Almost every entrepreneur has been in this dilemma: You have an idea for an app or software but don’t know any developers. In early December of 2014, I was faced with this same problem. I had a concept for a mobile game that would award users beer at their local bar, but I had no clue how to develop it.
I searched everywhere. But then I realized that “developers” were right at my fingertips. There is a computer science department at my university, for instance, and I quickly became a frequent visitor. I’d pitch people in the halls or right as they got out of class. Professors began to know me by name, as I would frequent their office hours.
When I finally did get a solid lead, I jumped on it, meeting with my new developer, Albert Frimpong, as soon as he had time. We first met in the university’s cafeteria, where I pitched him my concept off a napkin. Gameplay was simple, like Fruit Ninja, and users were awarded beer once they got 30 cans in the cooler at the bottom of the screen. To redeem beer, users had to go to a local bar that we had partnered with.
Right off the bat, Albert fell in love with my concept, for what has now turned into Push For Beer. Though he had several additional questions, looking back on the initial pitch, my drive and vision are what hooked him.
Skilled developers are extremely hard to come by, especially ones that share the vision for your project. Just as a product has market fit, developers have project fit: Had I hired a senior developer who wasn’t in college, for example, chances are he wouldn’t have understood or seen the potential in this app.
Now that I’ve become in tune with the mobile app industry, people always ask me how I found the developers I did. So here’s some of that advice: three essential channels you should use to find the developer that’s right for you:
1. Extended networks
Entrepreneurs often overlook how vast their personal network really is. When I was first searching for a developer, the first one I connected with was the friend of my friend’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested in the project but had some useful questions that enabled me to further hone my vision. The key to utilizing your network is to inform people of what you’re trying to do and whom you’re looking to connect with.
2. Local colleges and universities
Entrepreneurs commonly forget about these potential hot spots for developers. Though competition for recruiting may be fierce if you live by a Harvard or Stamford, chances are your local college will have a few standout developers as well. The best way to find these students is through the professors. Reach out to them directly, as professors are always looking to find real-life experiences for their students. Working with their best and brightest will also keep your costs down – though working with students requires more time for development, as students have to balance their time for classes.
3. Freelance outlets
Two great resources for entrepreneurs looking to develop apps are Elance and Odesk. On these platforms you can hire solid freelance talent for a reasonable rate. Utilize these freelancers to get a draft going, but don’t expect to launch the whole app with them. Eventually, if your app scales, you will need a developer on your team, as you will always want to add updates. But the freelancer’s mock-up and draft will be beneficial, because it will help attract local developers while showing your commitment to making your project happen.
Four months ago, I had a sketch on a napkin and was pitching everyone I could find who was a developer or knew a developer. This past Saturday, Push For Beer launched on the app store and in four days, we’ve already had over 17,000 game plays. Albert and I are thrilled by our progress but know that if we hadn’t connected, this app might never have become a reality. If you have an idea for an app but don’t know any developers, it’s time you started searching.