A Called Bluff

How one non-technical founder got his money back after being lied to from his outsourced tech lead and week 14 metrics.


Week 14 cumulative numbers for Bliss: revenue — $1,703; cash in bank — $0; sign-ups — 830; paying customers — 46

When it comes to trying to add value to the development process, being a non-technical CEO is tough! You often feel helpless — you can’t code, can’t read code, nor help with development strategy. You have to put your complete trust in others to get the job done.

You wait patiently to see a beta version in order to chime in with actual feedback and add value. Does everything work? Any bugs? Does the build match the product spec? Finally, the opportunity to ensure the product aligns with your vision.

Why do I bring this up? A recent story shared to us by a Bliss customer named Luis shines a light on the struggle non-technical founders have when it comes to the tech side of the business — especially the trust aspect.

Luis is a non-technical CEO of an early stage startup who needed a mobile app developed.

He was referred (usually the best way to find talent) to a few developers with whom he met, evaluating each on past work and personality compatibility. After several meetings, Luis made his selection and put the developer, who would work remotely, on retainer in October. The two agreed to have daily check-ins regarding project progress.

Two months in, Luis started to get concerned with the pace, but gave his developer the benefit of the doubt through the holiday season as productivity often hits a lull for many professionals that time of year.

Come mid-January, however, Luis became truly concerned he had yet to see a beta version of the app.

The developer was vocal about the time he was putting in — pointing out difficult features which required more time. Luis continued to trust him and give the benefit of the doubt.

Finally, in March, Luis hit his tipping point. Convinced the developer was not putting in the work he was paid to do, Luis demanded his money back. Most of the agreed upon milestones were not achieved and Luis suspected the developer wasn’t working nearly the amount of time he claimed.

This coincided with the launch of Bliss. During our 1–1 customer video calls, which we hold for all customers, Luis told me his story. Here is a small portion of our discussion:

“I was stressed out! I had just spent most of my Saturday arguing with my technical partner. I hadn’t seen much visual progress on the project and was getting frustrated. He told me he was working around the clock 7 days a week, but it sure didn’t feel like it considering the lack of updates. I threatened a lawsuit if I didn’t get money back.

Then I saw a Tweet about Bliss. I signed up immediately. When I hooked up my project for review and saw the results, my concerns were validated. I was ecstatic to finally have the proof I needed!”

A strong Q4 2014, but crickets in Q1 2015

There it was, as suspected… My developer had barely worked the entire first quarter.

I sent my developer the Bliss report and without any rebuttal he wired back the money I was demanding from him.”

To date, this is the only use case we have for a situation like this, where a non-technical founder uses Bliss to call a bluff from his tech-lead — ultimately avoiding expensive legal action.

We originally built Bliss with the business-side (the Luis’ of the world) of a company in mind. Ultimately, however, the goal is to provide an easier way for the entire team, both technical & non-technical, to understand the health of the code.

While Luis’ situation was extreme, we’re happy an entrepreneur was able to get what was rightfully his. Now, with Bliss, Luis and entrepreneurs everywhere are equipped to make better, quicker decisions with software development projects.

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