Offshoring with Shakespeare

To be or not to be, that is the question.

Shakespeare was able to predict the trials and tribulations of offshoring software development almost 400 years ago through his play: Hamlet.

Let me translate, opine and semi-butcher (sorry Shakes) the first few lines of Hamlet for you through our experience of software development.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
To offshore, or not to offshore, that is the question that many startups without technical co-founders face. We’re business guys, how hard can it be?

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
It would be nice if we had a million bucks and could have hired our own team – but we’re scrappy and not too proud (which I highly suggest for most entrepreneurs).

I’m willing to ‘suffer’ late nights and early mornings to work with my off-shore teams.

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Yea… shooting for the moon with our business, AppIt Ventures – offshoring helped us get to MVP (Did you catch the pun?). We’re focused on taking care of the customer, money will take care of itself.

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
Offshoring has its risks and rewards – and – by its name is inherently across the sea (don’t hate). Our purpose with offshoring initially was completely offense-oriented (save money & time), but learned through experience that not everyone in the world carries the same level of quality that we hold so true to our culture – and that we needed to have defense measures (arms) in place to ensure everyone in the deal won (post a comment if you want to know some of them).

And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
Umm… they didn’t teach this line in grad school … to sleep, oh yea, India is 12 ½ hours ahead of me (yes, add +30 minutes) and most guys we worked with rolled in around 10am their time. So, just as I finished my 10-12 hour day, they jumped on Skype or email and wanted to discuss things like politics, weather, and my project.

** side note – readers – impress your significant others by Skyping with a guy on the other side of the world when s/he comes to visit – “Oh hi you… Who’s This? This is just Arsalan, he’s in Ahmedabad, India. Come say hi.” (Boom!)

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
$15 / hr for a mid-level developer sounds amazing, right?

I know of a few Denver guys who have found, and continue to find tremendous success with developers in India, Pakistan, Ukraine, Armenia and elsewhere. We haven’t been able to find the best fit for our client needs, but we’re happy to make intros if you’d like.

I’ve learned a lot in my first year building AppIt Ventures (1-yr anniversary on January 17, 2013!!). We’ve worked with a number of off-shore teams and have made a decision to build as much as we can internally from here forward.

Trust me, there IS value in offshoring teams. The challenge is communication and it can be really tough. For example, in America we know $10.99 is the correct numerical / dollar format. In other countries you may get a project that shows: $ 10.99000. Or, you may get some really interesting spelling errors – the biggest state in the continental United States – it’s not Taxes, it’s Texas (and don’t mess with Taxes, or Texas).

And sleep – I love rolling into work at 830am and am doing my best to be done by 9pm (don’t worry, I eat, travel and exercise periodically). Depending on where your team is located, your new day may start at 5am and/or end at 1am.

Fun? It’s cool for a bit – then that whole sleep thing gets a higher priority on life.

The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
Offshoring software for yourself is one thing, but offshoring software for clients is another. Just as Shakespeare underestimated ‘the thousand Natural shocks,’ in Hamlet, I underestimated ‘the thousand natural shocks’ of offshoring client projects. For me there was a minimum of a thousand shocks, but with each relationship, there was a multiplier that created “The Heart-ache” (for people who don’t like numbers, I had at least 1,000 shocks, and sometimes, I had 2 x 1,000 shocks, or 2,000).

That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
What can I say – I like to high-five people in person.

It’s tough to do this virtually (or at least, we haven’t built that app yet).

Consummation is the point at which something is complete or finalized. If you have a small budget and are ok with the possibility of not getting every feature you scoped, possibly missing a deadline, then this may work. If you have a specific budget, required features, or a deadline, then you may want to look up the antonym of consummation or make an investment with a great local firm (like Aspenware or AppIt Ventures).

If you’ve figured out a great model for offshoring, or have horror stories from the process to teach others, then please share! For others who want to learn more, I’m happy to help in any way I can.
Jeff Macco
Co-Founder | AppIt Ventures

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