My entrepreneurial path began with a simple idea: creating a consignment marketplace for sneakers and streetwear.
It was a venture I began with my brother, and it quickly turned into a startup journey into the heart of e-commerce, a sector both dynamic and challenging. We quickly uncovered the multifaceted nature of digital commerce.
The platform quickly became more than just a website; it was an e-commerce hub connecting diverse tools and integrations. From managing inventory to synchronising sales channels, every step was a lesson in complexity.
As our marketplace grew, so did our challenges. We faced the daunting task of managing an ever-expanding tech stack, integrating different tools from across the web to help our merchants sell as easily as possible.
The realisation hit us hard: the world of e-commerce was evolving rapidly, but the available solutions were not keeping pace.
We encountered a recurring problem – e-commerce integrations were often tightly coupled with individual commerce services, lacking the flexibility needed by merchants.
This rigidity in the digital landscape posed a significant barrier, limiting our ability to adapt and expand our business model.
In parallel to this, my brother and I were falling more in love with the e-commerce space, and falling out of love with selling sneakers and streetwear.
These two aspects created a turning point for us. We saw an opportunity to actually create a platform that could solve the merchants’ problems. Something that wasn’t just a patchwork of integrations but a cohesive, adaptable, centralised platform.
That was when the idea for Krepling was born.
In this article, I aim to share my experiences and insights gained from transitioning this initial concept into a thriving, VC-backed startup.
I will delve into the critical decision of partnering with a software development company, a move that significantly influenced our trajectory.
I’ll discuss the challenges we faced, the strategic considerations behind our choices, and the invaluable benefits we reaped from this partnership.
The Journey to Working with a Software Development Company
Deciding to collaborate with a software development company was a pivotal choice in our journey.
Initially, the prospect of building an in-house team was appealing, but we soon recognised the additional value a specialised agency could bring.
The Need for Expertise and Speed
As we delved deeper into developing our Krepling, it became apparent that the complexity and scope of what we were trying to achieve required expertise beyond our immediate capabilities.
The agility and proficiency of a software development company, especially in the early stages of a startup, presented itself as the most strategic choice for us.
We needed to get our product to market as quickly as possible. In a landscape where cultures, ideas, and product requirements are constantly evolving, hiring a team capable of keeping pace with these changes seemed a daunting and risky task.
We realised that the flexibility and adaptability an agency could offer were crucial to the rapid development and effective marketing of our product.
An agency provided the opportunity to work with a team that was already equipped to handle rapid changes and could offer insights that we, as founders, might not have considered.
This ability to quickly adapt and provide valuable insights was not just a convenience but a necessity for the fast-paced nature of our project. We viewed the agency as a critical investment in buying the skill and speed needed in the game, rather than trying to build this capability from scratch internally.
Aligning Vision and Goals
It wasn’t just about the technical know-how; we sought a partner who shared our vision and was ready to commit to a long-term collaboration.
This was crucial – when working with an agency you need a partner, not just a service provider.
Our choice, Altar.io, ticked all these boxes, aligning with our goals and opening our eyes to new opportunities.
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Communicating with Our Investors
When we decided to partner with a software development agency, it initially raised questions among our investors.
It was imperative for us to clearly communicate the strategy and rationale behind this decision. We made sure our investors understood the reasons and benefits of this partnership.
One key aspect of our communication strategy was ensuring transparency and openness.
We invited investors to meet with the team at our chosen software development company and facilitated their understanding of the technical aspects and the vision behind our project.
This helped to demonstrate the solid foundation and thought process behind our decision.
We faced scepticism, with some investors questioning why we chose an agency over hiring an internal team.
In response, we emphasised the alignment of our strategy with the agency’s expertise and our long-term goals.
We understood that if an investor opposed this approach due to a mismatch in strategy, it indicated a fundamental misalignment that needed to be addressed. For us, it was crucial to have investors who supported our strategic decisions and understood our vision.
This approach helped alleviate any initial fears or misconceptions about not following the traditional route of building an in-house team.
Once we articulated our strategy and the reasons for our decision, we found that investors generally understood and supported our choice, appreciating the rationale behind this unconventional but strategic decision.
The Selection Process
Selecting the right software development company was a thorough and thoughtful process for us.
It went beyond the usual due diligence of reviewing portfolios and making reference calls. While these aspects were undeniably important, our focus was on finding a partner who was fully invested in our vision and mission.
During our search, we evaluated around 20 different agencies, each with impressive portfolios and strong references.
However, our criteria extended beyond these surface-level qualifications. We wanted a partner who was willing to give their all to the project, someone who didn’t just see this as another job but as an opportunity to be part of something impactful.
We looked for signs of genuine interest and commitment in the way they talked about our project.
It was crucial for us to feel confident that the agency we chose would not only bring technical expertise but also a shared enthusiasm for what we were trying to achieve. This alignment in values and vision was paramount in our selection process.
In the end, the decision to choose a particular agency was based on this deeper connection and understanding. We wanted a team that resonated with our goals and was eager to embark on this journey with us, contributing more than just technical skills but also strategic insights and a shared passion for innovation.
The Benefits of Working with a Software Development Company
Our partnership with a software development company brought transformative changes to our startup. The benefits we experienced were as tangible as they were strategic, shaping the trajectory of our venture.
Access to a Diverse Talent Pool
One of the most significant advantages was the access to a diverse talent pool.
We had at our disposal experts for every need – whether it was a “Super Brain on Tech” or a product specialist.
This allowed us to address specific challenges with precision and expertise, a factor crucial for a startup navigating the intricate world of e-commerce.
Understanding the Market and Adapting
Our journey in e-commerce, starting from selling sneakers and streetwear, evolved into a deeper understanding of what merchants need.
This experience was invaluable in shaping Krepling.
Working with the agency’s product aficionados helped us refine this vision from a product development standpoint. This allowed us to address the users’ needs far more effectively.
Risk Mitigation and Flexibility
Choosing to partner with a software development company offered us substantial advantages in terms of risk mitigation and flexibility.
As I mentioned, we were confronted with the traditional mindset that prioritises building an internal team, especially prevalent in the Silicon Valley culture – primarily from our investors.
However, we believed deeply in the value of working with an external partner who could mimic the behaviour and dedication of an internal team.
This model allowed us to reduce risks significantly while maintaining the operational flexibility essential for an early-stage, unproven startup.
Gaining Credibility and Confidence
Partnering with a renowned agency with a proven track record added significant credibility to our venture.
It wasn’t merely about showcasing a minimum viable product; it was about demonstrating to our stakeholders – investors, potential agency partners, and customers – that we had a concept that worked and was backed by credible partners. This partnership lent our concept not just a name, but a substantial degree of credibility in the space.
As we communicated our collaboration with the agency, it bolstered our standing, especially in the VC market.
It conveyed a clear message: we were serious about our venture and capable of making strategic decisions to enhance its success.
This was more than just having a product; it was a testament to our commitment to quality and our ability to work with top-tier professionals in the industry.
My Top 5 Pieces of Advice for Non-Technical Entrepreneurs Building a Tech Startup
As a non-technical entrepreneur myself, I’ve navigated the challenges and complexities of building a tech-focused business. Here are some key insights that I believe are crucial for fellow entrepreneurs in similar situations:
1. Focus on Cultural Fit and Mission Alignment
It’s essential to surround yourself with people who are not just skilled but also dedicated to your mission.
Ensure that your partners and team members are sold on your vision. This alignment is more critical than getting caught up in the technical details initially. Selling your vision should always precede diving into the technical aspects.
2. Understand the Value vs. Cost Equation
Many entrepreneurs worry about the costs of hiring an agency, fearing it might be more expensive than building a team.
However, it’s important to recognise that while it might be costlier upfront, you are paying for premium results and mitigating risks.
Hiring a team, especially in the early stages, might seem cheaper, but it comes with its own set of risks. The key is to understand that you’re investing in quality and expertise that can significantly propel your project forward.
3. Embrace the Learning Curve
Embracing the learning curve is crucial. As a non-technical founder, you’ll face numerous challenges and make mistakes along the way.
It’s part of the journey.
Use these experiences to grow and refine your approach. Remember, every setback is an opportunity to learn and improve.
5. Stay Open and Adaptable
The tech world is fast-paced and ever-changing. Stay open to new ideas and be adaptable to change. This flexibility will allow you to pivot when necessary and seize opportunities as they arise.
My startup journey has been – and continues to be – both challenging and enlightening.
The decision to partner with a software development agency was pivotal, marking a significant shift in our approach to building our VC-backed startup, Krepling.
The benefits of this partnership were multi-fold. We gained access to a diverse talent pool, invaluable expertise, and the flexibility to adapt rapidly in a dynamic market.
This collaboration allowed us to focus on our core business strategies, while the agency managed the technical complexities, propelling our growth and innovation.
For my fellow non-technical entrepreneurs, the key takeaway is the importance of aligning with partners who share your vision and can complement your skills. Understand the value of investing in quality, embrace the learning curve, and stay adaptable.
Our journey highlights the significance of strategic partnerships in the tech startup ecosystem.
It underscores the need for non-technical founders to focus on their strengths, leveraging external expertise to bridge the gaps.
As we continue to grow and evolve, these lessons remain integral to our approach, reminding us that the path to success in the startup world is often a collaborative one.