November 7, 2018

Learn to code? Find a partner who codes? Continue to outsource?

Hello friends, my name is Spencer Scott and I need your help!

I own a debt-free and slightly profitable API integration platform called Loup that is designed to connect enterprise phone systems to CRM applications.

Here is my problem, for the past 2 years I have outsourced the development to a team in India that I found through Elance. My Indian development team did what I thought at the time was great work and got me to a minimum viable product.

I use to run Enterprise sales for Vonage Business so I knew there was a market for the product. Due to the complexity of all the different phone systems out there I decided to focus on one platform and allow resellers to sign up, rebrand the product, and sell it to their customer. So, in theory, all I need to do is focus on adding more resellers and make sure the product works.

Well that's the problem...

Our application is a Google Chrome extension that we custom build for our resellers and launch to the Google Chrome Webstore. The application allows(ed) users to click to dial out of Google and would generate screen pops inside just about any CRM. Click here for a demo video.

The problem is Google recently did an update that crippled the application and I don't know what to do.

The development team does decent work but I have no clue how the application is built and have no way to troubleshoot problems. Outsourcing seemed like a good idea to get the business started but now that I have billing customers I would really love to have a US-based resource.

Indie Hackers I need your help!

Do I continue to outsource till the company can financially support US talent?

Do I try and find US talent that will work for equity?


Do I spend the next year of my life trying to learn to code?

Any advice is welcome, thanks.

PS: I think option 3 is the best one long term but the worse one short term.

  1. 1

    Is there a reason your original team can't take on the work?

    If you're going to have an application that's completely dependent on a third party (in your case Google Chrome, in other cases Facebook or Amazon), you should probably find someone who will have a long term relationship with you. Probably not full time since it sounds like you don't have those kinds of funds yet, but having updates that break your app is not uncommon. Perhaps you can find someone or a team that develops lots of Chrome extensions for a variety of companies. They would at least be on top of the updates since third parties usually provide some warning months before breaking backwards compatibility.

    Option 3 is probably going to take a lot more time than you think. 6-12 months is enough time to be ready to get a job assuming there was someone else to mentor you. You probably won't have that as a founder. It would make more sense to go to meetups/talks about high level topics to try and learn more about how systems work. This will give you some context when working with developers without having to go through all the details of the code itself. I know a few product managers who've done this to great effect.

    1. 1

      @ProfessorBeekums That is a great idea! I like to think I am technical but what I am finding is there is a solid gap of what I know vs what my dev team needs me to know.

      The other thing I have realized is that with outsourced development you have to be extremely particular with how you want things done. They don't understand me because of a language barrier so all I can do is my best to graphically explain what I need done.

      Thanks for the advice.

  2. 1

    I don't think that what you're doing is technically interesting or particularly challenging, so finding people who can just hack stuff together is your best bet. That isn't meant to be condescending, but rather there isn't a high bar for adding value. You could learn to code just enough to realize your product, but I think trying to hire expensive software engineers is probably the worst option.

    This is also 100% contrary to the advice that VCs will give you: find a technical cofounder, so take it with a pinch of salt.

    1. 1

      @daliwali thanks for the response. I agree with your statement about the project being challenging. Building APIs from a hosted PBX to a CRM is not difficult. I am finding the difficult part is building and maintaining a good user interface.

      You may not find it interesting but believe it or not there are almost no Phone Systems that integrate with CRM platforms and most CRM platforms have no clue how to work for voice systems.

      The response for the product has been rather great and I think it is something I can scale to be a solid business, but I am at the point where I don't think duck tape development work is a good idea.