There are a lot of resources out there on how to come up with the great idea, how to validate it and research the market and how to iterate to find product-market fit. There's even more material about how to market your product, how to run social media ads, email campaigns and generate leads. There’s plenty of information on how to come up with the product and how to sell it, but there’s no information available to founders about how to build their product.
There are a few options. If you have some technical skills, you can build the product yourself. It will take time, and you will have to learn in the process, but at least you won’t have to invest a lot of money into hiring other people, and you won’t need to share equity with a co-founder. The problem is that if you’re so good at developing products you are very unlikely to have excellent business skills or domain knowledge. You are lucky if you do.
If you don’t have tech skills, you can always learn. It’s going to take time, and it’s not going to be a smooth ride, but you can do it. The benefits are the same — you won’t have to invest money or give away equity. But is it worth it if you’re more versed in other things?
Okay, so what if you don’t have the skill and don’t want to learn and do everything yourself? Your next option is to partner with someone who can build the product for you. Someone who’s good at software development to lay out the architecture, create the initial version and then continuously improve the product and hire and manage other developers as your company grows. This skilled professional should believe in the product so much that she’ll work on it full-time (or even 120 hours a week) and will get a share in future profits.
The only problem is that the number of people willing to work long hours without any pay for somebody else’s idea is meager. The number of such people who have necessary skills is even smaller. That’s why you can spend years looking for a co-founder, and if you find one, there’s no guarantee that he will stay with you. There’s a lot of pressure applied to the developer who’s building and launching the product single-handedly, and a lot of people quit once things get hot.
That’s who a lot of founders choose to build their team. If you have the budget, it’s possible to slowly build your development team that will bring your product to life and works on it for years. You don’t have to be technically versed for that. You need to hire the right people and manage them in the right way. Management of software development project is very similar to managing any other project though there are some differences that you should be aware of.
For the last fifteen years, I’ve been working with founders who decided to build their team and develop their product despite the lack of technical skills on their part. I can assure you that it is entirely possible. Most projects failed, but that failure wasn’t the result of poor management or lack of skills within the team. Most of them failed because they weren’t able to find the product-market fit and failed to acquire paying customers.
Validating the idea and researching the market is something you need to do before, after, and during development. It’s not possible to verify the idea without building the initial version of the product sometimes. Then you have no other choice than invest in development, get some feedback from customers and then adjust your product. My goal is to help you build your initial version.
Building a development team is not an easy task, but it pays off over time. With the right approach, you can have predictable (to some extent) development process where features are delivered every week ready for you to test. Week by week your team will build the product using the roadmap you will create while you will be busy showing demos to customers and getting their feedback.
Momentum is very important for the process to be smooth and predictable. That means that you need to make sure that you have enough work for the team all of the time and you have enough budget to cover the expenses. If there will be problems with planning or financing, your team might lose the momentum, which will make the process less effective.
If you decide to go this route, you must answer yourself how do you feel about managing other people. Most of the problems startup have are not technical problems but people problems. Your team will need your guidance all the time. You’ll have to be there to write and draw down the requirements, answer questions, give feedback and resolve conflicts. It takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, that’s why some people think it’s easier to build everything yourself.
But building everything yourself makes you locked-in. You can’t develop the product and promote it at the same time. When you have a team, and it has a momentum you can free yourself to work with customers and promote the product. You can rely on your team and expect them to do the work that has been planned. Nothing beats the feeling of delegating the work and seeing it done. Of course, there might be a flaw here and there, but it will be fixed after you give your feedback.
Building the team is a long-term investment. You need to spend money month after month, wait for developers to get up to speed and tolerate unpredicted issues, bugs and misinterpreted requirements. It might sound pessimistic, but that’s what software development is, no matter who’s doing the work — a hired team, co-founder or you.