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When And How to Start Talking to Developers

Spoilers: It's never too early.

A member of our team spent the last several months attending a range of entrepreneurial events, city-wide ones like Twin Cities Startup Week, regional ones like the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference in Red Wing, and community ones like Stillwater’s Chamber 101.

A common theme voiced by founders at these events was uncertainty about when they should start engaging with developers to build a mobile app, custom software, or digital tool for their business.

TL;DR Answer: It’s Never Too Early

Most of the founding teams I’ve worked with in my 10+ years at The Jed Mahonis Group (JMG) haven’t had someone on board with a technical background. 

They often don’t know what technology stack they need to build in to best support their growth. 

They don’t know what to expect from the development process, nor do they have a solid understanding of how much their digital tool will cost to build and maintain.

Because of this, our team at JMG often fills the role of this technical person, acting as a true tech partner from beginning to end. (Just kidding, development never really “ends.”) 

A partnership like this involves a lot of trust, and it’s never too early to start establishing that trust with potential development teams. 

Start With a Prototype

One way to do that is to start engaging with developers about building a prototype. Even if your business isn’t funded, scraping together a little money for a clickable prototype is a valuable tool for securing funding, testing the market and gathering feedback. You also gain insight into what it’s like to work with a particular development team before partnering with them on a lengthy expenditure. 

  • How often do they give you updates? 
  • What tools do they use for organization and communication? 
  • How well does their team interact with yours? 
  • Are they delivering on their promises and meeting your goals?*

Build the Connections

But what if your business’s app or software is a future consideration and not something you need right now?

You can still start reaching out to build up those connections. Third-party review sites like Clutch can be a good place to start for pulling together a list, along with asking your network if they have worked with anyone they would recommend.

If a developer is put off by you reaching out when you don’t have a project ready to go, then they may not be the best fit. Most development teams I know would be happy to give you 15 minutes of their time to get connected and answer any questions you have.

*This is just the start of questions you want answers to before working with a development team for the long haul. Download the full list here.

Robert Bentley
Robert Bentley is co-founder and CEO of The Jed Mahonis Group (JMG), a mobile software development agency based in Minneapolis. Rob is an experienced iOS and Android app developer who oversees a broad spectrum of JMG’s operational areas. Rob is a serial entrepreneur (with equity in many local startups), enjoys cooking (check out @scottmahonis_cooks on Instagram), and wears shorts 365 days a year (he puts the "bold" in Bold North).