What is it like to work with an outsourced startup? What features should be considered by managers and developers of the company? How to create a successful product? Andriy Sambir, CEO of the LinkUp Studio, Adam Frank, founder & CEO of Wisio and Yegor Murza one of the project developers share their experience.
LinkUp Studio is a product-oriented company based in Lviv, Ukraine. The company has been helping clients all around the world to realize their ideas for over 8 years. The LinkUp team carries out all phases of the project’s life cycle, starting from scratch, with all necessary steps, including market analysis, project launch and support.
Linkup Studio has collaborated with many startups. One of them is Wisio, a Jerusalem-based follower-to-creator marketplace for social media creators helping to form deeper relationships, providing advice, feedback and guidance to their followers via offline back and forth video interactions.
The idea of the product
Adam Frank, Founder & CEO at Wisio tells: “The idea of Wisio grew out of my first project, which we did together with LinkUp Studio more than 4 years ago: the app called ScaleAbout. That was a widget that took content from social media, and spread it among publishers in a related, in-context, automated way. That means when readers would read articles on publishers, they would then see relevant content from social media by social media creators in the middle of the article, and enrich their experience.”
Adam’s team had collaborated with one of the biggest DIY publishers in the world and raised some investments. However, for some time they have been facing certain problems: publishers haven’t been going in a very good direction. That was a very difficult market to rely on.
At the same time, Adam has gained personal experience as a blogger. He decided to become a Ninja Warrior. It’s one of the world’s hardest sports, an obstacle course, to participate in which athletes need to be in a really good shape. During training, Adam lost 25 kilos, learned a lot about nutrition and actually documented his journey on Instagram.
“I gained a few thousand followers, so I became a social media creator myself. And once I became a creator, I started getting a lot of requests from my followers: “Could you please help me to figure out how I can deal with my self-confidence?”, “Can you help me figure out how to get to the Ninja Warrior show?”, “How did you lose so much weight?”, “Can you give me feedback on my startup page for that five minutes of your time”…,” shares Adam.
The huge number of requests ended with Adam ignoring all of his followers – which was quite frustrating. He realized that enabling these types of follower-to-creator connections is a great opportunity and decided to pivot. This is how he started Wisio – the platform that enables creators to monetize their follower relationships.
“After a very successful POC, we are now raising our Seed round,” Adam continues. “We believe we found an early product-market fit, after seeing so many small-sized creators, who were making money.”
During COVID-19 and quarantine time, all social media interactions just exploded: the number of creators and the interest in finding solutions for the long-tail creators are growing. The Wisio team is very confident about these solutions.
Work with an outsourcing team: the customer’s side
For Adam, there are a few things that are really important in collaboration with an outsourcing company. The first one is the connection with the team. He says:
“Everything is about the people. It’s all about having a feeling that you are not outsourced, and they’re part of the wisdom team. For example, a month ago, we had a crisis in our country, and everyone worked for Wisio way beyond midnight. And at that time I said, oh my God, you know, our developers are such a devoted part of the team. Our outsourced programmers don’t treat me as if we are unrelated and not connected. I have the feeling that they are part of the team even if they are offshore. That is extremely important in the startup phase.”
The second is the company’s comprehension of the basic peculiarities of work with a startup.
“Time is the most scarce resource for any startup. You always need to compete with the market, and the market is moving forward all the time. If you stay, it’s like going down an escalator. You always have to continue this movement,” adds Adam.
Third is the company’s ability to adhere to estimates and respond quickly to changes.
Adam recounts: “As an entrepreneur, you need to stand the real deadlines of a project. The more accurate you are with it, the better you can actually plan and rely on your resources.”
Fourth is willingness to communication.
“It’s really important to communicate with the outsourced team and to be on the same page. When they take your big project, they should break it down into milestones, which also should be broken down into micro tasks and micro achievements. This way, everyone knows what to focus on. So you reduce the risk of not understanding something or missing deadlines.”
Work with a startup: the company’s side
The LinkUp Studio has offered a complete system development for Wisio: architecture, scaling, backend and frontend support. Adam came with an idea, and the LinkUp team designed and launched the product and continue to support it now.
During the work with Wisio, the company faced typical problems in IT, including programmers’ burnout. Sometimes people decide to change projects or specialty, which is quite a threatening situation for startup development.
Andriy Sambir, CEO of the LinkUp Studio says: “The company’s task in such situations is to ensure that this does not affect the project in any way. This is especially important in collaborations with startups. At the large projects there are large teams that avoid the so-called “bus factor”. Startup teams are small, so when one of the programmers leaves, you need to organize a competent, smooth transition. Accordingly, this requires a proper internal process.”
At LinkUp Studio the process is organized as follows. First of all, the team has standards in writing code: the code needs to be readable and structured.
Secondly, they prepare accompanying documentation that allows them to quickly adapt and participate in the projects without much difficulty for a new person.
Thirdly, in their contracts there is a clause about the transfer of the project. For at least a month, people work together to understand complex tasks. And if they face a problem, the programmer explains to a new colleague how to solve it.
Fourthly, everybody in the project needs to understand that work with startups has its own characteristics and difficulties. Startup needs quick results, because what is relevant today may be obsolete tomorrow.
“When you work with an enterprise, you always have a sprint that you follow steadily and rarely have some changes. This is a stable, calm work. This is not the case in a startup. Yes, you have a sprint, but you may suddenly get an idea for a new feature that you crucially need to be done for yesterday. Accordingly, the entire sprint must be pushed.
For this, the whole team must have good management skills. Very often the customer expects that the programmers will keep the agreed deadlines in the sprint, even in case of appearing new tasks. But this is not always possible. That’s why the crucial thing is to be able to negotiate and search for a balance,” emphasizes Andriy.
Another important point is the ability to plan a budget and calculate your force correctly. Andriy continues:
“Payback is an important component of a startup. Every feature added by the developers should show investors that the project needs to be invested in, that it pays off.
Of course, there are some cases when the team misses the estimates. In such situations, the company needs to notify the customer and adjust the timing. But you can’t do it often, because your cooperation will quickly end. So you need to find the middle ground”.
A startup always competes ahead of time. The longer the development takes, the more money the customer loses. However, despite the need for quick results, they must be high quality.
“Obviously, no one needs the feature that won’t work at the presentation,” says Andriy.
How to work with a startup in outsourcing
There are a few important things to keep in mind when you work with a startup. The most crucial is flexibility, as the model of cooperation can change almost every quarter.
“For example, yesterday you agreed on the development of a feature for a specific price, and tomorrow you will switch to time and material, and you will need to allocate a developer for full time.
And then three months later the customer will need only support. The task of the outsourcing company is to provide this support with preferably the same developer. Some time later, the project can go back to the full-time phase, and you will be asked for not one, but four programmers. And it is better to take the one who was already on the project because he/she will be able to tell colleagues about the project.”
The next one thing – it is desirable to work on the project with people from one company. Often, startupers can involve freelancers, and this can lead to quite unpredictable problems in the future.
There are also a few things to remember for developers. The main one is quick reaction and adaptation.
“You should never be afraid to explain if a problem occurs. But you need to have a ready solution. The customer is always worried that the project may lose its relevance due to the fact that at some point there was a peak load and the project simply could not stand or if users find a problem,” says Yegor.
Why is it important to work with startups?
Andriy Sambir: “Because these are real innovations. These are the things that really change the world.
Wisio has found its niche among services for content creators. Before this project, there were no apps on the market that could help people with expert advice from professionals. Of course, there is OnlyFans, but it’s more about entertainment. Wisio helps with its expertise. Working with startups is difficult. But it’s very interesting.”
Yegor Murza adds: “Working with a startup helps to grow quickly. This is not the case when you work on a big project and everything seems the same and routine. In startups there is always something new.
To successfully develop a startup, you need to know more and do everything faster. An important thing is that using knowledge in practice allows you to progress quickly and grow as a specialist.
Every big business was a startup once. Startups are interesting and exciting. If the idea ignites you, then you are not lazy to wake up at 12 at night and fix something on the production. After all, the product deserves your attention. I understand that someday Wisio will be a great product, and I will be happy to remember that I developed it and I made features that people use. This is what inspires me the most.”