iAccredit — A Startup’s Journey: Issue No 2

…with Some Lessons for Software Developers

Our walls have been covered with thinking. Evernote full of notes and pictures and surveys, Dropbox filing with data, Basecamp working overtime.

We are on our way.

From weeks of work finally our vision emerged of the future of Accreditation. How we can add value for all users along the chain of the process.

But is is viable? How much will it cost to build, to use and will it be sustainable?

How much cost to build? — How long is a piece of string?

So whilst absorbing the cost of our own man hours (a very considerable amount!) we embarked on the journey of finding a Software Developer who would share our vision and excitement. A group who would understand the real meaning of ‘Lean and Bootstrapping’ and the journey. Not just Personas, Wireframing, Scrums, Sprints and all the lingo that comes with this environment but the ‘business case’ and most importantly the ‘feel’ in the UX (User Experience) and UI (user interface) that we have determined is so important for our users.

As I mentioned in issue 1 of this series we are constantly learning and the process of finding a development partner was a learning experience in itself. So where to start that search — Google where else?

There’s a lesson right there for developers — don’t underestimate the importance of Google rankings or the first impressions of your website. We are building a business not a social club. Sure, in a sense we are a startup but we are not really interested that you “have beers on Thursdays and Kieron is the office table tennis champion”. What can you do for us and do you know your stuff, is what we are trying to glean from the initial web search.

We shortlisted six to visit. My colleague Darnelle Price and I set out on a couple of days of tearing around the south of England and Wales. We weighed the pros and cons and scored all of them on what our impressions were of various attributes such as our impressions of capability, how we got on with them, most importantly their understanding of what we are trying to achieve. Very interesting for me to sit being pitched to as we are so often on the other side of the table.

Seeing through the sales speak was easy. Most of them said pretty much the same thing. Microsoft accredited this and that, lots of clever people . . .

It was about how well they listened and seemed to grasp what we were talking about, what we needed. As important was how we would work together and what had they done before? Any work on SaaS that would ease our learning curve? The people we met were crucial as we would inevitably be spending considerable time dealing with them. We really didn’t appreciate the salesman that sat us down to go through their website projected poorly on a screen. Obviously we had studied all the websites and Googled the company and people. It was just boring and we were on a mission with limited time. Incredible that people don’t realise that! Who doesn’t Google companies and people before meetings . . .

Seeing who was simpatico and understood what we were on about. Who was tuned in to where we wanted to go — we are a small team spread around the world, this is an important decision we must get it right. Sure we need software developers to adapt existing product, write bits of code maybe and seamlessly and robustly use the most reliable and secure cloud services bar none. But most importantly they have to feel as we do that the customer and our users are number one in this, front and centre, its all about them not us. We have spent years getting to know them and months and months studying developments in technology and business to inform us of the possible.

Yes we definitely need to keep costs down to an affordable level in development and roll out features and benefits as customers require them. We need to be transparent and sustainable. That is not just lip service, it is life and death for iAccredit — not optional.

So after a second visit we made our choice and choose our new friends at Helastel in Bristol https://www.helastel.com/ Most of the companies we spoke to we felt could do the job, but Iouri Prokorov at Helastel seemed to just ‘get it’ and we left meetings with him feeling that we knew more than when we walked in. He knew it was an important decision for us to make.

Well we are a few weeks in and we are still learning but confident we made the right decision. Now we are into the real work….