Code monkey wanted: Must work for bananas

Release the flying monkeys

On the long list of things that irritate me, few score higher than people who have “an idea” for a start-up and are then going to find “you know, people” to code it for them.

I was cheered up when I ran across this youtube video where AngelList founder Naval Ravikant advises the winners of a start-up competition, “Don’t outsource coding.”

I thought,

“At last! A voice of reason!”

This was particularly welcome because I had heard someone, who actually is a start-up founder, giving advice that began,

“Say you have an idea, but you are not a technical person. It’s not like YOU’RE GOING TO LEARN TO CODE!”

Imagine the latter sentence said in the same tone as if I was discussing cleaning out an outhouse with a shovel. Obviously, no one with any education or other options would choose to do such disgusting, low level work.

Completely apart from whether expecting you to learn to code is unreasonable, hearing that tone made me decide I would never work with that person. Honestly, who would want to work with a person who looked down on them? But it gets better. This same person went on in great detail to explain, “Working with your technical person.”

I have found that when you work with your technical person, you need to give them very specific details so that he knows exactly what you want him to do. Otherwise, I would get back something that was not what I had in mind.

Interesting, so now we know that developers do not read minds (who knew?) and are apparently incapable of having any ideas of their own. Where do they get these ideas? Harvard Business School, apparently. I found this site that advises, “Don’t code”. They give 5 steps to a minimum viable product which include design (can be outsourced or run a design contest), hiring a freelance developer (most bids will come from off-shore and be $20+ per hour) .

So … you have an idea and pay people in third-world countries far below the going rate in the U.S. to develop it for you. Remind me never, ever to work with anyone who took this start-up course at Harvard. The main take-away seems to be to get everything you can for yourself while you pay the people who actually make it as little as possible and pit them against one another.

I read a lot of articles that agreed with the Harvard Business School people, so, I was very pleased to find, before I threw a brick through my monitor, an excellent article by Paul Graham, How to Start a Startup.

One of his points, “spend as little money as possible”, is the opposite of the BAD advice I mentioned previously of people telling us “you can’t afford not to do X”.

The first group of students who spoke with Naval planned to spend $25,000 to pay developers – that’s a lot of money to spend on a student income. The Harvard MBA program said a complex app should take at most $15,000 and that is paying designers and developers, but I guess if you hire them all off-shore, it’s cheaper.

The question that always comes to me in these cases is why any investor would need you. Couldn’t they just go hire those people themselves for $15 or $25K ?

Since we are shipping our update next week, I’m going to grab a glass of Chardonnay and go on to the last level of the game that will be in version 2.  I just hope that the folks at Y Combinator and Angel List are right and the Harvard Business School is wrong, not just because one fits more the model of our company. One also fits more the model of the way I want the world to work.

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