How to get app developer on board?

Is it the right time to get a developer to work for you, on your project?

I often get asked this one question: How do I get a developer to work on my idea or on my startup. In all honesty, I have not found a good enough answer to this question except for saying that you need to perfect your business strategy first and de-risk the idea into a practical business. Then at that point, you can start looking for people to bring on board. I recently came across an answer by OnTheMF on reddit and thought it was just perfect to describe this situation. His answer (unedited) is presented below.

Software developer here with 15+ years as a freelancer.

Getting a developer to work on a project is easy; pay them. But I assume you’re asking how to get a developer to work for free for a share of the profits down the line. Most people who have never hired a developer try that route first. Very very few developers will ever agree to work on those terms. For me personally I have only agreed to do that for family, and only when I truly believed in the idea and I still collected a small wage to mitigate some risk.

Here’s why it doesn’t work that way:

  1. The vast majority of apps don’t make money, even ones that are good ideas and well written.

  2. 99.99% of “app ideas” are utter shit, unoriginal, impractical, or can’t be monetized.

  3. Most people who have “app ideas” are completely devoid of any business sense and look at the app as a get rich quick scheme. It really has become today’s modern version of “waiting for my insurance settlement to go through.”

  4. People completely undervalue the worth and magnitude of work “making an app” entails. I once had a guy try and pitch me a partnership in his app business. In exchange for single-handedly developing his entire line of app products (months to years worth of work), website and handling all support I would get 5% ownership in the business (which had zero sales, and wasn’t even incorporated yet). These people are always tire kickers and dead-ends. Once they’re educated on the cost, time and technical challenges of making an app, their illusion of the “get rich quick” scheme falls apart and they disappear into the woodwork.

  5. Virtually everyone overestimates the value of their idea. It’s quite common for people to value just the idea at a ludicrous 7 figure number. Ideas are just ideas, they’re a dime a dozen. It’s having a good idea AND good execution that gets you to the finish line. That second part is a lot tougher than the first part.

  6. Even if all the stars align and you have a good idea, and you have a good developer, and you have a good understanding of the business, and you accomplish everything you set out to accomplish, chances are you will still fail. To achieve wild success you need a fair bit of luck on your side.

  7. Almost all of the top 25 paid apps are actually “re-imagined” versions of other apps. One of my favourite quotes from Shark Tank/Dragons Den is “Pioneers get slaughtered, and the settlers prosper.” There’s a lot of truth to this in virtually every industry including the app industry. It’s very common for a mildly successful app to get knocked off, polished up and published by a larger developer who has the resources to properly advertise it. Honestly it’s so common that the people who do this aren’t even trying to make them look different anymore.

  8. As a reference, the average salary of a developer is 130k/year. A good freelancer can easily make upwards of 200k. If you want someone to dedicate a few months (or more) of their time for free at that wage, the return has to be phenomenal to outweigh the risks I mentioned above and still make good financial sense.

TL;DR: There are a lot of risks involved in the app business. Software developers already make good coin and are in high demand without taking on huge risks. Any return for the developer would have to be huge to make good financial sense.