Choosing Between Local And Offshore Development Team

3 entrepreneurs tell how they made their right choice
Mon Oct 09 2017

There are so many people who can do programming nowadays that the choice of a team seems not so difficult. However, when you come to the stage that you need to choose a dev team, it doesn’t look so easy anymore. There are many issues to consider before hiring the developers: the technology stack for your app, the type of an app you want to develop, the team’s reputation, and one of the biggest concerns: should you choose an in-house or an offshore development team. 

Sounds scary, right? Luckily, you’re not alone, and there are many people who have already gone through this path, and they have much experience to share with you.

So, let’s start with the first question: Whom to choose and how to choose?

Of course, the choice between the in-house or remote team will depend on many aspects; you need to remember that the initial stage of a startup development is very fragile and needs much of your control and fast decisions.

I think during the very early stages most of the tech startups would need a local team (even if just one or two developers) because the product development process is not yet defined and hence tasks and roles can change from one day to another. Later on, as the product becomes defined and so it's needed roles, the next members of the team could work remotely.”

Daffne Alvarez de la Peña, Founder @ Musar

Another point to consider when choosing between a local or an offshore team is the area you’re targeting your startup. In other words, if you’re located, let’s say, in California, and it will be the principal district for your startup, a developer from France or China will hardly understand the market in California.

“Rather than starting nationwide, we wanted to first test the market that we are familiar with, New York. There is a certain value of hiring an in-house staff compare to remote staff and especially it is crucial especially when it comes to a brainstorming session. When your staffs are located in a single location, you can learn and understand the platform over the shoulder and always jump-in and start drawing the ideas and the workflows on the whiteboard wall. Other guys can jump in, keep the conversation going. With Skype video conference call, you can’t jump in. Also as mentioned earlier, our initial focus will be New York, it is important that team members physically located in New York, feel and experience the mindset of our targeted audience group.

William Ryu, CEO and Founder @ Vibelyst

However, if you’re targeting the global market, there is no any objection to choosing the outsourced dev team.

Charles Zhang

“In my experience, finding the right talent trumps their location.  My “start-up” that is now in year EIGHT… we only have TWO people in Boulder, CO, where I reside. Other than that, our entire team is not only volunteer, but they live all over the world.  We are a global boudoir educational photography association and members pay monthly for benefits which include but are not limited to: mentoring, vendor deals, networking, and getting the help of more-experienced photographers to perfecting their craft both with their cameras but also their client-experiences.  Several of our members have been able to go from part-time studio, to leave their full-time jobs and open their studios full-time.  Such a great reflection of a startup that WORKS!”

Erin Zahradka, Founder @ AIBPhotog

So, once you’ve come up with the decision what exactly team you want to hire, and you have a clear picture in your mind, you need to find the place where you will hire them.

Well, at first sight, it may sound easy, but, there are so many hiring platforms and so many teams that you can easily get lost. More to this, most of the entrepreneurs we interviewed pointed out that it’s better to start with personal references rather than going directly to Upwork, for instance.

Charles Zhang

Interestingly, it wasn’t that difficult to find my first man. Our principal engineer came directly from my friends’ referral. And I am extremely happy with his current performance and contribution. Because of it came out from a very reliable source, I did not doubt of his skillset, what it really matter was ‘Is he willing to give up his stable job and jump into a new adventure”. U.S., especially in New York, one of the greatest hires comes from referral base and most of the case, and especially for a small startup, it works better than conventional recruiting process. The most valuable thing when you are running a small team is time and it takes days and nights to go over a pile of candidates’ resume, conduct phone call interviews negotiate terms. You can make a transition to this time to something more valuable, such as brainstorming or meet investors. To be honest with you, if you had sufficient enough work experience and network, they come to you, not the either way around. Now, we're searching for our 5th guy, and of course, we create a posting on LinkedIn,,, however, I believe I will probably give more credit on the candidates those who came via referral. It's always more reliable when someone comes from the referral.” - William Ryu

At the same time, Erin Zahradka highlights that online resources helped her a lot in finding the team members for her business:

Charles Zhang

“In order to find our team, I usually post a description of what we're looking for, in our already-established forum online... and it doesn't take long for someone to message me that they're interested in "Taking it on". In the beginning, I would post on Craigslist, Facebook, or ask people directly - whom I thought would make a great "fill" for that position.
Personally, I do not believe going through hiring-organizations to fund the right talent, is a good use if your start-up's trim budget to begin with. I think it's essential to save as many resources as possible and go after the perfect people on your own, With the world becoming smaller - in regards to the online ability to connect with virtually anyone... there is always someone who knows someone who knows someone, who is referred and could be that perfect person. Usually, the referral of that person is good enough for me to try them out, and I am always honored when someone wants to come on-board with us!”

Daffne Alvarez de la Peña says that she uses online resources for finding the team members, as well. Here is what she says:

Charles Zhang

“When using platforms like you can check the developer's reputation, When you're short of money, and you can't afford a developer with a good reputation, you'll need to test them with small steps until you're sure you've hired a right candidate.”

So, you’ve found the team? What’s next? The next step is to organize your daily work with them.

Here can be several options: you can have daily meetings and calls with them; track their performance through the online tracking systems, like Trello, for example, or organize weekly calls and discuss the details.

Charles Zhang

“Generally, just a couple of very short meetings a week to review progress and assign tasks. In general, expert developers who are working in a very specific job are allowed to work at home and come back on the due dates or when work is finished. Jr developers are often required to be in the office as they need guidance to complete their tasks. Once developers master their field they get more freedom and are required to focus on results, not on attendance time.
We've also worked with freelancers for specific tasks or small modules. They work remotely as their expected to be experts in the field and to have maybe a call whenever any question or problem shows up” - Daffne Alvarez de la Peña

Charles Zhang

“Much like finding the team online through various avenues (social media being number one), and right now we have about 25 people doing various "jobs" within our company...we check-in weekly or sometimes daily for many positions...and then other positions that just have a monthly deadline - I watch to ensure their project is being done consistently and well, and if not, then I just send them a private message through Facebook or email, and we get everything outlined and on calendars.” - Erin Zahradka

One more pain point that you will face is how can you be sure that if you share your idea with someone else, it won’t be stolen. So, the best way to avoid such kind of problems is to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) - a legal document that is signed between two parties the ensures that the material, knowledge, or any information won’t be disclosed to the others. Whether you work with the remote or in-house team, the NDA will ensure your safety. If the developer is next to you, it’s not a problem to sing the agreement straight away. But, even if your team is on the other part of the world, it’s not a problem either. You can simply send the agreement through the Net and get it signed through the same way.

Charles Zhang

“You'll put your information and your client's information in hands of a third person, you need to make sure it'll be suitably handled.” - Daffne Alvarez de la Peña

Charles Zhang

“Trademark, copyright, patent, and NDA laws vary greatly - depending on where you live / where your start-up was started.  It also depends on whether you’re providing a service or a product.  In my opinion, It’s ALWAYS a good idea to keep most things in writing (versus verbal handshakes or over the phone), with dates, and have people sign an NDA when first corresponding about your idea.  Oftentimes, if I can’t have someone sign an NDA quickly, I will send them one electronically and have them respond with “I agree to the below NDA referenced herein,” and that is okay for starters.  Then sending one via email, or having them scan and send back, is a great back-up.  This way, if anything arises in the future, you can always reference your written communication.” - Erin Zahradka

So, as you can see, there is no one winning solution to this problem. Everything is highly individual and depends much on your preferences and your particular case. You can just try, probably even make some mistakes, but finally, you’ll find the kind of team that you’ll be comfortable with.

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