Entrepreneur Gavin Bernstein has some advice for those about to outsource development work.
Do you have a great idea for an app? Chances are you’ll need to find a developer to make it a reality. That’s an experience Gavin Bernstein has recently gone through in launching his startup CloudeNotes.
Bernstein chose to look offshore for a developer, but his advice for those starting out is the same whether you’re looking inside or outside Australia, and could apply to a broad range of outsourced work – to meet and collaborate with the contractor in person.
“There’s a secret to making [offshoring] successful, and this is it: go there. Meet the people, and work with the people. If you’re really serious about it, go there,” Bernstein told BIT.
The end result is CloudeNotes, a web and mobile application for managing school excursion permissions.
The problem that inspired an app idea
Like many apps, the inspiration for Bernstein’s idea came from a problem.
“CloudeNotes came out of an incident at my son’s school,” he explained. “They wouldn’t let him on the bus [for a school excursion] because he hasn’t given them a permission slip. My wife and I must have missed the note or he didn’t give us the note – I don’t know.
“He was calling from his school’s office phone, crying his eyes out because he couldn’t go. I asked to speak to a teacher. The teacher said ‘sorry Mr. Bernstein, we can’t let your son on the bus because we haven’t got your permission’. They wouldn’t accept my verbal permission.
“They finally relented and agreed to let him on the bus when I said if they faxed the form through to me, I’d sign it when I got into the office – which I did. Crisis averted.”
The incident inspired Bernstein to create an online platform that allows schools, local sports clubs, scout groups, churches, martial arts studios and day care centres to issue permission slips to parents online.
“I came up with CloudeNotes as a way of moving this process online. Electronic signatures have been legal in Australia since 1999 – almost 17 years now – and this process of providing parental consent can be very easily done online,” Bernstein said.
The platform allows up to four guardians to fill in the essential information plus provide an electronic signature for excursions. Each parent has a separate dashboard, and changes of address, allergy, phone numbers and other information can be updated through the service in real time.
The platform also includes transactional messaging platform that allows school staff to send through newsletters and other information to parents, collect fees, send push notifications and see a real time dashboard showing which parents have given permission.
Don’t take no for an answer
Funding for the development of the platform was bootstrapped, and to control costs Bernstein outsourced the work to a team in Bangladesh. In the process, he learnt a valuable business lesson about successful outsourcing – to meet and collaborate in person with the contractor.
“After about a year of working on [CloudeNotes], I hit a plateau and didn’t know how to get over it,” he said. “A good mentor friend of mine told me to go there. Sit with them and work with them – you have no idea what you’ll achieve and plus your relationship will change because of it.
“At first they didn’t agree to me coming there. They said it’s a tough place to be and it’s uncomfortable, and I said ‘no, I’m coming’. So I spent 10 days … working with these 10 developers on this project. At the end of it, we were all mates.”
Bernstein noted that while the advice sounds simple, it’s surprising how many businesses don’t follow it.
“I asked the lead developer [in Bangladesh] if, in his experience, any of his customers or clients had ever showed up, and he said no,” Bernstein said.
“Working offshore, most people will tell you horror stories about making mistakes. But these developers are not just going to finish the project and move on; they’ll always be involved with you – especially if it’s a good product. So go there.”