An ongoing discussion on linkedin about Offshore Web Development and building a team in Europe.

Jobs

This discussion began last week and has fostered some great comments and resources…

Offshore resources/Europe company for U.S. web development projects.

Startup Whisperer, Web Market Development

I’m a startup growth consultant who started a digital marketing + web development agency due to such high demand from my startup clients. I’ve used some local and some offshore resources and avoided larger outsourcing companies. I’ve found the best way to do this is to manage the projects daily.

I’m looking for suggestions on how to scale this using people in europe without adding too many “middle men”.

1. Work directly with engineers, no company involved.
2. They start by demoing their skills on my project at no cost for 1-2 days.
3. Hire them 8 hours at a time and review daily by skype, g hangout. I’ve been acting as project manager/dev manager.
4. work is mostly drupal, wordpress, seo and php/lamp.

People in the Philippines or India or eastern europe are very low cost – $7-10/hour.

I’d like to build a europe based high quality partner agency, but not sure how to build the trust required for both sides. I had a company in europe in the past and was very happy with the quality software we created.

Let me know what you think of this, and please feel free to connect.

Tom Nora

Comments

  • Hello Tom, I can answer your questions. I have been able to successfully scale three different software development service centers offshore. You are right about the need for TRUST. You absolutely have to have a person in each service center that you TRUST. You have to know that they have your back in good times and bad times. If you have that one person in each center, then you can easily scale your service center around them and go as high as you want to go. You will need managers, top notch infrastructure and of course eventually an HR team for recruiting, policy enforcement, policy making, benefits coordination and general HR duties.

    However, the first step is getting that one person you can trust. I have experience in doing this and can give you more insight if you wish.

  • To start off you should focus on working with a company that offers you direct access to engineers and is willing to work as an extended branch for your team. They keep you involved even from the early stages of the value chain including selecting the right engineers and taking direction and input on the future technical growth plan for those engineers. Most of these offshore locations will offer you the leverage to scale as per your needs as per the ample availability of technical talent and a regular pipeline with many STEM students graduating every term. You can also consider working with freelancers but providing them with the right infrastructure and support mechanism needed to produce work at par with engineers stateside would be difficult for you to manage. Also, it is not about the engineering talent only! But other support function that go with that like HR and Administrative support. For this you should focus on finding that right company which is willing to offer you transparency and keeps you in charge of your team. I would also want to mention here that you would also have to focus on building a culture in your team that represents your company’s persona with which your offshore resources can relate to and understand. This will allow you to bring more and more value out of your offshore resources.

  • If you can manage it, rather than having your unit of workforce as a person (and definitely not a “resource”, that term should be outlawed), try having your unit of workforce the “team” and have relatively stable teams that have learned to work with each other, for whom you know their strengths and weaknesses, and to whom you might be able to augment with people strong in specific skills where the work requires skills in an area that they are weak.

  • Daily reports via skype are good way to check a person skills for good times, how do you test people in bad times (assuming before they occur).
    Secondly I’d like to ask why did you stoped your company back in Europe?

  • The good thing is, you are using Skype and hangout. There is nothing close to that.

  • The way I’ve done it when I wanted to grow an organization in China, was to start with a centralized model where I have local reck leads responsible for offshore engineers.

    While working on a release, we made sure we are building their skills in all possible roles (Dev, QA, Product Owner, Technical writers etc.).

    Our strategy was to move to a distributed model where the entire scrum team works together offshore. Once we got that to work (It took us 1-2 releases) we were able to scale up quickly and grow the offshore organization significantly.

    Startup Whisperer, Web Market Development

    Ron, Thanks for the info. This started as a tiny project, not meant to grow. In the past I’ve acquired an offshore company in China after working together for about a year, that worked well, gave us the chance to get to know each other and protected our IP.

    I guess we’ll see where this one goes.

    • million dollar question. facing the same issues with finding quality and trustworthy mates that have a common goal rather than count minutes and cents. still have hope. diamond in the rough.

    • I got to agree with you but partially. I believe quality is not limited to price or a part of world. You can find great resources in India or in any part of the world. Its like hiring a resource once you hire a great resource you never need to worry about it. So my suggestion is to find a good agency that can work with you and check them before starting work with them by giving them some small piece of work and at the price does not matter but quality does mater.

    • Tom Nora

      Startup Whisperer, Web Market Development

      Abbas and Imran, Thanks for the info. This started as a tiny project, not meant to grow. In the past I’ve acquired an offshore company after working together for about a year, that worked well, gave us the chance to get to know each other and protected our IP.

      I guess we’ll see where this one goes. Lot’s of suggestions to go ahead and try to build something.

      Yes Abbas, that’s the problem, many agencies don’t care enough about the buisness/product. Not their fault, but one of the reasons I’ve avoided that route.

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Online Review Management – A Synopsis of my project with a review management startup.

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, Revenue Growth, SaaS, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

I recently completed a short term project with ReviewInc (RI), an online review management platform for businesses to mange and enhance their review process. RI is a small Los Angeles are company that’s been in business for about 3 years with a couple of major pivots under their belt.

My role was to analyze all aspects of the company and then find their unique opportunities to “take it to the next level”. It opened my eyes to the fascinating ( never thought I’d say that about reviews) details of this market segment and its ubiquity in all important Online Marketing.

RI primarily needs to accelerate revenue growth and market share in order to build new products, increase salaries to market rate and defend their position against a large number of competitors. I found several areas of excellence as well as several more that need enhancement. In the 90 period of my consulting they made many positive changes in a short time period with their minimal budget.

> The Larger Market:

The Online Review infrastructure industry is highly under exposed in the overall Internet marketing world. When most people think of reviews, they think of negative reviews people write when they’re unhappy about their service at a restaurant or tire dealership. Even expert Internet marketers are pretty unaware of the market and its details. Until recently I was fairly unaware of this market, more focused on social, dat analytics, seo, superior web development, content management and CMS design as my priorities for Online Marketing projects and conversion. But now I realize “the review piece” should be considered in any Online Marketing strategy and execution. It’s content, social, seo enhancing and is impacting a vast majority of online purchasing.

Yelp pioneered 2.0 of this industry over 10 years ago and should be given credit for that. Now the market is estimated at over $10 billion revenue per year, probably a lot more if you include all the sub-markets and service agencies using it for their business development and product lines. It’s a lot more than restaurant reviews.

Online review management systems are an established part of the web for both consumer and B2B. In the consumer markets, 86% of all customers rely on online reviews when they buy something, and 72% of all people say online reviews are their top reason for choosing a local business. For B2B, online reviews and testimonials and becoming a requirement in healthcare, automotive, government and other industries. And there’s a ton of overlap, making the line pretty fuzzy.

No matter the segment, reviews directly impact sales, market position and business health. Yelp is the giant in the industry at a $4 billion market cap, but there are over 1,000 other review companies in all segments of business and consumer markets.  Other heavy hitters are Trip Advisor, Glassdoor, Angie’s List, Edmunds.com, NewEgg.com, La Fourchette, Menu Pages, Doctor.com, Best Buy, Michelin, Cityvox Avvo, IMDB, Call a Plumber, Brad’s Deals, HotFrog Gayot.com, Rotten Tomatoes, Ripoff Report and Zagat.

It is a quickly evolving market that will continuously challenge current players, as Yelp has seen as it has lost almost 50% of its market value in the past 12 months.

> Market Segments:

Online Reviews, Review Management, Restaurant Reviews, Employer Reviews, Movie Reviews, Social Analytics, Reputation Management, Customer Service Feedback, Review Aggregation.

> Company Summary:

Saas Product launched, several Fortune 1000 customers, currently growing. Self funded to date, 10-20 employees.

> The Bottom Line:

ReviewInc. is doing a lot of things right in product innovation R&D efficiency and anticipating user needs. They will have to continue to innovate and adapt to the market and win big deals to grow to a sufficient size to be a factor in this market; they have many direct competitors. They need to be sufficiently afraid of this ruthless market and use it for motivation. As Andy Grove says “Only the paranoid survive.”

If RI wants to grow faster they will need to take the company through the chasm and make critical changes to their management team, product line and UX. Not all companies want this; they would prefer to fly under the radar, so 2015 will determine which path RI takes.

Pinterest gets into the ad “Real Estate” Business

AdTech, CEO Succession, photography, PHP, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora

Pinterest as we know it could be a thing of the past. Beginning January 1, 2015, Pinterest will start putting ads on its site. Real ads in the form of promoted pins. I have mixed feelings about this – I respect their right to do this and I’m happy for them to be able to get a piece of the enormous revenue stream that Google and Facebook dominate, but it will also take away the purity of Pinterest and lessen the experience a bit.

Overall, I say congratulations, you’ve earned it, Pinterest! They will now move up the food chain significantly as Fortune 500 companies can develop more formal relationships with them and build “serious” ad campaigns. All other ad industry professionals and component niches will also take a big step closer to Pinterest. This is like opening up a whole new giant beautiful piece of the web to advertisers.

But there is a cost to this for users. Pinterest is one of my favorite places to go on the Internet, one of my favorite apps. It’s an oasis in the ad strewn desert of social media. There are many indirect ads there already, especially clothing sold by affiliates, but not very intrusive to the experience.

Pinterest is a constant river of pictures, and mostly very high quality pictures, undistracted by ad text or flashing lights. It’s a respite from the rest of the web, with its rectangular boxes of advertising or the sidebar of Google ads – the high value real estate of the web that is rented to the highest bidder.

As a major fan of photography and imagery I like to go over to Pinterest to get away from all that. It’s almost like a relaxation lounge on the web. I’ve slowly built and curated my collection of pins over the past 3 years, with a bit of an eye towards social validation, but mostly to see cool photos. I’ve been pleasantly surprised thousands of times by images I’ve seen. How many products can claim that?

One of the best parts of Pinterest is that it’s participatory, a gamification of looking at photos (and memes and infographics). As you browse build and organize your collection and it shows running totals of several statistics. And there’s minimal social interaction, almost like a library where people tend to be quiet and leave each other alone. A relaxing experience. I even have a board called zen relaxation that I can go to for quiet inspiration.

Pinterest no doubt developed one of the most fascinating products of the last decade, almost as powerful as Google, facebook, and Twitter. It’s addictive, stimulating and makes you smile. Hopefully that won’t change but it could.

The best part of the product is its design. Pinterest pioneered a new type of web page, now referred by everyone as a “Pinterest style”. It’s hard to remember now, but 3 years ago it was revolutionary. That single innovation was more influential than almost anything prior on the web.

Pinterest will do this with a lot of style – use a native ad approach with the Promoted Pin, but it could change them if they’re not careful. They are playing with the big boys now. Giants corporations will have a more formal dedicated part of their ad budget and marketing team focused on Pinterest, like they do now with Google ads and Facebook. Giant corporations will want to “help” Pinterest figure out how to change. Giant corporations will want to acquire Pinterest.  Let’s hope they keep their independence as long as possible.

Billions of dollars will be diverted from other ad channels to Pinterest. It could easily tarnish the brand. The fact that they have waited this long to monetize in this way and have built such great brand equity is quite encouraging.

It will also be a great opportunity for advertisers of all sizes, even the little guys. Buying real estate on Pinterest? Awesome!

No matter what happens, I’ll always be a big Pinterest supporter (is there a name for that? Pinterevist?) I hope they don’t hire a thousand lawyers or get acquired, but I trust them to handle this change with the same style they apply to everything.

@tomnora

The first 6 months at Envato

Business Development, early stage, founder, Interview with founder of Envato, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the WorPress as a development platform world lately. I’m finding many business advantagesb in this world for a group of websites I am building to bootstrap a few “baby startups” in areas I’m already interested in – #travel, #classic-cars, #SaaS #Art sales, #techjobs, etc.

What this has done for me is vastly increase my interest in tactical data driven marketing on the web – #growthhacking, #contentmanagement, #agile iterative web development and marketing, and yes, even SEO.

The process is actually fascinating and lots of fun, full of soloprenuers, bootstrap peers, hackers, marketeers and doers. It’s a somewhat different world than the VC funded startup world that is my day job.

The link below is one of the best interviews I’ve seen, from Collis Ta’eed, a very humble and honest guy who started Envato, a marketplace for web dev themes and many other creative resources. In a very short time he covers to first 6 months of his company, unafraid to discuss failures, missteps and instances of pure luck. This is the opposite of many startup interviews where the founder claims brilliance and a smooth path and takes credit for everything.

Very inspiring, check it out…

http://wptavern.com/ceo-and-envato-co-founder-collis-taeed-on-the-first-6-months-of-envato

RE: LOOKING FOR A JOB

Drupal, Jobs, startup

Here’s the first part of his note and his bio:

Tom, I need a job. My background is corporate finance and I’ve worked for the best electronic parts wholesale, a top three cable company, and the #1 online bank (PayPal).

And my response:

Eric, I see a lot of people going through this, myself included. Times are worse than I’ve ever seen if you’re not already in a great position. The idea of j-o-b has become harder to get, you have to think in terms of your own brand instead. I’m actually writing a book about this right right now.

It looks like you have lots of energy, and you’re reaching out, you need to channel it into $$$. Also, Avnet is a great background to have.

I usually see everything as a startup, so you look like a finance startup to me. I’ve spent a lot of time recently in the world of e-commerce, it’s an mazing market growing quickly. I’d focus on that if I were you.

Here are some thoughts:

– Are you currently working at PayPal? You could be a paypal consultant and have a pretty strong business.

– E-commerce technologies are very hot right now

– check out commerceguys.com (Drupal)

– woocommerce (WordPress).

Within those companies or similar have many job openings. Or, expertise here can get you some type of work.

– Keep networking and stay positive, negative attitude will scare people off.

– Start a blog about your experience and about online finance. That will help.

– give before you get. Find ways to help others before approaching them asking for something.

I could list plenty more, but that would probably just frustrate you. None of the above is a job, they’re all just ways to hustle to try to get a job.

Let me know how it goes.

TN

I could rubber stamp this answer to many people I hear from ,but usually I don’t even answer. In looking for a higher leverage way to solve this, I’m using my channels to try to broadcast this topic and help many at once.

Job boards are broken, resume robots are broken, so real humans need to get back into the process. If you want to be involved contact me; otherwise, stay tuned here for more.  TN   @tomnora

The Greenshoe = how to repay all those that helped along the way.

Angel Investor, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

How is it that so many people associated with startups reap the financial benefits, yet others just as close get no financial upside This is a source of frustration among many people in the startup sphere. Imagine if you’re in Silicon Valley right now with no equity in a tech startup, but associated with several people getting six figure “bonuses” because they somehow wound up with some stock in one.

The free parties (or not free) and swag and great stories and boat rides in the bay are nice. Sometimes you’ll even score an iPad or Apple TV, but it’s not the same as being one of the insiders.

Often as startups grow and maneuver their way through the jungle of success or failure, they have a lot of help from those around them.

Often many these people don’t have any equity or upside from their advise or moral support or money lending, or even the spare couch they let you sleep on when you were in their town.

If the startup actually makes it to an IPO, there is actually something you can do.

It’s called the “Greenshoe”. You have to be very careful about this, you can’t imply or promise anything in advance, and it only works when the company goes public, but the Greenshoe is an amazing award for those involved that don’t have equity.

The Greenshoe is an over-allotment of stock options, up to 15% of the total offering at time of IPO. You can offer these options to virtually anyone, friends, family, people who helped your company. Since they’re options, acquirers only exercise if the stock goes up, and have no downside risk or capital outlay.

Upon the IPO event, the option owner can gain the upside if the stock goes up over the initial offering price and essentially collect that difference.

I’ve used it a few times when I was lucky enough to be able to offer it to friends and family. Strangely enough, some people have declined, because they’re not sure it’s legal; they’ve never heard of it. Others have bought themselves a new Lexus with it.

Here’s more info on wikipedia:

Greenshoe

The Greenshoe should provide motivation for all of us in the startup world to try to continuously build our company steadily, continuously and profitably and to know that you can make many peoples lives a little bit better by sharing the wealth. The rewards are pretty amazing.

Contact me at

 #Web #Development #Digital #Strategy #Art| tomnora.com

Another Question I answered on Quora… Talking to CEO and CTO about role as co-founder/COO. First 6 mos are unpaid, they invested 50,000 each so far, and I won’t be required to invest anything but time. How much equity should I ask for?

startup CEO

Where to start? The info is too vague to give a specific answer, but your topic merits discussion and questions.

It’s all about how you are valued

> If they’ve raised $50,000, why can’t they give you some cash? A small amount of cash is very big compared to none. Also shows they value you.

> Don’t agree to deferred cash, you usually never see this.

> Ask to see the bank account, proof of investment. Often this is a “story” or a hypothetical.

Talking to CEO and CTO about role as co-founder/COO. First 6 mos are unpaid, they invested 50,000 each so far, and I won’t be required to invest anything but time. How much equity should I ask for?

> Too many startups now devalue anyone who is not a developer. You need to be positioned as an equal partner, regardless of equity or title.

> The cofounder title is much easier to give away then real stock.

> What are the terms of the equity, same class of shares as them? Vesting?

> Do you have another job? Are you quitting a job? Keeping it? Your equity depends on all of these?

> bottom line – if you’re asking this on quota, it sounds like you already have major reservations. If you really want to be in a startup, want to have the COO title, love their strategy and technology, trust them, and aren’t working right now, maybe go for it.

@tomnora

Nasty Gal hits the wall? An E-Commerce Follow Up…

AdTech, startup CEO

As many of you know, I’ve been a big fan of the company Nasty Gal for a lot of reasons:

  • an L.A. story
  • Outsider non-techy female makes good
  • They’re Profitable!!
  • They have (had?) the chance to help define the next gen of startups

However, they seem to be in the predicament that many successful startups fall into. They may not want to be called a start up, but they are, because they never made it past PHASE 1 successfully into PHASE 2…

see Nasty Gal Lays Off Up To 10 Percent Of Its Workforce

  • PHASE 1 – Amazing idea or business model, luck, funding, hyper-growth, parties, t-shirts
  • PHASE 2 – Long term business success, sustainable, agile, adaptable business model, ability to survive major downturns, extremely happy employees.

Nasty Gal did many things right, I won’t list them all here. But they also failed in many ways already, and I won’t list all those here (I get paid to do that). I’ll sum it up with one word – Arrogance. I understand their feeling of invincibility; I’ve been there. What the arrogance did was cause them to not open their minds to the experts, not know how to let go of credit for success, not know whom to trust. I know this because I know several trustworthy experts who offered to help Nasty Gal repeatedly over the past 3 years, all rebuffed without even a response in most cases.

Nasty Gal didn’t realize the game gets tougher as time goes on and revenue goes up, unless you’re part of the Silicon Valley/Stanford/San Francisco in crowd, which they’re not. Marc Andreesen ain’t gonna save them, unless he can take over control and put a professional team in there. Continuous steady growth is one of the hardest things to achieve in business. It’s complex, chess not checkers.

Nasty Gal didn’t try hard enough to expand their popularity beyond the “cool people” that got them to $200 million, and they spent too much money on other things. Expanding and reforming your audiences is critical in continuing growth. Look at Facebook, Apple Amazon and others who successfully survived and grew for over a decade – they look much different than they once did.

So now what?

One of the things that can save a company when it goes into a bit of a tailspin is to lean on your employees loyalty to their management and love for your brand, because they’ve been treated well and respected as equal human beings no matter what their title is. The importance of this can’t be underestimated, as your employees tell everyone they know either good things or bad things about their employer. It looks like Nasty Gal will have trouble with that also. If you believe their glassdoor scores and reviews and “word on the street” in L.A., they are on their way back down the bell curve.

The bottom line value for any  company is their list of intrinsic value assets. For an e-commerce company selling trendy clothes online, assets have to come from many things other than the products, mostly from PEOPLE and the way they feel about the company and brand – employees, partners, consultants, vendors – but especially your lowest level employees. Don’t make your employees resent you, make them feel like your success is their success.

@tomnora

Top 10 Landing Page Features

startup CEO

I’m a bit tired of these Top 5, Top 10 etc. lists, just used as click bait. But…

I am doing this anyway for a new site, so I thought I’d ask the community what you think. Here are mine, pretty much in order:

  1.   Short and Sweet – no scrolling, hovering required. Less Is More.
  2.   One click to the lower area – I do this on tomnora.com to reveal a “matrix” mesmerizing animation.
  3.   Pretty URLs – not just readable, but actually nice looking. Add some important keywords but not many.
  4.   Repeat the key Message/Headline – from your email that sent them here. Make it read like a headline.
  5.   No Video on First Visit – Don’t force them to make this choice. Instead, …
  6.   A Beautiful Jumbo Image – One, not 2 or 3. Something awesome.
  7.   Call To Action/Sign Up Form – Entice them to sign up for your …?? try something better than a newsletter.
  8.   Visible Contact Info – Make your email and city (yes, city) very visible. Don’t make them click around for this.

I will post the final page once it’s finished. If you have a better list or changes to this one, please let me know. And/or, if you have a landing page you can share please do.

@tomnora