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Should I consider offshoring to develop my startup?

Today I’m going to answer a question from Philippe, the cofounder of a startup in the shipping industry. His question is…

Should I consider offshoring to develop my startup?

Before answering this question, let’s add a bit of context.

Philippe already has an artificial intelligence developer in his team, and he needs someone with complementary skills to develop his startup’s Web SaaS solution.

Now he’s wondering if offshoring as a non-technical founder would be a reliable way to develop his startup’s product.

In truth, it’s impossible to really answer if offshoring is a good or a bad thing, or if it’s better or worse than some other option. It all depends on the providers you encounter.

What I can say after working with dozens of people from all around the world, is that it’s a lot easier to work with people that have the same culture as you. But don’t just take my word for it.

Let’s dive into a few things you need to understand before offshoring.


1. A needle in a haystack

For example: did you know that India has more people than the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia combined? The same goes for China and the continent of Africa.

This means that there are lots of companies competing over there, trying to market to American or European clients.

And usually, the ones spending the most reaching out to you, turn out to not being the best in terms of development.

What I mean to say with all of this is that you are more likely to find a good company in Asia especially through a friend or an acquaintance that has already tested that company’s services, as opposed to being contacted by someone you don’t know and who claims that they can provide any sort of development, regardless of your project.

2. Culture gap

Just because you both speak the same language, doesn’t mean you will interpret things the same way.

If you are an American and you‘re picturing an Airbnb startup with a beautiful interface, the offshore Indian company you chose to work with might be focusing on the functional side of things and end up delivering a much simpler app than you were expecting.

My tip would be to have someone with both cultures to bridge that cultural gap between your European or American culture, and the Asian culture. Like someone with an American mother and an Indian father. This type of person is key because they understand the culture from both sides. These cultural liaisons are able to translate the American request, concerns and worries to an Indian developer without any misunderstanding.

3. Detailed and narrow specifications

While we’re on that note, imagine you’re working with a company with your same cultural background, and you state that your goal is an Airbnb platform for renting bikes.

If your provider is a really smart company, they will analyze the Airbnb business, their procedures, and figure out what’s the gap between managing apartments and bikes until they come up with something like using connected lockers to unlock your bike remotely.

It’s all possible if you understand each other from the get-go, you have the same culture, you grew up in the same environment, you also click instantly and have the same thought process.

If that’s not the case (which rarely is), the simple-but-time-consuming solution, is writing narrow detailed specifications to counterbalance the lack of “natural chemistry” and avoid any misunderstanding.

4. Keep track of development

Having this culture gap means there is a higher risk of misunderstanding each other. So you do need to check up on the development process at least once a week. Ask for a test environment from day one, and keep track of what’s being developed. This way, you’ll be able to provide ongoing feedback and corrections.

5. Communication is the only way to turn your idea into a product

Good and competent communication will be the only way for you and your ideas to be understood.

Finding someone with good English communication skills is a must. Prefer to have audio and video calls to see how people react. If they don‘t understand something, you will have a better chance of recognizing it through a video call than through a live chat.

6. Retain access to the source code

You might know by now that software development is writing software in a specific computer language. You are paying for it, so request access to the source code from the beginning.

I describe in another video how you can do it with tools like Bitbucket. This will help a lot if you run into a conflict with your development company or if you need to audit the source code of your application.

7. Keep control of production

Just like with the source code, keep control of the production environment like the server access or the app store credentials you need to deploy your application.

To offshore the safe way, keep the production management on your side or at least with a local provider, in order to help you keep control of your application and your customers’ data.

It would probably be harder to comply to GDPR with an Indian company managing your production.

8. Use proven technologies

When developing a software, we can use thousands of techniques or languages.

Using well-know proven technologies like Symfony, Django or Ruby on Rails will ensure that your provider’s work will be easily understood by other companies.

9. Audit the produced work

Before wrapping up, ask a friend with the appropriate technical background to evaluate your provider’s work and ensure that they did it the right way.

Having a technical audit during the first few weeks will be your safest bet, since it will let you know if your provider’s development is good or not.

10. Get a company who focuses on only one thing

And as a final advice: get a company with practice and experience in what your app needs.

If you want to be good at something, you need to do it over and over again, right?

So if a company claims they can handle WordPress development—as well as IoT, artificial intelligence, blockchain development, etc.—well, there is a good chance they will learn on the job.

After investing lots of energy and money, you probably won’t get the app you expected, just a bungled version done by beginners that’s not scalable or understandable by other developers.

So always go for an agency with a real focus on a certain technology or another, and that is able to say no if a request falls out of their area of expertise.


Now, to conclude and answer Philippe’s question, using offshoring is definitely riskier just because of the culture gap between you and your provider.

But like any other business relationship, you might find benefits on the long run, and building an effective enough process will enable you to create a startup project with outsourcing. And it’s obviously a great opportunity to build your very first version with low cost and test out your market.

Now if like Philippe, you have a specific question for your project, just go ahead and ask on

I will do my best to answer your question by video or to redirect you to any existing content that will answer it.

I publish a new video every week, so subscribe now and learn how to be better at tech management and build your startup successfully.

Also be sure to go through our other content here at to learn more from real startup growth experiences.

I’ll be waiting for your questions, and I look forward to seeing you in other videos. Cheers.