Top 6 Tips For Startup Founders – How to Make Offshoring Work

Most Offshore Software Development partners simply don’t understand these critical realities:

Startups can’t afford failures or delays.

They don’t have the bandwidth to micro-manage remote software dev teams.

Startups need software developers who can “get it right the first time with minimal supervision”

Agile @ Speed
Agile @ Speed

This article delivers a formula for Successful Offshore Software Development for Startups.

The ability to “get it right the first time” with “Agile @ Speed” dramatically reduces the risk associated with external development teams & makes offshoring a “Low Risk” + “Low Cost” winning combination.

What Do Startups Need from Offshore Development Teams?

  • Low-cost & Low-risk Resources
  • Excellent English & Communication Skills
  • Product Ownership & Accountability
  • Problem-solving Mentality
  • Quality Code

Critical Offshoring Success Factors for Startups

  • Startups can’t afford failures or delays.
  • Startups don’t have the bandwidth to micro-manage vendors.
  • Waterfall won’t work for most startups. They need “Agile @ Speed” from offshore teams to succeed.
  • Engineers = Agile. Coders = Waterfall. Startups need Engineers.

6 Top Offshoring Tips For Startups

1. Low-Context Communication is Critical for Success

Communication between you and your offshore team will be much easier if they practice low-context communication. 

What is the Difference Between Low-Context and High Context Communication?

high context vs low context communication

Low/High Context Communication By Country

Image source: Tech Tello

Wherever possible, pick developers from countries with low-context communication.

Again, startups don’t have the bandwidth to micro-manage their offshore partners.

Low-context communication leaves nothing to interpretation and is the only way to ensure clear, crisp communication between multi-cultural teams.

It’s easy to identify low-context communication by interacting with the developers 1:1.

  • Send the prospective development partner a few emails with detailed questions and see how they answer.  You are looking for detailed, thoughtful answers that leave nothing to interpretation.
  • Ask to speak in person with a few of the team members that would be on the team you will be working with, looking for low-context verbal communication capabilities.

More information on low-context communication

2. Screen Vendors for “Agile @ Speed”

With the multitude of changes, dependencies, and processes within Agile methodologies, a certain velocity of communication, interaction, and concurrency is required.

Without this velocity of communication, “Agile @ Speed” is simply not possible.

What is “Agile @ Speed?”

Agile @ Speed is an important metric for integrating a remote team with your internal team.

Many companies practice Agile methodologies. But Agile is only powerful as a methodology if it can be practiced with a certain velocity.

Startup teams require remote developers who communicate and interact with speed.

How to Screen for “Agile @ Speed”

The best way to screen for “Agile @ Speed” is to work with the vendor on a small project, as seen in Tip #3.

3. Vet Prospective Vendors with a Small Proof of Concept Project

If you absolutely can’t afford to have an “Offshore Vendor False Start”, consider a small Proof of Concept to experience the team’s capabilities before committing. 

This can be helpful if you want to evaluate specific technical capabilities or want to really see if their communication culture is a fit for your company. You will also see if they are capable of “Agile at Speed”.

Pick a project or sprint that can be completed in a few weeks.  In 2-4 weeks, you will find out a lot about a potential dev partner’s capability. 

4. Look for Communication Excellence “2-Layers Deep”

Interview the team leaders AND a few of the key engineers one or two layers down to evaluate their communication skills.  

A common practice of some offshoring/nearshoring software houses is to insert a “customer liaison”, a kind of technical lead who can ensure proper communication between your engineers and the remote team.  This should be a red flag that the team in question lacks communication skills.

There are also other problems with the liaison model:

  • The bulk of communication within the development team happens between developers.  The liaison can’t possibly be in every conversation.
  • Much is lost in translation (see telephone game)
  • “Agile at Speed” is required between various dev team members. A liaison only adds more delays.

5. Manage Political Risk

The recent troubles in Ukraine and Eastern Europe have reminded us of the importance of managing geopolitical risk. Pick vendors from countries with political and economic stability.

Hungary and Poland, having EU and NATO membership, are safer destinations for outsourcing than some Eastern European countries, for example.

Read 7 Reasons to Outsource Software Development to Hungary in 2022 if you would like to take advantage of Hungary’s many benefits and avoid political risk.

6. Make Your Expectations Known Up Front

Never assume prospective offshore/nearshore dev partners understand your expectations.  Be specific on what’s important to you.  Some examples are:

  • Do you expect Engineers or Coders?
  • Agile (not Waterfall)?
  • Expected throughput per engineer
  • Availability and Accessibility of team
  • Seniority expectations.  (What do you mean by “Sr. Developer”?)

Contrary to popular belief, most offshore/nearshore development firms do not “bait and switch” to get a contract.  More commonly, expectations are simply not communicated clearly from the beginning, leading to mismatches.


Startups who work with development partners who understand their needs, and are capable of delivering the value that they seek are much more likely to succeed with offshoring.

If you would like to work with an Offshore Development Partner who delivers value, please contact or fill out the form below.

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