by Stella Fayman on September 10, 2013
You’ve gone to startup events and nursed many different ideas for a company. Finally, you decide to pursue one after doing many customer development interviews and validating the need. What next? How do you go about building an MVP? (minimum viable product) How much does it cost?
1) Can you build it manually?- Before spending time and resources to build out my current startup, matchist, I tried matching developers and projects on my own. I referenced a spreadsheet and paid attention to what made for a successful match. The next step is to build a landing page for the “product” even if it is just manual. A landing page can help gauge outside interest for your product or service. It can also help you understand how much people would pay for your product. Check out Unbounce for great landing page templates and execution.
The cost- Minimal. Unbounce and another service, LaunchRock, both have starter plans that are less than $20/month.
2) Can a freelance developer build an MVP?- Before hiring a developer or trying to find that elusive technical cofounder, you may want to invest some money in having a freelance developer build a prototype. This is something that can be pitched to investors and functions well enough to show your value proposition to customers. The pros here are that freelance developers who work with startups can build MVPs fairly quickly and know basic feature sets. You are also paying them for a project rather than trying to form a long term relationship.
The cost: A good MVP built by a freelance developer will cost at least $15,000-$20,000 for super basic features. The more features you add, the more it will cost. Of course, you should get proposals from a few developers you like to compare the cost.
3) Can you outsource internationally?- There is the myth of hiring offshore development firms to build quick and dirty prototypes. While these firms do exist and can be somewhat cheaper, they usually come with a unique set of challenges. If you’re not technical, you’ll be faced with communication issues regarding your concept as well as not being able to judge code. If you’re technical, outsourcing internationally, can be a good option, but if you’re not, I wouldn’t recommend it.
The cost: Anywhere from $500-$5000. However, you’ll often pay the cost for development then start over when the product is not quite right.
4) Should you hire a dev shop or agency?- Development shops offer more professional services to entrepreneurs who have the cash to pay for them. They often have teams of developers who represent a variety of skills including design and UX, which are hard to find in an individual developer. They are also easier to manage because you’ll likely deal with a project manager who will translate your ideas to the technical team. The downside? It’s much more expensive to build an MVP here (depending on the size of the dev shop- some are as small as 2 developers working together and cost about the same as an individual).
The cost: Starting at $30k+ for a basic MVP.