a 7-step guide to finding your ideal dev shop partner

May 8th, 2023
Founder of Rooftop

Quick overview:

If you're in the process of finding the ideal software development partner, it's essential to start by defining your needs and doing it precisely. This includes understanding your project requirements, budget, communication preferences, and the type of professionals you'd like to work with. Once you have a clear understanding of what you're looking for, the next step is to consider location.

You should be aware of the pros and cons of outsourcing to different regions and tech hubs around the world, so you can choose the location that best suits your needs. It's also worth considering referrals within your network. Your colleagues, friends, and acquaintances can be an excellent source of recommendations and introductions to potential development partners. Remember, the goal is to find a trustworthy partner who aligns with your values and can help you achieve your business goals.

Here's our 7-step guide that we recommend following to find your ideal tech partner.

The 7-step guide

1 - Define what you need, precisely.
2 - Location, location, location.
3 - Referrals within your Network.
4 - Research: Clutch, the Google for agencies.
5 - The 20’ blind date.
6 - Interview your top 3, beyond tech.
7 - The gut, the spark, the leap, the pick.

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1- Define what you need, precisely:

This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Just like hiring in-house roles, you first define the role you're looking for and then you look for the right-fit candidates. This is exactly the same! Clearly defining what you are looking for has a direct impact on the challenge it will be to find it. The more you know what you want, the easier it is to get it.

It also depends on where you’re standing. Are you an entrepreneur with no tech founders around you? Or are you a super cool NYC tech startup raising a series A? Or why not, an established company with many projects and spinoffs to come?

Sometimes entrepreneurs need partners with a lot of know-how in product building, business validation, and go-to-market strategies. And that is not necessarily the same as needing 5 Senior devs to onboard an existing project with clear leadership and roadmap ahead. Nor is it the same to find a partner that can help you with a variety of tech challenges for a highly-complex product, right?

This is the moment to ask the macro questions. In tech, there are three main things that we should consider impossible to have all at once: Quality, Speed, and Low Price. So first things first. Despite defining what you are needing in terms of capabilities, what are you really looking for? Speed? Quality? Cost efficiency?

Even so, you might even want to consider communication too. Are you willing to work with a cost-efficient team in India and lose responsiveness due to their time zone gap? Is that sustainable in the long run from your business perspective? Maybe so, it really depends on your shoes. Are you looking for native English-speaking teams? How engaged would you like to be in the day-to-day conversations with the development team? The answers to these questions are totally up to you. But the point is, make sure you know what you want before looking for it.

Ok, now that you know what you want, you should ask yourself other questions. What’s your budget? What’s your kickoff date? Any deadlines? You’ve got to be ready to answer these questions because they’ll become blockers down the road.

Another great thing to anticipate is: what’s the first short-term commitment you are willing to engage with? Although you might be looking for a long-term engagement with a development team abroad, you might want to start off slowly to really mitigate risks. Once that trust is gained and you’re confident you’ve made the right pick, then you can head to phase two and leverage that initial team. Knowing your phase-one strategy from the start is also very helpful, so you look for partners who are willing to go through that initial phase too. If you don’t have a clear “let’s get to know us before the long-term commitment” strategy, you’ll end up losing time in negotiations with your candidate partners.

And last but not least, what type of teams are you looking to engage with? The super formal engineering teams? Maybe, why not? Or a more relaxed, yet serious environment? What type of culture and values are you aligned with?

Remember, investing time in this first step will speed up the rest of the process.

2- Location, location, location.

This is a very important concept, but not only in retail. This step can be thought as an extension of the first step in this process. But let’s face it, you should definitely ask yourself, where are we looking for tech partners? In the US or abroad? Abroad? Cool, where off to then? India? Europe? LATAM? Deep South LATAM?

We strongly suggest you have at least a quick overview of the pros and cons of outsourcing to different regions and tech hubs in the world. Is it the same to outsource software development to India than it is to a country in Eastern Europe? Nope.

Know your options. There’s plenty of generalized info on the internet that will help you understand which tech hub aligns itself with what you’re looking for. We’ve even put together our own blog post on the topic, but don’t just take our word for it. Investigate for yourself to really grasp the full picture, and if you find yourself informed enough to take the next step, we are right here to help.


3- Referrals within your Network.

This is our BIGGEST suggestion. Go talk to your network, neighbors, friends, colleagues, you name it, but keep in mind their word is worth gold if you know who to listen to. If someone in your network knows trustworthy people with whom they’ve worked before with success, they’ll be excited to introduce them to you! Primarily because they'll feel good about the opportunity of helping you out.  If so, you just won the jackpot. Of course, next step would be getting to know who ever was introduced to you first hand, but you’re half way there.

In fact, that same feeling of excitement is the one you should look out for from the development shops you'd like to work with. From their perspective, they also have the opportunity to work with a referred connection, and not with some random person they have no reference about. In a world with plenty of assholes out there, having a connection in common is super valuable for both parties.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your network. We’re talking big bucks here. Use your network, because if you don’t, what’s the point of it?

Oh, and if you do advance with the tech firm that was introduced to you, remember to invite that wingman a nice cold beer. That's the least you can do!

4- Research: Clutch, the Google for agencies.

Your network didn’t give you a solution, or it just didn't fit your criteria? Don’t panic, Clutch.co is awesome.

Get in there, use the filters, and start listing the companies that match your needs.

One little tip. Reviews matter more than rating stars. Don’t let flashy 5 stars reviews fill your eye. Remember that clients are asked for reviews only if assumed they’ll responde with 5 stars. Not saying they are not important, just saying it can’t be the only element you consider to make your list. Big bias there... Read the reviews!

Look at founded year, team size, industry expertise, and the founders behind it.

There are 4 main things you might want to take a peek at.

1- Website, inside out. Home page, about us, their work, and if they have a blog, what are they talking about? Their website is just like an in-person first impression. You might not be accurate with your judgement, but first impressions are first impressions. You’ve got to like what you see, how they communicate, and how they approach their game.

2- Linkedin: look at their banner, at their about sections, at their team sections. They say they are US-based but their team is 95% from Russia? They say they have offices here and there, but there team is sitting on the same spot? How active are they? How do they contribute to their community?

3- Portfolio. It’s their soul. Take a look at them in their site and on Clutch. Get to know the challenges in which they where involved with. How deep was their relationship with their clients? How important was their contribution to success? How long was their business partnership? How big was the team involved?

4- Reviews: look for patterns! The patterns is what adds value. Anyone can say anything about anyone, right? But if everyone says the same thing, you better listen. Read the reviews, and look for the pattern.

Once you’ve gone through this process, make a list of maybe 5, 7 or even 10 dev shops you like. Now that you have your list, narrow it down further to find which ones truly match up with your needs, for that we got your back! Or you can look closer into each company yourself. It’s totally up to you.


5- The 20’ blind date

You’ve got your list, now you need to vet it down to 3 options before making your final pick. I’m from the 90’s, so this reminds me of the MTV series NEXT.

Ask for a 20’ call with them, and don’t dive deep into your needs too fast. Let them talk, try to know them a little better, and ask them for their top 3 case studies. Make it brief, observe how they communicate and how they prioritize what to share with you.

That’s key. What do they prioritize? Does that match what you're looking for?

Another cool thing to observe is the type of questions they ask you. Remember, don’t dive too deep, though do try to let the conversation flow. Get to know, at least with a little glimpse, the people behind those tech firms.

At the end of each call you’ll be obtaining feelings, impressions, and intuitions.

Write them down. They generally don’t miss. And pick your favorite 3.

6- Interview your top 3 - beyond tech.

Now it's time to dive deep. If necessary, sign an NDA, but that just slows things down. Honestly, we don’t like NDAs at this stage, but it's totally up to you.

The question we think is quite peculiar to ask is: How will I, as your client, add value to your portfolio?

It’s important to understand that you are not just a client for a development shop, you are also their future case study (if so), and therefore, you're also their marketing strategy for new incoming clients. Tech firms work with many clients at once, so what is your position in that hierarchy? Of course, they’ll tell you all of their clients are treated the same, and they are in a way, but sometimes it just doesn't work like that. You want to make sure you’re not just another kid from the block.

Engage with people who are excited to work with you, that believe in your mission, that love what you're trying to achieve, and that are enthusiastic on this partnership as much as you (whether you’re an entrepreneur or a C-level decision maker at a big tech company).

Ask technical questions, ask about processes, ask about industries, ask about their biggest failures and lessons learned. Try to look for transparent, committed, talented people. But you can’t just ask that, you’ve got to sense that.

There are many software engineers, tech firms, and a variety of options technically capable of doing what you’re needing. At the end of the day, your pick must come down to other variables, like how comfortable you feel with them, how well you guys understand each other, how much you trust them, how much you like the person in front of you, etc.

Talk technical, but watch out for non-technical clues.

And once you’re ready, ask for a proposal.

The proposal itself will tell you a lot about them. It's not only about what they propose. Pay attention to how it's proposed too.

Having 3 proposals is the best way to make your pick precisely because you now have tangible comparisons. Not just on pricing, on how they seduce you, on how bad they want to work with you.

7- The gut, the spark, the leap, the pick.

So how do you make your final pick between three great options?

Yep, the three of them might be great. What a wonderful problem to have!

If all the logical elements are aligned, it’s time for the gut to step in. Hope this doesn’t sound unprofessional but I will argue until the end of time with whoever says that their gut doesn’t come into action at this point of any high-level decision-making.

Listen to your gut, feel the spark, and make the leap.

As we said before, mitigate risks by starting with a short-term agreement. Your main goal at this stage is to validate that in practice your expectations are met. This might take 30 days, before you are fully confident you're ready for full throttle.

some final thoughts

It's fascinating to think about the fact that people are connecting with each other from all around the world, building trust form the ground up, to move businesses forward. The world keeps getting smaller and smaller, and opportunities get bigger and bigger.

Just to make sure we are on the right page here, this 7-Step Guide isn't a scientific method. As the founder of a Tech Hub that connects US companies with LATAM'S top tech firms, this is just how I would recommend a friend to proceed.

I do know hiring a software development company can be an overwhelming process, and even more so if you’re hiring offshore. I've experienced this from both sides of the counter. This process can take weeks, or months, but is there any other way to speed this up? The answer is: yes indeed!

That’s why we founded Rooftop Tech Hub, to speed up this procurement process to <3 days.

We achieved this by first thoroughly vetting our tech partners in LATAM, meeting the founders behind each tech firm in person. We invested a lot of time in this for you.

Then, through a highly-personalized process with you, we'll connect you with your right-fit partner hassle-free.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about us.

We’re always interested in expanding our network and building connections that last.

Thanks for reading.

Connect with LATAM's best tech firms in <3 days.