So I've got this great idea for the iPad... but what next?


Maybe someone has experience with this?

I've been mulling this idea for an app that would really show off what's possible with a tablet like the iPad. It doesn't exist yet, and I want it to.

I'm a developer, but not nearly a good enough one to do this project on my own.

What's a good way to find a developer to collaborate with, while maintaining control of my idea/project etc..?

Do I need to write up an NDA? Even go so far as to form an LLC?

Recruiting Ideas Outsourcing Iphone

asked Dec 5 '10 at 08:17
Matt H.
130 points

2 Answers


You're a developer in an MIS program and there isn't one other student to partner with on this project? Look around for the smart kids and try to put together a study group or something to assess their ability. Do you feel you don't have enough expertise to complete certain parts of the application or do you feel you could not handle the size of the application by yourself?

Start building something to show other programmers. Get a basic NDA to keep the honest people honest. Since you have no money to offer, you're going to need a little more to show potential development partners than just an idea.

You won't be able to keep this a secret forever. Everyone at Harvard knew about Facebook; didn't do them much good. Nothing to stop others from copying it once you release. Be more concerned with your making it happen instead of worrying about someone else.

answered Dec 5 '10 at 14:12
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • Thanks, Jeff. I'm actually taking all my classes online, out-of-state! I may turn there next though. I've been reading "Rework," by the 37Signals guys, and that definitely got me motivated. – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • To answer your questions, I don't have any significant iOS experience (or, after reading Franky's response, maybe the HTML5 canvas?). I'm good at learning new technologies, but I know I need someone much more skilled and experienced than I. I am more passionate about planning software than I am about writing the code. My "big idea" isn't a big disruptive innovation or game changer, it's just a tool I really want almost every day, and I'm surprised it doesn't exist yet. I don't know if that matters? But, this is just one of the four "unique" ideas I have. – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • .. which is a good reason why I might want to just go-ahead and form an LLC like Franky suggested? – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • @matt, may want to form an LLC soon, and use it for all of your projects. There is an important factor (age of your buisness), that creditors, landlords, and even marchant accounts look for. So the sooner you do that the better. Finding money is not hard, its easy. Think how many people are getting 2% on a CD? Most can tolerate more risk for a higher return. You will find investors if that is the route you want to go. Im a big fan of reinvestment of your own money. If you can do the app, as a web app, or using HTML5 CSS3 then it may give you to opportunity to make a little $$$ then... – Frank 13 years ago
  • ..hire someone to do the upgrades. The important thing is to get going. Nothing is more admirable to me than someone that chooses to work for himself. this is a gift, that most Amercians have, and dont appreciate. This is why you see so many minority owned small business, they realize how hard it is to setup a business in their home countries. Nothing can really get in your way, just challenges you can overcome with time, and a bit of practice. Hopefully the app yeilds well for you. – Frank 13 years ago
  • @jeff makes a great point about people copying you... Believe or not, the market is so huge on any given product that being in 50th place in sales should make you a great income. – Frank 13 years ago
  • @franky thanks again! – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • Im dying to know what the app is, Make sure to share it once it is complete. – Frank 13 years ago
  • Another thing I've been mulling over is working on my other, probably less-profitable idea first, to get the ball rolling as an entrepreneur. It's a very simple web-based productivity app, I jokingly call it Basecamp's missing feature. I think a skilled Rails developer could probably bang the whole thing out in 2-3 days (I'm learning Rails myself, but I'm not there yet...). Is it a good idea to get a smaller project like that under my belt first? – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • btw, THANKS! You and Jeff are being so helpful. – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • I have a rule called... Closest to the money. Where you take on a project based on how quickly it can start giving you an income. Say you did your "Productivity Camp" software and it only made you $1000 per month, you could use that $1000 to fund your next project. You probably learned the Time Value of Money. It comes into play a lot in business. Therefore build quickly, update often (Agile Business). Also you are dead on about the experience. All your apps can be under one parent company, (kind of like 37signals INC), things that take some time like filing corp paperwork, EIN, bank.. – Frank 13 years ago
  • accounts can only be done once, and used for all your companies. Plus after you do a few software projects you learn quickly how to organize your coding around business. You find the tools that are most effective for your company. Last thing, say u dont know Rails, PHP, but you can code in Classic ASP. Code it yourself now rather than waiting to learn a new technology. The only thing i give careful consideration to during a beta app is DB structure, the app and its UI should change over time. – Frank 13 years ago
  • If you can code it in any Server Side Scripting language, it benefits you to get started. Plus, although we care, customers done give a rats behind what language, database, or web server you site is running on. They care about the functionality, user experience, performance, security and customer service. At our company we still code in ASP Classic, and have apps in Cold Fusion, PHP, and .net. We even start brand new projects in Classic ASP because at times it is far more agile and less expensive than putting our C# developers at task. Get going, once you have capital you can hire goons – Frank 13 years ago
  • Thanks again Franky. One last question: Do you have experience/success hiring remote developers off oDesk? I feel like I could get 1.0 out really quickly for – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • I say – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • Steve Jobs is The CVO of apple (chief visionary officer) Vision, being able to motivate are the assets that count most. Odesk is great, I have used it to hire developers from Eastern Europe. Im very partial to eastern Europe rather than India, Pakistan because of the quality of the work i have had. As for UI, might want to take a look at for some templates that you could modify to fit your needs. – Frank 13 years ago
  • So one last question (for now!). I've already chatted heavily with one friend about this project, and let a talented coworker know about it, and she expressed interest--she's the 'organized/methodical' person of the bunch. At the same time, I don't really want to start a 3-person LLC with two people who, like me, have no management experience. (I also don't feel like being bound to long-term to profit sharing.) – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • Additionally, I think I may be able to raise investment from my mother, who is an experienced businessperson and the Southern California finance director for a nationally known non-profit. If I'd want to partner with anybody, it would probably be her. (Would lend credibility.) Is there a good way to get my other two colleagues involved when I can't pay them anything now? – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • I don't want to burn them from something they're already involved in (to varying extents). I also know I'd want to work with them in the future. Should I do what you recommended earlier with regard to investors. Offer each 10% of profits from THIS app for a one-year period.. and extend that period if need be to get more work from them as time goes on? – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • This would let me keep my own LLC and right to future products, but still involve them both in this project. Plus, it could be a good trial run to see how we all work together? – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • @matt you are on the right track.. You could form your own company with a capital loan from your mom. The keyword would be "LOAN", since you take on the financial debt, its your company. You can either hire your friends for a fee, or better give them the ability to make way more in the long term. If they beleive in the product, and its financially feasible for them to work on it for equity you may have a winning combo. If not you need to try to find developers who will work for minimum or zero dollars with the promise of x% of gross or net profits. The details vary heavily on your outlook – Frank 13 years ago
  • financially, feasibility of your app, and the developer job market. If you can raise enough capital, you could give them a small enough compensation where it makes their time worthwhile and couple that with a small amount of equity in the APP. Not equity in your company, but in the app. Remember you company may put out 100 more apps in the next few years. Make sure the agreements you come to make sense for you most. – Frank 13 years ago


Rather than scout co-developers for a joint project, you best bet and if you really believe in your idea is to hire more experienced developers to actually build the app for you. You have a strong advantage based on your development experience, and you will learn more that it is more important to be an entrepenuer than a developer.

The fact is programming and technology changes all the time. There are always talent you can recruit which will usually be better and more focused than what you could accomplish alone. Learning to take an idea from that bubble in your head to the real world is the fun and valuable experience.

I would suggest finding someone who has experience in building the app and hiring them. As a developer you can provide a detailed technical spec which usually makes the job ea

answered Dec 5 '10 at 11:36
2,079 points
  • @franky, thanks! So follow-up question. I don't really have any money to pay someone up front. Do you know if it's common practice to offer someone an ongoing percentage of profits from the app for its lifetime? The 2nd question is: what's the best way to protect myself from having a potential developer run off with my idea and leave me in the dust? – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • Best way to protect yourself is to have your developer sign an NDA and Non Compete agreement. These agreements dont prohibit someone from breaking them, but give you recourse to sue if they did. A Saavy developer can run off with your product anytime they wish, the best possible way to avoid this is to find a developer that is challenged in that department. I would look for a genuine nerd, someone that cannot make eye contact, or someone that is genuinely insecure. With that type of personality you are likely not to have competition. I have hired many introverted folks in the past and .. – Frank 13 years ago
  • ...for small one man projects, or ones that require just bulk labor and not much team collaboration they are great. Seems like you have enough experience to write a good spec, do the marketing, and manage the day to day business. As for the 2nd part of your question, you could give someone equity for their work, but its not a smart idea. The challenges you will face is that a developer you find who will work for equity is likely not going to take on the project, they are more business minded and if they believe in it, will wonder what you bring to the table once they have the idea from u. – Frank 13 years ago
  • ..I would try to find investment from a silent source. If you have a rich grandmother, it might be time to give her a call. You will need to raise more $$$ for marketing than development, so simply having a developer build the app for equity will not get you far enough. Plus, the problem is the developer could become bitter upon your success. Say you offer him 25% and the app makes 500K its first year. After you give him 100k, he will soon be wondering, where is the other 400k for my hard work? – Frank 13 years ago
  • I would do this... a) start your own company... MATT TECHONOLOGY for example. b) write a detailed spec for your product, study the compeition, and make realistic income judgements on what it will likely earn you. c) shop developers on Odesk and other sites, you dont have to give the full details to interview, and find out how much work it is. d) raise the capital you will need for development, while raising more for your marketing plan. Once you are live, you can start paying back your investor. If you do find an investor, make sure you can always buy they out. For example if you need .. – Frank 13 years ago
  • 50k for the marketing and build a fair offer would be: 20% of gross profits of the app (gross is after apple takes their cut), but you could buy the investor out in 12 months for 90k, 24 months for 120k 36 months for 150k etc. So you can always stop the bleeding (money you pay your investor) with a cash lump sum. Last, you may be able to build the app (depending on its spec) as a web app. Consider this heavily, for there are other tablets hitting the market soon. Ipad has good share right now, but with the blackberry tablet, windows 7 tablets, and android tablets coming out, your app – Frank 13 years ago
  • may be better served as a web app where one subscribes and can access from a tablet. There are great frameworks for making tablet apps from Jquery and others, most take advantage of tablet and phone specific features such as geolocation and more. The benefit of having a web app (subscription) is that you can update the app more quickly, keep a higher percent of your revenue, support all tablets, and even netbooks. The only drawback i can think of is the exposure the apple store gives you. This was great a few years ago, but now is overcrowded. You might be better served if you consider a – Frank 13 years ago
  • web app. I know once the blackberry playbook hits the streets, i will be tossing my Ipad for one,,, or maybe an ASUS eee pad, or maybe an adroid tablet, my point is: you dont want to lose your customers because they changed platform. The beauty of HTML apps are they are multiplatform. (too bad Apple hates flash, because air would have been a great cross platform standard for tablets) Best of luck on your venture, raising capital, and finding the help you need. – Frank 13 years ago
  • @franky: you just gave me more useful information than the entire semester of MIS I just finished studying. Thank you thank you! – Matt H. 13 years ago
  • @matt, there is book smart (what you learn in school) and street smart, what you learn on your own through experience or by watching other people do it. Combine the two and you will be golden. There are a lot of smart guys on this forum who have made great $$$ in business. Anytime you are in doubt, post, and you will get different perspectives. Good luck with everything. – Frank 13 years ago
  • (these comments should be move/edited into the answer...) – Ape Inago 13 years ago
  • @ape- What????? – Frank 13 years ago
  • you are elaborating on your answer, and so they should be put in your answer as a side topic of sorts. This will show the depth of your answer and why it is significant. Hiding all this wealth of information in the comments isn't fair to the rest of us ;) – Ape Inago 13 years ago
  • @ape, got it. Sometimes these conversations come up. But i will make sure to edit the answer soon to make it clearer. – Frank 13 years ago

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