Postcard from startps

There was a recent episode of Shark Tank (the Australian one in case anyone asks) which I found particularly interesting. It featured a youg guy with an app to help people link with others interested in playing tennis. He was clearly enthusiastic about both the business and the game. For me, the important bit was Steve Baxter (head of River City Labs in Brisbane and ex-Pipe Networks) pointing out that the young guy had no in-house IT expertise, and didn't see the need for it. Even Naomi Simson from Red Balloon didn't see the need.

To me it seems fairly clear that if you're going to hire strategic IT expertise on a short-term basis you're likely to be in trouble fairly soon. There's a benefit having that level of involvement in the success of the business vested in the company right from the start. A short-term engagement is just that, and the second person you hire won't have experience in your specific company, and won't have been through the difficulties and the solutions that the rest of the team have seen.

It goes beyond developing an app, even though that's something all companies need as part of their marketing exposure. Outsourcing the expertise to build and test an app is one thing, but someone with knowledge of, and personal involvement in the business will have to do a lot to the design. The need to have proper understanding of the business, makes outsourcing the design problematic. For an established company the issues are different, they know their position in the market place, but a startup is something new, they have to create their brand and their presence from scratch, and the process they follow will be fluid. This is going ot impact on the IT that's needed to support the sales and marketing effort.

And please don't be fooled by the recently news-worthy 9-year old who wrote an app. In my experience, too few university IT graduates understand the realities of writing software as opposed to coding, and the liklihood of a photogenic under 10 managing it is very low.

These days, startups need IT, and getting it wrong will likely break you.


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