Start-a-Startup – Interesting Idea

Just yesterday I joined Advisor Garage, a social networking website for entrepreneurs. The idea is to bring together “advisors” with entrepreneurs seeking the advice, hand-holding and experience we may be able to offer them.

This morning I had two emails from Advisor Garage informing me I had received a coupe of “elevator pitches” at the website. The way it should work is that when someone seeking advice finds you, he leaves you an “elevator pitch” (a quick summary of their business or idea) and, if interested, you contact them.

The pitches I received weren’t very detailed and failed to mention how they thought I could help them, but, nevertheless, one of them, Start-a-startup, sounds promising. The idea goes like this: suppose you have a great idea for a website… the next YouTube… whatever. For US$10,000 you can get, according to their website:

A working Product Manager (Designer/Developer) in the US and two motivated and talented developers in India for one month. A fully functional, ready to use Web application powered by Ruby on Rails. Hardware, software, expenses included for shared hosting.

Now, if you know the right people and have access to coders, ten grand can probably take you a long way. But if you just have an idea, you could spend a lot more and/or a lot more time just finding out if your idea works. Start-a-startup offers a one-month turnaround… in an industry where time is really money. Worst case, you’re out ten grand and a month’s worth of project management – no need to quit your current job.

Caveats? Sure… Lots of them. Can they really deliver? How good are their coding skills? How secure is their code? Who writes the program documentation? Are they fluent in English (or your particular language)? How scalable is their code?

If you’ve used them, leave a comment with your impressions. Do you think this idea will fly?

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  • Carlos, thanks for the post and the link.

    Below are a few answers to your concerns.

    Can they really deliver?
    A list of proven examples of our previous work might be helpful here. The contract can be made to ensure that complete payment will be upon satisfactory delivery. Something like a staged payment.

    How good are their coding skills? How secure is their code?
    Ruby on Rails is used as the development framework. It follows strict conventions to make sure that the quality of code produced is of high quality. Its easier to follow the best practice than not to do it. For example its easier to write unit tests than not to. Most reusable code in rails is available as plugins and and security is taken care of by the community. Its always better to use maintained code from the community, than not to. Rails and subversion make this easier by allowing code in a project to be tied to code developed by the community automatically.

    Who writes the program documentation?
    Well, spec documentation is rarely created. The project starts of by coming up with initial screens iteratively. Only the most necessary features go in there. The application is deployed to a staging server daily. Once the initial application is built, no more screens. Tasks are raised in Basecamp/Trac and are integrated into the application. Development documentation is written inside the code itself and RDoc is used to create the documentation and diagrams from the code automatically. In all, only work that absolutely adds value to the application is performed. Also, its always better to make the application usable than to create user documentation.

    Are they fluent in English (or your particular language)?
    The part time project manager in the US takes care of the communication and cultural issues between the developers in India and the users in the US.

    How scalable is their code?
    We are developing a framework that deploys code on amazons EC2 and takes care of the scalability issue. EC2 is a reasonable cost service that amazon provides, which can deploy servers in minutes when the load on the server increases. The share nothing architecture of Rails makes scaling easier.

    Feel free to call us at 404-918-1150 if we can be of any more help.
    Vishi Gondi

  • Carlos, thanks for the post and the link.

    Below are a few answers to your concerns.

    Can they really deliver?
    A list of proven examples of our previous work might be helpful here. The contract can be made to ensure that complete payment will be upon satisfactory delivery. Something like a staged payment.

    How good are their coding skills? How secure is their code?
    Ruby on Rails is used as the development framework. It follows strict conventions to make sure that the quality of code produced is of high quality. Its easier to follow the best practice than not to do it. For example its easier to write unit tests than not to. Most reusable code in rails is available as plugins and and security is taken care of by the community. Its always better to use maintained code from the community, than not to. Rails and subversion make this easier by allowing code in a project to be tied to code developed by the community automatically.

    Who writes the program documentation?
    Well, spec documentation is rarely created. The project starts of by coming up with initial screens iteratively. Only the most necessary features go in there. The application is deployed to a staging server daily. Once the initial application is built, no more screens. Tasks are raised in Basecamp/Trac and are integrated into the application. Development documentation is written inside the code itself and RDoc is used to create the documentation and diagrams from the code automatically. In all, only work that absolutely adds value to the application is performed. Also, its always better to make the application usable than to create user documentation.

    Are they fluent in English (or your particular language)?
    The part time project manager in the US takes care of the communication and cultural issues between the developers in India and the users in the US.

    How scalable is their code?
    We are developing a framework that deploys code on amazons EC2 and takes care of the scalability issue. EC2 is a reasonable cost service that amazon provides, which can deploy servers in minutes when the load on the server increases. The share nothing architecture of Rails makes scaling easier.

    Feel free to call us at 404-918-1150 if we can be of any more help.
    Vishi Gondi

  • Carlos

    Thanks for the Advisor Garage mention. Would very much like to hear if you receive other elevator pitches too and your experiences as you use the site more often.

    Any tips, trick or additional ‘must haves’ would also be great. BTW, have you seen the Advisor Garage blog? (http://AdvisorGarage.wordpress.com)

    Thanks

    Andrew
    Founder
    http://www.AdvisorGarage.com

  • Carlos

    Thanks for the Advisor Garage mention. Would very much like to hear if you receive other elevator pitches too and your experiences as you use the site more often.

    Any tips, trick or additional ‘must haves’ would also be great. BTW, have you seen the Advisor Garage blog? (http://AdvisorGarage.wordpress.com)

    Thanks

    Andrew
    Founder
    http://www.AdvisorGarage.com

  • The Build-Operate-Tranfer model is easier said than done, from my personal experience. For starters most clients get worried with the legalities and have concerns about the trust factor . Unless proper contracts are in place, most of the clients consider it as a scary proposition, especially when it comes to dealing with the courts/system and other formalities in developing countries.

    Nag.B /at/
    Startups.in

  • The Build-Operate-Tranfer model is easier said than done, from my personal experience. For starters most clients get worried with the legalities and have concerns about the trust factor . Unless proper contracts are in place, most of the clients consider it as a scary proposition, especially when it comes to dealing with the courts/system and other formalities in developing countries.

    Nag.B /at/
    Startups.in

  • I like the fundamental idea.

    Almost always, the non-technical entrepreneur will need technical validation of their ideas. Finding the right people to provide a sound technical assesment is a critical step in the process of going from idea to execution.

    But as the old expression goes: Give me an idea and I will give you 10 cents. Give me a good execution and I shall give you a dollar.

    The idea is valuable. The success lies on the execution.

  • I like the fundamental idea.

    Almost always, the non-technical entrepreneur will need technical validation of their ideas. Finding the right people to provide a sound technical assesment is a critical step in the process of going from idea to execution.

    But as the old expression goes: Give me an idea and I will give you 10 cents. Give me a good execution and I shall give you a dollar.

    The idea is valuable. The success lies on the execution.

  • @Eduardo, exactly. Execution is king. I’ve lost counts of the great ideas I’ve seen fail due to poor execution.

    I think services like Start-a-startup and AdvisorGarage can help the less-technical entrepreneurs get a better understanding of whether their idea really has legs, before they spend too much time or money on it.

    As Nag.B mentions, there are legal and trust issues that can get in the way. But I think these issues are present in any business relationship and it’s up to those involved to fix them.

    As a good friend once told me:

    “We are entrepreneurs my friend – and as such, we will do whatever is necessary to make the company scream.”

  • @Vishi,

    Would love to see that list of previous work (NDA permitting).

  • @Andrew, I like the concept of AdvisorGarage but still find a bit complicated to use. Most elevator pitches I get are very vague and fail to explain what they expect or need from me.

    I’ve received far more detailed and focused leads through this blog.

  • @Nag.B, that’s correct. Trust is an issue when dealing with unknown people half-way around the world, but it’s up to us entrepreneurs to figure out how to deal with it.

    I’ve developed software using Romanian programmers I’ve never met, and was very pleased with the results.

    There’s definitely a niche to be filled by reputation management services (I believe The Gorb is working on something like this).

  • @Eduardo, exactly. Execution is king. I’ve lost counts of the great ideas I’ve seen fail due to poor execution.

    I think services like Start-a-startup and AdvisorGarage can help the less-technical entrepreneurs get a better understanding of whether their idea really has legs, before they spend too much time or money on it.

    As Nag.B mentions, there are legal and trust issues that can get in the way. But I think these issues are present in any business relationship and it’s up to those involved to fix them.

    As a good friend once told me:

    “We are entrepreneurs my friend – and as such, we will do whatever is necessary to make the company scream.”

  • @Vishi,

    Would love to see that list of previous work (NDA permitting).

  • @Andrew, I like the concept of AdvisorGarage but still find a bit complicated to use. Most elevator pitches I get are very vague and fail to explain what they expect or need from me.

    I’ve received far more detailed and focused leads through this blog.

  • @Nag.B, that’s correct. Trust is an issue when dealing with unknown people half-way around the world, but it’s up to us entrepreneurs to figure out how to deal with it.

    I’ve developed software using Romanian programmers I’ve never met, and was very pleased with the results.

    There’s definitely a niche to be filled by reputation management services (I believe The Gorb is working on something like this).