Monday Feb 3, 2014 by Will Koffel - Startup Advisor, ClearlyTech
I get asked at least weekly whether a startup should use off-shore development resources to get started. The implication in their question is almost always the same: on-shore developers are probably better, but off-shore developers are demonstrably cheaper.
The tough truth is: this all boils down to a hiring problem.
You can make sweeping generalizations all day about where the best developers live, but you are being unfair (and you know it…). There are great developers in the US, there are great developers overseas. There are terrible communicators in the US, and overseas (both bad in your native language, and bad at the art of communicating).
The biggest reason we hear so many horror stories about off-shore teams is that it’s hard to hire them.
If the tables were turned, and you were in Europe trying to hire someone in the US, you’d similarly be lowering your odds of finding a great partner. This has nothing to do with the quality of the candidate pool.
All the difficulties above are compounded by the typical engagement with an off-shore development shop. We like the consulting agency model, because on the surface it does a few things:
The best shops will be worth a little extra cost because they really do provide those benefits, and because they are doing quality vetting of candidates so you don’t have to.
The major downside, even for the good firms, is that they add a whole layer of administration between you and the developer with whom you are already having a bear of a time building a trusted relationship.
So the reason that onshore developers seem “better” isn’t because they necessarily are. It’s just because you have an easier time identifying the good ones via a healthy direct face-to-face relationship that’s less likely to be managed by a dev-shop. Sure, you’re looking at developers that are 1/4 – 1/2 the cost, but you are already behind the count in some serious ways.
All hope is not lost, however! You deserve the best, no matter how/where you hire. If you are going to work with an offshore development shop, be open about what makes it hard, and shamelessly demand the following:
You’d get all of these advantages with a developer from your local city. So don’t be crazy and try to make do without them in an off-shore hiring situation where the cards are already stacked against you.
I’ve worked with some awesome off-shore resources, just as good as co-located US teams. Make sure your hiring process doesn’t encourage low quality in addition to a low price.