip mall for $100k, so why would a top team build you a sophisticated infrastructure to run your entire business on for less?

That all said, these are gripes. We love learning new things and working on new client engagements is a great way to get thrown into the deep end in domains we'd otherwise never get to touch. It can be hard to give everyone your time — most folks don't understand that I'm a developer, not a salesman — but I recently hired our first business development manager specifically so that we could give everyone that contacted us the benefit of the doubt. It's a courtesy and respect thing that is all too easily forgotten.

Pete - Unspace did not make it onto my radar for whatever reason. So no I did not get turned down by you guys...yet, however I agree during my first call I was surprised by the "way things worked" the philosophy, the pricing, everything but after three shops started talking about the same principles and similar pricing structures you start to get the scope of the universe.

This is basically what I learned - pricing may vary by experience, expertise or balls.

Two person teams - 35 billable hours per week each. Project manager accounting for about 10% of billable time so 7 hours per week for PM.

Card sorting, user stories, prelim UX process typically takes about 3 full days and most development houses are happy to have you on site during that process.

For what I am talking about 12-16 weeks for an MVP with pricing that ranges from $7500 to $12,000 per week per developer.

You're in the pocket. At Unspace, we're CAD$200/hour and we do our estimates in sessions, which are six hour days. Given that some days are more, some days are less it makes for a good average. That means that if two people are working full-bore here for a week it'd be CAD$12,000 plus tax, inclusive (our project management fees are embedded in the hourly rate).

Feel free to get in touch with our business development manager if you'd like to talk seriously: Nathan Athay (nathan@unspace.ca) will be happy to hear you out. Tell him I sent you!

Clickable to previous thread:


Great followup, how about another in 2 weeks?

"you need a new version of keynote to view this presentation" notice. I think what I have is new enough...

how about a pdf?

A PDF is tough because the fields are not fillable when exported - but here it is in PDF and Powerpoint. I hope this works for you.



I reached out to every provider listed on http://rubyonrails.org/ecosystem plus a list of people that they recommended to simply schedule an initial call.

Are you dead-set on using Ruby and Rails? If so, why? I ask only by way of suggesting that broadening your view of possible technology platforms might give you an opportunity to interact with a shop that will be able to accommodate your situation.

Maybe call on some Groovy / Python / Scala / Clojure / Erlang / $whatever shops? Just a thought...

Call it selection bias - you have to understand that when I started looking I had done some prelim research and that research led me to a conclusion, and that conclusion led me to a direction. Imperfect action.

After a lot more reading I would now be open to other languages - but back to the whole user story analogy, I should have been describing the system and what the user needs vs. the technology to solve it. I don't 'really' have a complete understanding of the this vs. that so I just picked one and started making calls.

I guess when you come to a fork in the road...

Sure, that's perfectly reasonable. Just throwing an idea out there. :-)

Congrats... and thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

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