How To Hire An App Developer For Your Startup

Krunal Shah

Apr 20, 2021 | 11 min read

Hire an app developer for your startup

It’s 2021 and startups are no more just great ideas. They are about making ideas happen. A great app idea lying in the planner is worth much less than an average idea executed really well. And so, it’s only natural that startups are a lot more focused on hiring the right tech team now. If you are reading this right now, chances are you want to understand how to hire an app developer for your startup the right way.

Great that you are clear about where to focus on and invest your resources!

As a CTO of a leading software development company, here’s what I have learnt about the specific hiring challenges startups face, what their best hiring options are and how they should finalize a candidate.

Table of Content

Hiring Challenges That Most Startups Face

hiring challenges that most startups face

All startups are businesses but not all businesses are startups. Unlike already established businesses, startups are building everything from scratch.

And thus, they have their own unique challenges when it comes to hiring app developers.

Lack of local tech talent

One of the biggest challenges startups face while hiring app developers is the shortage of local tech talent.

If you are based in areas that we call “the tech hubs”, most local developers either already working for a big shot, or looking to get into the next big tech company.

On the other hand, if you are based in areas that are not popular tech hubs, you struggle to find good tech talent there.

That is why many startups resort to hiring offshore developers to meet the skills gap in their teams.

Offshore destinations like India have a huge talent pool of app developers or software engineers in general. These technologists still reside in India, but they work for a number of big and small tech companies worldwide.

Extra costs of hiring in-house app developers

Even if a startup chooses to hire app developers from offshore locations, they still have to consider remote developers as a part of their team.

So, you have to pay their fixed salaries, and need to invest in software infrastructure for your remote team. Moreover, you have to hire additional personnel to lead your development team and have to pay for their salaries.

Add to that the costs of providing security, perks, and other benefits to your in-house team, including app developers. So naturally, the costs of hiring app developers are a significant fixed and recurring expense for startups.

Struggles of retaining the talent

Let’s assume you did find the right tech team for your startup. You managed to float with all those additional costs of hiring app developers too. But now what?

You can’t bind your team with your startup. Skilled app developers are always on the lookout for going somewhere better or choosing a more challenging project.

Plus, the tech giants are always headhunting for more and more developers. So startups often struggle to retain the talent they have hired after so much manual and financial investments.

It’s important to consider the consequences of not being able to retain app developers.

What if they leave in the middle of the software development life cycle? Such a situation is very demanding and requires the founders to drop everything so they can onboard a new developer and explain the project to them.
Even after that, it’s likely that the previous developers didn’t maintain the code properly and the new developer has to start everything afresh. The result? More costs, delay in development, and increased time to market.

No or newly built HR department

Startups are called startups for a reason. They are just beginning their business, with very limited capital (unless they are fully funded). More importantly, they are working their way around operations, processes, and team structure.

Therefore, most startups don’t have a full-fledged HR department of their own. In some cases that they do, their HR department struggles to establish efficient hiring processes, create a repeatable interview pipeline, finalize job descriptions, and much more!

In absence of all these processes and pipelines in place, you may miss out on some really good candidates because you couldn’t respond to them in time.

Or worse, you may miss out on tens of readily available candidates exactly matching your requirements just because you couldn’t write the job description properly.

Not having a well-established HR department is one of the biggest hiring challenges startups face.

Short on time

Startups thrive on their competitiveness, both in terms of pricing and time to market.

So founders/co-founders get on with their hustle since the very first day. They have to juggle between deciding on the product strategy, making the budgets, looking for investments, and a bunch of other things.

In such a scenario, even if they want to, they can’t afford to spend much time or money in making a recruitment strategy. So there’s a lot of back and forth going on and developers keep joining and leaving the organizations.

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Hiring An App Developer For Your Startup - The Best Options

In-house app developer vs offshore app developer

There are three options when you want to hire an app developer for your startup. You could hire someone in-house, go for a freelance developer or outsource your project to an app development company.

Let’s compare the three options in detail.

1. Hiring an app developer as a part of your in-house team

The very first thing startups mostly consider is hiring an app developer as a full-time employee. However, over the past decade, there has been a shift away from this hiring trend.

That’s because when you hire an app developer for your startup, you have to deal with all the hiring challenges I mentioned above.

Pros of hiring an in-house developer

  • You can hire someone who perfectly fits your startup culture.
  • In-house teams are more reliable and easier to communicate with.
  • They are your go-to resource for anything unexpected that comes along development lifecycle.

Cons of hiring an in-house developer

  • Hiring a full-time in-house developer takes a lot of time.
  • You have to give them paid time off and other benefits.
  • Retaining a full-time employee is tougher for startups.
  • You have to manage their workload and actively participate in the project management process.
  • One developer comes with limited skillset and expertise

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2. Hiring a freelance developer on a contractual basis

Many startups resort to hiring freelance developers when they don’t have the bandwidth to onboard an in-house developer.

This is a pretty common choice because of the benefits that come with hiring freelancers. However, many startups eventually resort to other options after they have experienced problems working with freelancers.

Let’s weigh the pros of hiring freelance developers against its cons.

Pros of hiring freelancers

  • You can find a vast range of available options on popular platforms like Toptal, Fiverr, or Upwork.
  • A lot of freelance developers are ready to work for lower pay compared to in-house employees.
  • You don’t have to pay for any perks or benefits to freelance developers.
  • You can do away with setting up hardware and software infrastructure as freelancers don’t work out of your office.

Cons of hiring freelancers

  • Hiring freelancers is always risky as they may leave or stop working for you in the middle of the project.
  • There is no guarantee of the quality of software deliverables.
  • Freelancers usually work on multiple projects at a time so they are not fully committed to your project alone.
  • The freelance developer alone is the only point of contact. Code reviews and quality checks become your responsibility.
  • You may still need to hire different professionals for testing, UX design, etc.
  • The association with a freelance developer ends after the software delivery. You will need to hire someone else for maintaining or upgrading your app in the future.

3. Hiring an app development company to outsource your project

Outsourcing your development project to an app development company is the ideal middle ground for startups. It is more affordable and viable than hiring an in-house team. Plus, these companies have much more industry expertise and are more reliable than freelancers.

Let’s quickly take a look at the pros and cons of hiring an app development company for startups.

Pros of hiring an app development company

  • You get complete project management services from business analysis and app design to app development and testing.
  • App development agencies have been doing the job for several years, along with a full-fledged team. So they have well-established processes, communication channels, and code quality benchmarks.
  • An app development company comprises experts and consultants for each aspect of software development. So they can help you polish your strategy, document requirements, and suggest a timeframe and budget.
  • App development companies form associations for the long-term success of an app. They help you launch your app, maintain it and upgrade it per your changing requirements.

Cons of hiring an app development company

  • There’s a lot of paperwork involved as app development companies follow a defined process from project discovery to project delivery.
  • Costs of hiring an app development company may be a little higher than hiring freelancers because they take care of the entire project management process.

Out of the three options, which one should a startup choose?

You must have already made up your mind based on the pros and cons of each option. Still, I’ll briefly list the ideal scenarios for considering each option.

If you already have enough IT experts in your team and budget isn’t a huge restriction, I’d recommend hiring an in-house developer for your startup. That way, your developer, with the help of your tech experts, can build the right project for you.

Alternatively, you can also consider hiring a dedicated app developer to fill the skills gap in your team. This is called staff augmentation and many IT startups are relying on it now.

I won’t recommend hiring freelance developers unless it’s for a small to medium task and you have in-house experts for quality checks.

If you want to hire an app developer for your startup with little in-house tech expertise, it’s best to go for an app development company.

With a lot of versatile experience in the industry, an app development company in countries like India will help you build a cost-effective yet efficient product for your startup.

How To Hire An App Developer For Your Startup

If you are going to outsource development or want to hire an app developer, use these key considerations to filter your options.

Experience and proof of work

Before you hire an app developer, it’s crucial to verify their experience in the field. Look for candidates or vendors who have built good apps in the past. Check their portfolio, ask them to provide references from their clientele.

There are a lot of B2B directories that can help you find the right fit. For example, Clutch is a great platform to quickly glance through an exhaustive list of potential candidates.

Check the vendor’s ratings on Clutch and the kind of reviews they have gotten from their client. Reviews enable you to take a look at how exactly it will be to work together with a candidate.

Third Rock Techkno Clutch client Review

Image source: Clutch

These reviews will help you test the credibility of a vendor and foresee their long-term support for your project.

Thought leadership and dynamic presence in relevant communities

Third Rock Techkno Medium blog
Startups are very dynamic in nature. Their very existence is based on the newness and competitiveness of their product idea. So it’s vital to partner up with an app developer who actively participates in knowledge sharing/gaining in the ecosystem.

If you have shortlisted some vendors, check the blogs on their website. This will give you an idea of the industry expertise these teams have.

Moreover, articles and blog posts by their leaders help you peek inside the company culture and the kind of leadership they have. Leadership execs at app development companies have a major bearing on how product development is approached and achieved.

Technologies that your potential app developer works with

You may be a startup today but you won’t remain a startup 2-3 years down the line. So it’s vital that you consider how your app will function in the future.

The scalability and enhancements of an app are directly impacted by the technologies used to build the app. So hire an app developer or an app development company that is both proficient and up-to-date on modern technologies.

As a startup, you are always under a cost crunch. So while interviewing the candidates, ask them how they can help you reduce app development costs by using open-source and free tools.

Project management and communication criteria

How do you know whether the candidate you are hiring will ensure that your app is delivered on time? If your vendor talks about the concrete Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) they follow and presents you with a timeline, you know that you can trust them.

Project management influences the cost-effectiveness and timeliness of a project to a great extent. So while shortlisting candidates, ask them about their SDLC and the project management tools they use.

You should hire a company that works with project management tools that your in-house team is comfortable with. Also, make sure your app developer provides you with details on how often they will communicate with you, how will they share project progress, and how they will adjust to your changing requirements, just in case.

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The Bottom Line

Startups face a lot of hiring challenges because tech talent is in super high demand and most of them cost way too much for a startup. If you want to hire an app developer for your startup, you have three options to choose from. Hire an in-house developer, a freelance developer, or a development company.

I personally recommend hiring an app development company because it is lighter on the pocket compared to an in-house team and ensures much more quality than hiring freelancers.

While you shortlist vendors to outsource your project, check their portfolios and reviews on B2B directories. Ensure they use compatible project management methods and are transparent in their communication.

Third Rock Techkno is a leading app development company in the US with an offshore office in India. We are a team of expert consultants, project managers, designers, developers, and testers.

If you are a startup looking to get some expert help with your product development, we would love to pitch in! Let’s connect here and talk about how you can bring your idea to life with the least possible cost and maximum possible ROI.

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Krunal Shah

Krunal Shah is the CTO and Co-founder at Third Rock Techkno. With extensive experience gained over a decade, Krunal helps his clients build software solutions that stand out in the industry and are lighter on the pocket.

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