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I have an idea that I would like to develop as an app. I have no programming skills though.

-Can someone point to some resources on how I can hire a reputable company to do the job for me.

  • What are important factors I should consider when choosing?

  • Any warning signs or red flags that I should be aware of when choosing?

  • Can anyone provide cost estimates? I do not have a large amount of capital to invest. Are there companies that would build and come in for a percentage of the app if they feel it would be successful?

Thank you all for your time.

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migrated from Mar 30 '11 at 3:15

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

closed as off topic by Jarrod Roberson, Mark Trapp Feb 4 '12 at 3:45

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to the cost question, the range there is phenomenal based on complexity and location of development. I have heard of app developers on taking jobs for as little as $150, but have dealt with vendors charging over $100k. I would look at prior work and speak with references to get a sense of how well the developer met deadlines and how accurately they fulfilled desired functionality – Robot Woods Mar 29 '11 at 20:52
Do you have any close friends who are programmers? I would go to them first for advice on this. If they are a good friend they might be willing to help you out, or at least advise you along the way. Going into an unknown company or seeking out unknown developers is a tricky proposition in terms of cost, trust, and quality. – Andy White Mar 29 '11 at 20:58
I do not know any programmers. I work in the legal field and my app is geared solely towards solo practitioners and law firms. I am really walking blind right now. – Tom981 Mar 29 '11 at 21:01
Read this for an idea about costs - it will invariably cost more than you imagine – Benjol Mar 30 '11 at 4:38

From your question, I'd guess you don't have enough money to pay for the application to be developed. Software, particularly good software, is generally a lot more expensive than somebody outside the field would expect. (This is also a common point of friction; non-programmers frequently think programmers are padding their schedules to get more money or an easier job, and programmers frequently are frustrated by non-programmers not understanding all that has to be done.) There are places where you can hire programmers cheap, but they won't be able to afford to do good work.

There's also the question of your idea. Since you aren't a programmer, you likely don't know what would go into it or even if it's feasible, and the only way you're going to find out is to share it and risk somebody else using it. Ideas are usually worth a lot less than the person with the idea thinks (although there are exceptions, the spreadsheet being a star example), and you won't get much out of just having an idea without helping a lot with the execution.

You really do need some sort of programmer partner to help you evaluate the idea, and unfortunately you have no good way of telling a good one from a bad one. (Programmers have trouble with this themselves. Look at the data on variations in individual productivity, and all the blog posts about how to hire good programmers.) You also need one you can personally trust, and this probably matters even more than quality.

So, you're not in a good position here, I'm sorry to say. Try to make personal contact with a programmer you think you can trust, and explain the situation. Don't expect to make lots of money from having an idea without putting in a lot of work to make something of it. Prepare to be generous with equity shares: most likely, your idea will fail (which is what startups tend to do), and it might really take off (in which case the equity you retain is likely to make you rich anyway). The odds are very low that you'll be thinking "Darn, if I'd kept that extra 20% of the company I could retire now."

Good luck. You've got a hard job ahead of you.

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Thanks for all the insightful information. I have researched and confirmed that there is not an app out already which is one of the few positives at this point. From the above responses, I am tempted to pitch my idea the marketing department in my firm as a starting point. I will keep everyone posted on how I proceed.

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One way to start would be to look around at other apps that do similar things. Not necessarily in the same field, but deal with data in similar ways, have similar functionality etc. Then look at the companies that produced those apps. They might be the ones you want to approach.

You will also have to think about your role in the development and the Intellectual Property (IP) aspects. If you commission some people or a company then you can ensure your ownership of the product and rights in the contract. However it's going to cost you more to develope as you will be footing the whole bill. If you want to share, then you have to think about what you are willing to give up.

Finally there is the DIY option. If the idea is simple enough, then some introduction to programming books, development web sites and asking questions on sites like this and StackOverflow can get you started. The bonus to this is you get to learn a new thing and the costs are low. The downside is that it will take longer to put together and will probably be not as slick. But if it takes off, you will probably be able to afford to hire people and build your own company.

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I agree with the others that you should try to do some networking, and find someone through a personal connection.

You could ask friends/colleagues and friends of friends, etc., if they know any programmers.

If you work at a large firm, there are probably some programmers somewhere at your firm. Or likely you know someone who works at a large firm who knows somebody...

If you don't have big $ to fund the project you'll probably have to cut the programmer(s) in for a percentage and/or seek some kind of funding if it's a really great idea.

You'll also probably want to do some more research and make sure there isn't already an app that does what you want .

In terms of companies that are already doing legal software, the exhibitors list from Legal Tech might be a good place to start.

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