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.

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

“Creativity takes courage.” Learning from Matisse

Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, Tom Nora, venture

“Creativity takes courage.” –Henri Matisse

This is one of my favorite quotes about innovation, by an innovator who is still revered 100 years later; it’s the first thing you’ll see if you go to my personal website http://tomnora.com/ . Matisse was an amazing innovator, and his innovation and originality

Innovation, Originality, Creativity – why are these things so important in the tech startup world? And what do they have to do with art or painting?

I have the opportunity to visit many secondary and tertiary startup markets in my travels, meaning not Silicon Valley or New York, and one of the things that always strikes me is the lack of originality in almost every company pitch I see or hear.

I can see that the entrepreneurs I meet are sincere, have usually put a ton of work and pride ion their invention or product. Often they have put a fair amount of personal or family capital into the venture (these days that’s usually their parents money).

The major flaws in their planning process are denial and ego fortification – they don’t do enough homework to see how many are already doing something similar because they don’t really want to know; and they highly overrate themselves as amazing entrepreneurs.  This is a bad combination for success, but I see it daily.

I get it; I know it’s more difficult than ever to build a real career and easier than ever to start a company. But the very core of creating an interesting and new business should be the concept of originality. Some originality, enough to be different, unique, without being too weird.

Real originality comes from within, because it is inspired, comes from adrenaline and emotion, not from a spreadsheet or desire to merely make money. Finding the mid point between originality and capitalism is what I define as business innovation.

There’s nothing new under the sun, so you must critically modify, hack, or turn sideways existing systems with a truly new vision. Instead of just copying or slightly modifying something you see, try to take it a few steps further.

One of the quite innovative methods Matisse and his peers used was finding inspiration from other skills they already knew, leveraging their expertise as craftsmen. Matisse was a draftsman, a printmaker and a sculptor, and you can see these influences in his paintings.

Part of the magic of great business innovations is knowing which rules to break. Matisse broke some of the rules, but kept many intact. The rules about the way business processes flow are too often just accepted, but if you can analyze them, find an achilles heel, then innovate a better answer. Get rid of the obsolete rules without breaking the good ones, and great things will happen. It’s about where to hack and where not to.

I went to a pitch fest in one of those secondary markets the other day. Most of the presentations were weak delivery, boring, been done before and uninspiring. But there was one that was pretty amazing, by an 18 year old who had become deaf at 12. He has developed an exercise system for handicapped people; you tell by his excitement and thought process that he was inspired, and created true innovation. He wasn’t polluted by how corporations work or the rules of business – he was still in high school.

Another Matisse quote is There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Look carefully, take the extra time and find the uniqueness in any idea you want to realize – it’s there.  Find me on twitter at @tomnora

 

What to See in Silicon Valley – Tech and non-Tech

AdTech, early stage, founder, Tom Nora

Let’s start with the Non-Tech – Here’s a small piece I just wrote on the subject of how to visit the Bay Area and not be totally focused on techno-nerd things:

You should also expand your horizons beyond the techy stuff. I’ve worked and lived in Silicon Valley off and on for over 30 years (really!) and always enjoy the escapes from my techno-binary lifestyle there.

In fact, if you’re not so one dimensional and career/money/technology focused, you’ll probably have a better chance of meeting the right people.

I’m not disagreeing with the other lists here, especially Scoble’s list is very good and you should do all those. But here are a few of my favorites…

NON-TECHY EXPERIENCES:

>> Go to downtown Los Gatos and walk Main Street and University Ave, it has a very non-techy feel to it. Then sit in the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company for a bit.

>> Sit in the Rodin Sculpture Garden on Stanford Campus.

>> Drive the hills between Silicon Valley and the coast, go to the Half Moon Bay for dinner on the pier.

>> Drive up Sand Hill Road, slowly, and take it all in. This is the origin of most of the biggest VC deals in history.

>> Hit some dive bars in SF, there are too many to even list. SF is becoming more techy, but there are still many places where you can forget you’re in the center of techdom.

>> Walk the Golden Gate bridge.

Since SV is so tech focused, it’s actually a pleasant surprise when you find non-tech things to do there. If you do some of the above, I guarantee your trip to Silicon Valley will be much better.

For the technical visit list, my favorite was assembled by Steve Blank…

A Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley | Steve Blank.

 

5Q03: Puneet Agarwal (True Ventures) on pitching investors, maker culture, and big trends he’s watching. — The Orchestrate.io Blog

Angel Investor, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, PHP, SaaS, Scalability, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

http://t.co/LkQ7kDluf0

via 5Q03: Puneet Agarwal (True Ventures) on pitching investors, maker culture, and big trends he\’s watching. — The Orchestrate.io Blog.

via 5Q03: Puneet Agarwal (True Ventures) on pitching investors, maker culture, and big trends he’s watching. — The Orchestrate.io Blog.

“Recommendation Swapping” on Linkedin

Angel Investor, Business Development, early stage, founder, instagram, Jobs, Launch, Revenue Growth, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

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This has organically happened a couple of times for me – someone I’ve worked with in the past asks me to write them a recommendation and then spontaneously returns the favor. It’s a very cool gesture and it reinforces the relationship for the future.

Below is an example for a startup entrepreneur I just went through a short mentoring process with, Greg Weinstein. Greg will do very well with his company, I could’ve written a lot more about his attributes.

I recommend (get it?) you try this – swap a recommendation with close present or past colleagues; it will enhance both of your social business circles and create new connections.

It’s hard to derive extra value on linkedin, rise above the fray – this will help you do it.

#networking #linkedin #social_marketing

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Gregory A Weinstein has recommended you on LinkedIn

Gregory A Weinstein
Gregory A Weinstein Founder and CEO, One Fulfilling Life
To: Tom Nora
Date: August 22, 2013
Gregory A Weinstein has recommended your work as Founder, Marketing, Community Development at Startup Workshops.

Dear Tom,
I’ve written this recommendation of your work to share with other LinkedIn users.

Details of the Recommendation: “During the early and critical stages of the conception and start up of One Fulfilling Life, Tom provided us with thoughtful, wise and nurturing insight and guidance. He was our “Board of Directors” and the fit seemed very natural and intuitive.

It was an awesome opportunity and I relish the experience. His guidance saved us a lot of time and money and more importantly kept our momentum moving forward in the face of what could have been crippling obstacles. If your a tech start up and especially if this is your first business venture Tom’s your man. Catch him if you can!!!!!

Thanks Tom”
Service Category: Business Consultant
Year first hired: 2013
Top Qualities: Expert, Praxis High Integrity Systems

What is Drupal? or, My retraining in Software Development

Angel Investor, Business Development, Hiring, Jobs, PHP, SaaS, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

Confessions of a Drupalvangelist

Anyone who’s been around me for the past 6-12 months has been inundated with my evangelism of eCommerce in general and Drupal + PHP. This is actually a bit strange for me, as a 20+ year software industry professional, I’ve spent most of my time in the world of extremely sophisticated software tools and languages – several of the startups I’ve worked at and/or launched were based on software tools to build software, so I’ve been in the middle earth of software for awhile.

The So Cal engineering gap?  I’ve been able to study the Southern Cal software dev scene as an insider for over 2 years now. As a native LA person, I’m gratified to see so much code and code talk flying around my town. But, there is a serious gap in the discipline, number of developers and community around real software development here.  Also lot’s of fake, wanna be CTOs here. (So L.A.) This imbalance keeps L.A. from catching up with Silicon Valley and New York as a stronger startup region. In my career I’ve seen many times the positive effect of a rich software development discipline, full life cycle, QE vs. QA, test driven development, all the “other” parts of SW dev.

The strongest impact on improving this situation is Silicon Valley and Seattle companies – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and others are making enormous investments in building So Cal as a software town. They bring with them confidence, tools, brilliant people and believe it or not, Drupal and PHP.

Drupal has a worldwide engine of real software discipline. The So Cal Drupal scene is highly regarded and has several free meetings every week to teach advanced software life cycle issues. The Getty, USC, The Grammys, MTV, and many more giant websites built in L.A. are built on Drupal.

What is Drupal?  Drupal works at all levels of software development. Drupal and PHP were tools I’ve acknowledged for a decade but never studied much. Then last year I decided to re-educate myself in software development, but this time as a regular ol’ coder. Although I have an EE and CS education, my best contribution to technology businesses has been in strategy/sales/marketing/leadership. I’ve had 7 jobs in Silicon Valley in software development companies, but 6 of the 7 were in business development.

When I dove into development with a focus on the future and e-commerce I quickly saw that Drupal and thereby PHP are taking over the scene. Sure you have Ruby, Python, many others, but PHP is winning because it’s so accessible to newbies, and it manipulates the server side continuously, allowing e-commerce, social, geolocation and other apps. Big boy applications.

The world has changed – software development, app dev, and software engineering are taking over the center of the conversation, and Drupal/PHP is taking over the lead. You can actually have a successful startup now with just developers, with just one (although I don’t recommend this), if they’re savvy and humble enough.

What is Drupal?  Drupal is prevalent in the Silicon Valley ecosystem? In the birthplace of Java, BSD, SQL and many other critical software technologies, Drupal and PHP are spreading like a California wildfire. Drupal has recently permeated places like Stanford; there are over 1,000 sites on campus now. Ther are 20+ major Drupal dev shops up there, they have BAD Camp every year, one of the top Drupal camps in the world.

What is Drupal?  Drupal can make a non-developer earn $60-100,000 per year within a year of study. A Drupal or PHP developer here can make from $50 to $200 per hour; I see it all the time. The problem in So Cal is that the discipline part is weak; we’re just not steeped in the cmplete range of what full cycle development, test, etc. are as a region. PHP and Drupal are partly at fault for this – people who never attended Engineering school can learn these tools in less than year without learning formal computer sciense discipline.

What is Drupal?  Drupal is an overly friendly community of helpful people and ample free training and coaching.  Drupal is also free open source software with functionality for every possible web application. When I moved back to L.A. in 2010, I gradually saw that among our weaknesses we were very strong in E-Commerce, Fashion Commerce, Mobile Commerce, Content Communities, dynamic sexy websites and it was all based on varieties of PHP/LAMP. Drupal’s weaknesses as a software language tool (push button programming, configuring, too easy, more IT than software dev) are actually its strengths. Even the best software hackers should hack less and use that time to build more functionality and usability.

What next?

1. Go to drupal.org, join up for free, find me there I’m tomn  

And contact me if you want my help on anything Drupal or PHP…

Update: What negotiation tactics does Dave Mcclure use? #500strong

Angel Investor, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Launch, Revenue Growth, startup CEO, Tom Nora
Tom Nora, startup CEO, software dev, ux Edit Bio

1 vote by Casey Allen
I’ve advised several founders from 500 su and they’ve all said Dave is fair, honest, easy going, and lets you know when you’re cheating yourself. Most venture capitalists will take a little advantage of naive entrepreneurs so this was surprising to hear over and over.

Dave McClure should be thought of more as a movement leader than asking how he negotiates. He doesn’t really have to use any tricks, the whole thing is a brilliant maneuver. Remember, this thing didn’t exist a few years ago.

By design his operation is humble (I know, I’ve lived on Castro Street twice!). He created a new layer for people to get a shot at launching a Silicon Valley start with some cash and mentoring that they never would have otherwise had.

Negotiate? He could be more hard-ass but isn’t. He could wear contacts (or real shoes) but doesn’t. He created his own ecosystem that spreads out all over the world now, and even used some of his own money.

The environment allows people learn how to negotiate. And to fail softly if they fail, which is almost critical to later success.

500 startups went from strange idea to an integral part of the world startup ecosystem. Not many major players are not involved or connected in some way. One of the things Dave doesn’t charge for in his valuations is the connections to that world, and for that he will surely make everyone involved a bit of a winner.

Edit

1+ Comments • Share (1) • Delete •   • Fri

 

Mark M. Whelan

Tom, this is a great endorsement; however, doesn’t address the question set, being fair, honest and easy going is not a negotiation tactic. I think you are suggesting he is a partner style of negotiator, i.e. looking to find common ground before determining the valuation opportunity…

 

 

Tom Nora

Good points, but I think those are negotiating tactics, everything is. Dave’s strategy is to focus less on each deal and look for the wins through volume, hence the name. Many VCs on the other hand, heavily scrutinize and try to squeeze the best terms for themselves in every deal.

One key weapon VCs use is the threat of walking away from the deal at any moment. Dave pretty much takes that one off the table before starting the negotiation, giving an advantage to the green entrepreneur.

A classic trick is “all the deals are the same here, therefore there’s really nothing to negotiate” which is never true, but works often.

@tomnora

How SaaS + Mobile has changed our world.

Angel Investor, early stage, founder, Hawaii, SaaS, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora

In 2008 I was working on a post-merger integration project for a small company being acquired by a Fortune 100 behemoth. We looked at several SaaS based systems for accounting, sales automation, calendaring, product management, scheduling our company airplane, travel, etc. At the time SaaS just wasn’t mature enough and people at the company weren’t comfortable enough to make the change; too many old habits of installing software.

Because of this reluctance, almost every business process we depended on required the manual intervention of humans. The difference in efficiency between then and now is pretty amazing.

Today, only 5 years later, almost every task we performed then is gone, a complete turn over of an industry. These are now done either transparently in the background, in the cloud, or done using minimally invasive mobile apps. Spell-guesser, auto-fill, travel, accounting, calculating company valuations, facebook, pinterest, dropbox, codecademy, me writing this blog are all managed by a SaaS platform.

PaaS, IaaS and other derivatives of SaaS are proliferating but are just that, derivatives. Today SaaS is pretty much the norm; many, many human processes have been displaced more rapidly than ever in our history. We wouldn’t be able to imagine our lives without it, auto-save, no software loads, freemuim, mobile, access anywhere. I can even build server based websites with Drupal and MySQL now on an iPad in a coffee shop.

But more importantly, the labor of moving software around by humans and physical media and even the Internet has been taken down to almost zero. The software just doesn’t leave it’s cloud hosts anymore. This saves energy, mistakes, cost, time, client computer memory and bandwidth. It vastly reduces computer waste.

ewaste2

SaaS is the culmination of over 20 years of changes from ASPs, client-server, the web, higher speeds, always on, mobile 2.0, cloud computing, laptops HTML5 and many more innovations to finally reach the moment we’re in now. This speed of innovation has never been seen in history – not in automobiles, education or any industry.

The way we do things today is very different because of SaaS and the Internet. 80 year olds can build a Facebook page of their family’s photos or create a new business using a cellphone because of SaaS, without ever knowing anything about the guts underneath. I wonder where it will go next, what the next big change will be to make todays capabilities obsolete. You know it will happen.

> Connect with me here and on twitter @tomnora

Why “Job Boards” and applying online do not work

Angel Investor, Business Development, early stage, Hawaii, Hiring, Jobs, Scalability

I’m building my own job hunting tool to try to fix the broken inefficient systems currently out there. I was interviewed by Forbes recently and asked to comment on the job hunting process and my opinion of applying online to jobs. Here’s an excerpt of my answers…

Great topic. The market has shifted in several ways – automation, obsession with young malleable low cost employees and the current bad economy – these factors have rendered the online job boards obsolete. Remember, job boards and online hiring were invented almost 20 years ago and popularized by Monster. Machines took over the process and proved to be a weak substitute for humans. The only major innocations since then are automatic resume reders which harm as much as they help.

Many article point out that networking and referrals are the most effective ways to get hired, and I tend to agree. There are many human emotions, loyalties, friendships, favors, proximities, etc. that have more weight than what resonator tells an HR person. There is also a lot of campaigning – with a weak economy and ineffective government help people want to help others that they know to get hired and survive all this. They for their cousin or friend or roommate for that job paying 80K plus benefits.

Online job systems assume the most important factor in hiring is qualifications, and that is far from the truth. The top factors are familiarity, recommendations, in-person meetings, personal prejudices and empathy. Many under-qualified get hired every day over better candidates. The bad economy amplifies that. Just look at acqi-hiring or the San Francisco tech ecosystem.

The way computers and social media and machine learning are used to streamline the hiring process must change and augment reality as it is today, not try to alter it. @tomnora