I am writing this to share some horror stories that are still on going that resulted from relying on foreign coders. I will admit this does not represent 100% of all outsourced development companies (how could it?) but to anyone thinking about undertaking such a product, buyer beware. These places, which can be found on Elance or even from posting a craiglist ad in this country, will taken on just about any job and say yes to anything – regardless of whether they can accomplish the goal. Don’t be fooled by the drive to save money. It is better to pay more once than pay less 1000 times. Hopefully this can serve as a warning and save some very promising entrepreneurs the headaches I have dealt with over the last few years.
A little more than a year and a half ago my team and I started working on a great idea, a location based chat application. What would eventually become Echo was originally designed to be a website. We chose to go the mobile route because, at least for a location based application, there was so much potential in using new technology (e.g. the smartphone) to bring new functionality – user location – to “old” tech ideas – the chat room. One problem – none of us were coders.
We met with several developers. We finally selected a company based in New Hampshire. Turns out the company misrepresented how it operated. Instead of doing all coding on site, what we assumed was this guy’s apartment, all the work was secretly shipped out to India. Now I know a lot of things get outsourced to India but coding should not be one of them. The work was unreliable, full of bugs, and worse off when we finally found out the software was being built in India and tried to contact the developer, he was no where to be found. There was just no control (and impossible to find any) over a developer thousands of miles away who could take off and do whatever he wanted to do.
Eventually we parted ways with this sham operation. We found a company based in New Jersey who was willing to take on the project. This technical chop shop – Rapidsoft Systems – looked legitimate on the surface. Many big contracts, run by a computer science professor who used to head up development for many big companies and was himself Indian (we thought this would at least make dealing with the outsourcing process easier). He was able to diagnose many of our problems right away. So far so good. The project would be forwarded to his team in India for work.
What followed was probably the worse experience ever. Developers quit or were fired on a regular basis so there was no consistency in the team. Every few weeks or so we would come to realize either that the team had changed entirely, or that several key members were gone. This meant that either (a) we had to re-teach the application to a new set of people or (b) even worse, coders with no idea what was going on were being left to play around with our application.
We tried to leave several times but met resistance along the way. Despite numerous revisions and issues fixing basic features, they were committed to finishing/dragging us down with this application.
It took 8 months to convince them to give us the code. This was only after they tried to bill us for work we did not request, sent internal emails asking developers to take longer and list phony work orders so they could try and charge us for more (funny thing is that the developers who realized this was wrong sent us these emails), and generally were disagreeable as a whole. As it if couldn’t get any worse, the code we received was complete garbage. Over 450 error messages, improper implementation of several features that made it guaranteed to be rejected by Apple and a non-scalable back end that would have been sure to leave us dead in the water down the line.
A horror story to say the least.
Having invested both time and money into this project I am committed to finishing it but wanted to make sure my mistakes were not in vain. No promise of saving money is worth dealing with foreign developers. Pay more upfront and get someone local, with experience, who actually knows what they are doing – it will save you money in the long run and more importantly it will save you time.
p.s. – anyone who knows a developer in nyc looking to get on board with our team we are always looking, message or comment their info
Update – 5/16/2011
Following the comments from our manufacturing software guy bellow, I did some investigation. I contacted some people at Rapidsoft to see if anyone knew who this person was and whether he actually had hired them 3 times in a row to do a project. No one could verify this information. While I do agree with some of what he said, I now wonder what his connection to the company is. It appears there may be some shadier motives prompting those comments.
Also in the meantime other sites have picked up on Rapidsoft’s shoddy work and several other companies have verified and validated by complaints. Looks like it is not just my project that was damaged but that this is on ongoing practice. See the links bellow for more detail.