Startup software development: hints and best practices

Iryna Hnatiuk


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March 3, 2024


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Did you know that only 1 in 10 startups make headway? Yes, you’ve got it right. Founding a startup is like walking on a minefield – one mistake, and you’re out.

Let’s narrow down the problem and imagine you’ve got the funding. The hardest step and the reason why 38% of startups fail is behind you. Now, you need to develop a software product on time and within budget. And you start to worry whether you have the needed expertise.

Look: software development is a challenge for many startups. Not all ideas survive when faced with reality. Technical requirements, time and budget constraints stand in the way of optimistic vision. That’s why startup software development needs careful planning and industry-specific knowledge.

The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of software development strategies that can come in handy; just pick the right one.

This article will walk you through the stages of the software development process and introduce some best-known practices to avoid potential risks. But first, let’s put together your dream team.

Team options for startup software development

A big part of startup success is choosing the right people to team up with. And when it comes to product development, your top priority is to find people who will advise you on your project’s tech stack and architecture. Remember that technical background and relevant industry experience are must-haves for your future team.

Before making a decision, think about the level of your involvement in the project:

  • Do you want to manage the team by yourself, collaborate on a weekly basis, or put someone else in charge?
  • How much of your time are you willing to spend on team management and communication?

Once you answer these questions, you get closer to deciding on the preferred line-up for your startup product development.

Technical partner

Starting a business requires a skillset several people can possess all-in-one, so having a technical partner will be your best shot to represent all the skills and win the market.

But how to make sure that you need one? If one of the following statements is true, you should consider having a tech partner:

  • You’re lacking technical knowledge and skills to lead a software development project
  • You must scale your software as your business grows

If you’re not much of a tech person or your software product requires constant scaling and innovation, you need a technical partner who has your back in tech-wise issues

From here, you have 3 options:

1. Technical co-founder who will manage all startup processes in the tech domain in exchange for a company share. The two-founder model increases your chance of raising 30% more capital and growing your customer base 3x times faster.

2. CTO – it’s your hired technical director that handles tech-related operations.

3. Technical partner company – an outsourced company that provides a dedicated team of developers and takes care of end-to-end MVP development for startups from staffing to team management to product maintenance and legal procedures.

By and large, it’s always better to find a technical partner before jumping into development.

Why? As a startup, you need to create a scalable MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to receive user feedback, get more investment, and carry on. That’s a no-brainer.

So let me put it straight. Leading a software development process without technical background makes you prone to choices that result in product revamp and re-design in the future. And believe me, rebuilding software is expensive and time-consuming as hell.


In-house development team

Hiring in-house developers is associated with an equal amount of drawbacks and advantages.

Let’s start with benefits:

  • More direct communication and a controllable environment
  • Chance to establish desired work culture
  • Faster response time
  • Hand-picked team members

However, establishing an in-house team comes with a number of critical disadvantages:

  • High cost of hiring, onboarding, and retaining employees
  • Skyrocketing payrolls in western countries
  • Necessity to rent an office and buy equipment
  • Time-consuming recruitment
  • Geographically limited talent pool

As you can see, in-house development is not for everyone, primarily due to the high cost. Your job is to decide whether it’s worth the hustle and bustle and whether it fits your budget.

Freelance developers

Hiring freelancers is the first idea that comes to mind when thinking about startup software development. Since your search is not limited to a specific location, you can find narrow-niche specialists or full-stack developers at a reasonable rate.

So, here are the benefits of working with freelancers:

  • Lower rates compared to other options
  • Wide range of skills
  • No need to deal with taxes and legal issues

However, hiring freelance specialists is not all roses:

  • Hard to manage and stick to deadlines
  • Different time zone and troubled communication
  • No support after the project delivery
  • Low quality of work
  • No dedication to your project

Hiring freelancers is ideal for short-time or temporary projects. On the flip side, if you lack software project management experience and look for a long-term commitment, better look for other alternatives.

Outsourced software development company

Many tech companies outsource their software development at the early stages. For example, take Slack, a popular cloud-based application used for team communication and collaboration. Their app was designed by an outsourced development company.

Or GitHub, a startup with a brilliant idea but a low budget. Their concept required hiring top-level experts they couldn’t afford. Software development outsourcing helped them to implement a platform that now has 73 million users around the world.

Bottom line: outsourcing is the perfect match for startups on a tight budget as it allows to decrease startup software development costs.

Moreover, you get even more benefits of outsourcing software development company with long-term commitment:

  • Faster time to market
  • Excellent software quality for a fair price
  • Payment upon delivery
  • Large pool of engineers and top-notch technologies
  • Rapid project start and ramp-up
  • Industry-specific expertise and consulting services
  • Experienced project managers
  • Focus on your business needs
  • Project maintenance after the launch

That said, this option has its downsides:

  • Risk of data exposure
  • Gaps in communication
  • Incorrect project estimation

But guess what? These risks can be mitigated if you follow our recommendations. The trick is to protect your interests up front with a contract, NDA, and Statement of Work.

Here’s the truth: there’s no such thing as cheap software. You either do it right once or rebuild it time after time because you want to save money. But in the end, iterations of software rebuilding are more expensive than proper development. So outsourcing a dedicated development team is your opportunity to make it right from the start.

Essential steps in startup software development process

Product discovery & concept validation

The discovery phase is an essential step in the startup software development process. It combines brainstorming, market research, and analysis of customer behavior.

Product discovery goes hand-in-hand with concept validation or feasibility analysis. This process helps refine your vision by understanding user pains and discovering the best way to solve them. So get ready to reconsider and reshape your initial ideas.

Concept validation ensures your product is needed in the real world. First, you will define success criteria linked to your strategic plans. Once it’s done, your team will collect all technical requirements for the product. If you miss this step, you will likely waste your budget on an idea that doesn’t work.

Building a project roadmap

You already know that effective planning helps you use your existing resources wisely and avoid unnecessary expenses. With a project roadmap, you use the data accumulated during the discovery phase and create a high-level outline of project goals and deliverables.

What’s inside a project roadmap?

  • Project objectives
  • Rough estimate of project terms and schedule
  • Crucial milestones and deliverables
  • Risk assessment
  • Technical and financial dependencies

Why do you need the project roadmap? Basically, the startup software development process has many variables to keep track of. The roadmap provides a macro-level view of the project and keeps you informed about the scope and progress. Besides, it gives your assurance you won’t miss a thing.

You would argue that building a project roadmap seems like a lot of work. You bet it is! That’s why you need a project manager that will take care of all this fuss. If you choose to work with an outsourcing software development company, you would have one in your team.

Product design & prototyping

At this stage, your team will shape the core usability logic and customer experience of your software. Best practices recommend creating wireframes and prototypes as they allow you to build software functionality and test your ideas before the coding starts.

Why so? It’s simple: drawing a wireframe on a piece of paper is cheaper than developing it.

Essentially, UI/UX designer’s job is to make sure the product interface is easy to use and helps achieve user goals in as few actions as possible. And when it comes to software, better to see once than hear a thousand times.

After a few iterations of prototyping, designers will enhance the user experience and present the most coherent version of a product. Beyond that, they will showcase the look and feel of your software and let you try it out on interactive prototypes.

Coding & testing

Your team will break a product down into features and prioritize them by difficulty and importance. Once it’s done, you’ll have time estimations of MVP delivery.

Now is time for developers to build the business logic and the interface of your product. The quality assurance team will conduct a series of tests parallel with development to ensure code quality and user experience.

During this phase, it all comes down to team dedication. Your success and time to market depend on the productivity and engagement of developers. The secret is to partner with a software development company that provides a dedicated development team on-demand.

A dedicated team works like a single organism, fully focused on end result and the quality of your product. And the best part is you don’t have to worry about management as dedicated teams come with an experienced project manager on board.


DevOps & software maintenance

Cloud technologies form the building blocks of every successful software product. It means you have plenty of options for creating a unique application and outpacing competitors.

DevOps practices allow you to leverage the full potential of cloud services and set up a secure and scalable environment for your software. DevOps specialists leverage continuous integration and continuous deployment to bridge the gap between development and operation activities.

For your startup, it means that development, testing, and deployment will be automated and accelerated. You can rest assured that all data is backed up and secured with encryption, and the whole ecosystem is protected from malicious attacks.

It also ensures that your software runs without a hitch or glitch and won’t disappoint users with lousy performance. To top it off, DevOps will support your product as it gets bug fixes and updates after the product launch.

How to build MVP for startups: our approach

At Blackthorn Vision, we merge the latest know-how in software development and excellent client service. Having more than 12 years of experience providing startup development services, we understand the needs of young and developing companies and offer practical solutions. We don’t want to brag, but our partners’ testimonials on speak for themselves!

We build scalable MVPs that can be turned into a full-fledged product without breaking the bank. Here’s how we do it:

  • Define business value
  • Check your competitors and ensure market fit
  • Prepare project documentation
  • Estimate project benchmarks and timeframes
  • Provide optimal team composition
  • Prepare contracts
  • Choose one of the methodologies that fit your needs: lean startup development, agile development, or feature-driven development
  • Deliver and deploy the product
  • Support

So, if you need a startup software development partner, make a step forward and leave us a message. Tell us a few words about your startup idea, and let’s find the best way to develop your project together!

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