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Seems there are a lot of software developers on this forum?


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OK, so its like this.....I have developed a geological database product which I have sold a few copies of and it produces an annual income form licence fees. Not enough to employ someone full time, but there is some money coming in. This is sold into mining and exploration companies, and seeing as the commodity prices are picking up there is good growth potential.

I am not a software developer (ok I guess I am) but a geologist so while my code works, it is probably not as good as it could be. I have done all the coding in VB.NET.

I don't have time to do coding, support, marketing and do consulting at the same time, but there are a lot of things that I want to add into the software (some cool 3D CAD stuff for instance). So I would like to get an actual software developer on board to fmake the GUI look a bit more modern, fix some bugs, add in some new stuff etc. 

What is the best way to do that? Get someone and pay them an hourly rate to do it? Take someone on as an equity partner and let them do the dev and support, and I do the marketing? How do you recognise a good developer when you see one? :P

I only have 1 or 2 support queries a month and they are usually database related, not technical problems as such.

Any advice would be most welcome. The product is here www.visualgeobase.com. Website could do with some work as well....:rolleyes:


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Thanks for the PM TTT. We should may speak bout numbers so I can see what it might cost.

So maybe the question is what is the *best* way to go about expanding a product. How do startups usually go about it? The way I see it I have 3 options. 

1. Muddle on like am doing currently. Pros cheap, cons I think money is being left on the table as the market is bigger than I can satisfy, but that will take time and marketting.

2. Pay someone to do the devleopment. Pros, gives me time to do marketting. Cons: cost of developer, cost of marketting, risk of eating up all my cashflow and ending up worse off than option 1.

3. Take on a partner who will do the development, in return for profit share. Pros - equal risk between parties, more time for me to do actual marketting. Cons, take on the wrong person who does nothing of value, 

4. Some mix of 2 & 3.


If I go for option 3, how do you find the right person? 

Sorry I'm just rambling here, helps to write thoughts down though.


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I have a couple of start-ups on the go. I don't have loose capital to pay people at this stage. So people give their time and in turn I give them a % of the start-up. That way I know they will contribute 100% effort and there is no risk other than the time lost should the start-up not work out. The thing is you have to pick the correct people who will help you. I hand pick my partners as I know what they can do. Its not easy. All the best with this venture.

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For a start I would not trust anybody I meet on the Internet without meeting them face to face and doing a full background check with references to other project they have done.

I have worked on big projects and I got to know a lot of people with skills that I need. That makes it a lot easier. If you are talking GIS I know some people who work in GIS.

I do a lot of work for the GIS people here. They use Esri, Also work a lot with Sansa / SAC. I dont have the time but if it is GIS you need let me know and I can ask around if somebody is interested.

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It all boils down to risk, frustrations and how you deal with them. It is not as easy as it may seem, or sound.

Been there, done that. 

I work from that negative to the positive side to ensure all parties are going to be happy when it goes south. That solves a LOT of problems before you even know there is a problem. Think about it. If you cannot sort the drama BEFORE you start, how on earth are you going to deal with it later when all is said and done and the frustrations are high and there is no cash to boot? OR there is a lot of cash and someone gets new ideas.

Let me explain in some detail @DeepBass9

Finding the right person is obviously what we all want. But will it last? I tend to say 99% no, it wont. How many startup see 10 years in business?

See when things start, all are excited, things are going well, obviously no-one is worried. It is when it does not go so well that the problems arrive that could have been dealt with before. Say one side did 100% and got naught months later because the other side did not bring their part as agreed upon. Giving shares or % of a startup, sounds fantastic but when you realise months later, this is not working, the % or shares are, yes, worthless, yet someone had to put in real time and actual effort, more than the other party. It always bites all parties in the end.

How do you avoid these problems that are coming? 

Warning: You are going to get the hibbie jibbies if you read the small print.I was taught the following when I started my business in 2000 with 3 other partners:
All partners sit in a circle close to each other. Each one takes a sharp knife. Now cut the thigh open, to the bone, of the partner on your right. Pull out the knife. Now scrape the bone, deep groves, in the thigh bone of the partner on your left. All partners now understand pain.

THAT is how painful it can get when you get it wrong.

Now some may think aaag, twak man, I have attorney connections. They will sort it quick. Being a business person, a attorney needs to pay bills so they need to bill you. But they also know that say "as a matter of principal" case flies out the window very fast after the 1st or 2nd bill. Or they see you did not have the cash to fund the business in the first place, how do they know you now have the cash to pay them now? Or how do they know you are telling the whole truth when you are going after the other parties cash? So they need to be wise.

So a good attorney will tell you: Put down RX0 000 in this trust account, then we can start legal action. When we go to court, triple that. Do you have the cash?

A very good attorney, at the cost of maybe a consultation or two, will look at the facts and then say, you have a case, or no you don't, or you are going to waste your money. Why? you ask? Attorney says to you: There are 5 truths involved here:

  1. Your side - obviously you are right.
  2. The other side - obviously they are right.
  3. Your attorneys version of the truth as you say it is, so they are right.
  4. The other attorneys version of the opposing sides truth as they say it is, so they also are right.
  5. And then the Magistrate, who rules on the truth ... as he says it is. He is the ONLY one that ends up being right.

So, to avoid any and all the above, knifes and legal wrangling, it is absolutely the best practice that all parties come to an agreement where all parties can walk away happy from when, not if, when things go south. I say again: If you cannot get to that agreement before you put in a ounce of effort, how the #@($*& are you going to deal with it when it does not go your way? :D

Flip side of that coin.

If it never goes south ... man, you are good. No, seriously, you are very good. Respect. 

Been there, done THAT too. ;)

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Reading this with interest. Understand the issues with a partner. I am spectacularly bad at picking partners, which is why I stopped doing it. I have an engine-room personality which means I don't want to deal with the admin and red tape. That makes me a poor manager. I'm bad at context switching (most good programmers are so I don't feel too bad about that) so I should preferably never have more than two concurrently running projects. At the moment I have 4... :-)

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3 hours ago, DeepBass9 said:

What does a programmer cost per hour usually? 

Quite simple and easy.

Small projects we vary between R650 - R1850 per hour depending on what is involved. The more our client is involved, the lower the hourly charge. We have done some projects for as low as R350 ph for the customer really gets stuck in.

Or we quote a once off price for the project.

Both the above can get worrysome for the customer for we know by now that as the software evolves new ideas come about resulting in more changes and testing and therefor the price keeps on escalating. That can cause frustrations. And these frustrations creep up on you slowly.

So for longer term projects we offer a fixed fee per month till all is done. Min period is 3 months or longer.

And then there are the risk projects where we would like to cover some of our costs initially, say a min of Rx per month for Y hours initially with the goal of earning per month per user for as long as the software is used out there understanding that software never really is finished so ongoing improvements and technical support is part of the charges. Obviously the quicker we get to the point where the software is done, it works and is well liked, we just have to be available in case, that is when we get the real ROI on the risk we took initially. And all future enhancements are obviously part and parcel of the fees per month, provided it is enough to cover all expenses. More recurring users is a very good place to not only ensure developers commitment, but also protect clients that the software is ongoing.


Ito development, the moment one looks at the code, sits down to understand it, the meter starts running. And we have learned a long time ago, no matter how much work was done before, it is never a given that it will save time. It could actually costs double, first improve what is and then realise it is better to redo from scratch due to technicalities hampering improvements. That call is made with very carefully, with facts on the table.

No, I am not painting a rosy picture here, as I have seen how sad it can get.

But do understand I want to end up smiling in the end, with everyone around me with even bigger smiles, 10-20 years later. 

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1 minute ago, plonkster said:

I don't want to deal with the admin and red tape.

That is what I do ... plus I am customer care, poop scooper and all that.

I also "try" and guide the developer/s that they do not lose focus, but man, that, let me tell you, is THE most difficult task of all at times. For I also have a attention issue at times. (cwl)

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5 hours ago, DeepBass9 said:

What does a programmer cost per hour usually? 

Free lancers will charge between R300 and R700 per hour. Companies charge R500 up to R1000 an hour. Don't worry too much about the hourly cost though, because a good programmer does it in less hours. What matters is the total estimate. For myself, my strategy is to charge a lower rate but allow for ample time to get the job done. That's less risky than the other way round, in my opinion at least. If a job is fixed-quote (as opposed to time and material) it doesn't really matter anyway.

Time and material should only be tried with someone you trust, otherwise it could end up costing a lot. As a developer, I do prefer time and material over fixed quote... for obvious reasons... less risk :-)

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Just now, DeepBass9 said:

... the best is to muddle on myself.

That is always the most "cost" effective way, and the safest.

If you change your mind, we can have a chat and not scare each other in a forum chat. ;)

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