Do you really want to hire your own developer?.

Jerry Staple


Jerry Staple

Technical Director
Technology , Innovation, the Future

Internal Vs External Product Development

Time and time again we see startups hiring freelance developers or employing their own full time developer, handing them the responsibility of building the company’s product, be that an app, web application or platform. This is perfectly fine if the Co-Founder, or someone in the organisation, has experience in software development and product management, if not it could be a recipe for disaster. In essence it’s the same principle as hiring your own builder to build a house. If  you have no understanding of product development, then you are really putting the future of your company in the hands of the developer (we’ve all seen Rogue Traders!).

Throughout the years, we have witnessed companies with great ideas try to develop them internally, wasting £1000’s on a product which is unfit for market.


1. Not all developers are created equally.

Much like the building trade you get cowboys, and just because they say they are a developer doesn’t mean they are. I have worked with some self-proclaimed ‘expert’ developers who lack even the most basic understanding of software development.

2. To build a successful product you need a team.

 In my experience the most important person in a project is a Product Manager. The PM has all stakeholders’ interest at heart, not just their own. You also need  UX/UI designers, Back-end developers (mobile / web) & Front-end developers (horses for courses).

3. Developers go off on tangents.

I know this because I am a developer and did what I thought was best without consulting the key stakeholder! Wasting time and money and ultimately putting the product in jeopardy.

4. Most developers don’t think of the end user (they are more interested in their code and just getting the job done).

It is normal for every member of the team to have their own role and agenda but if you only have a developer calling the shots, you only get one point of view.

5. Some developers will ‘bluff’ a non-techy

Admittedly as a junior developer I did this and now can spot it a mile off. I still see it today – when a developer is speaking to an account person they start to bluff, but a developer to developer conversation is a different experience when challenged on the protocols and justified approach.

6. If I want to build my own house I don’t employ a builder 

I hire a reputable firm with all the right skills, then once the house has been finished it is handed over to me (once the snags have been completed). The same should apply for product development.

7. There are certain ways products should be built so they can scale efficiently for future growth and development.

An inexperienced developer will develop for the NOW rather than the future, simply because they have not got experience to give them the required foresight. A PM will bring this discpline to the party.

8. Developers who have worked in large companies, may not (9 times out of 10) have built a complete product (end to end).

Responsibility for the full product is a massive undertaking if you haven’t done it before. The architecture and foundation of a product is the most important part of the whole process (same as a house). The success of your product will be determined at this point.

9. Don’t get me wrong…

There are some great developers out there but there are also lots of cowboys who will walk off the job when the going gets tough. Then you’re left with a pile of useless code which no other developer or agency will take on (sick puppy scenario).

10. Building a product is extremely hard, if a developer says 3 months , double it. 

It’s called the “Planning Fallacy

My Top 5 Recommendations:

  • 1.  You need impartial / unbiased advice on the product and how it should be developed.

  •  2. There are many ways to skin a cat (can you say that these days?). Developers only know certain languages and will justify developing in what they know, putting their skillset before what’s best for the product (this goes for a lot of development companies as well whereby they are restricted by a certain technology stack i.e Microsoft / LAMP etc)
  •  3. Hire or contract an experienced Product Manager. Let them write a product specification/definition or user stories (if going agile). This is the blueprint and should be able to hand that to any developer / development company who will then give you a price.
  •  4. Development is really tough so don’t underestimate it, good developers are hard to find. Get to learn as much as you can and get any understanding of the product development process.
  • 5. Get the product developed externally with a view of bringing the development in house after it has been completed. This way you can hold an external company accountable and due to their team, experience and skillset will develop it far quicker, cheaper than your own development team.

It goes without saying that a reputable app development company may be slightly more expensive however they are professional, accountable and will have knowledge and experience far superior to that of one developer and will save you time and money.

Failing to plan, is planning to fail!

You may also like: The tech start up company: freelance app developer vs digital / mobile agency

Jerry Staple (Ex Developer)

Technical Director & Co-Founder of Origin

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