How 5 Tech Unicorns Propelled Growth By Outsourcing
Leveraging Outside Experts Is Strategic At Any Growth Stage
In tech, we idealize entrepreneurs who build empires from scratch. We love listening to stories and sharing quotes about their rise to the top. We worship the “self-made” billionaires. Why wouldn’t we?
There’s a lot to learn from these tech unicorns. We pick apart their processes, trying to pull any ounce of wisdom we can. How did they accelerate their growth? What was their secret sauce? How did they do that all on their own?
We don’t get to know all the answers but we do learn, very quickly, that they didn’t do it all on their own. The smartest entrepreneurs seek help from outside experts to fill gaps and to drive their venture to the front page of tech. It takes a village to disrupt industry.
The best part about this genius strategy? Anyone can do it. Anyone can take advantage of experts to propel their product to market. Even if you don’t have the resources to hire them.
Let’s take a look at how these 5 tech unicorns leveraged outside help to propel their growth and dominate their industries.
1 | Skype’s Platform Was Developed By Ukrainian Contractors
Skype’s founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, had the idea for an online communications platform. However, the founders didn’t have the technical expertise to develop the software. They decided to hire a small development team out of Estonia. The founders themselves were also from different countries: Sweden and Denmark.
The entirely remote team worked closely to develop a scalable product that reflected the founders’ vision. Meanwhile, Niklas and Janus were freed up to focus on growth activities like fundraising and selling.
Skype’s growth exploded, acquiring millions of users within a few months. Two years later, the company was acquired by eBay for $2.5 billion in 2005. The decision to outsource development clearly paid off.
2 | Slack Outsourced for UX/UI Expertise
Slack, the cloud-based, workplace collaboration tool, was founded in 2013. Now the company is valued at over $7 billion and has over 10 million daily users.
In its early stages, Slack kept its development in-house but turned to an agency to develop the app’s UX/UI. Slack wasn’t the first workplace chat app. The founders realized early on that user experience would be a huge differentiator and turned to outside experts for help.
The agency went to work establishing a fresh look, sound, and feel from the industry norms. Slack feels like a casual, fun, robot sidekick, rather than an enterprise communication tool. The decision to contract UX / UI experts made all the difference, propelling Slack ahead of their competition.
3 | GitHub Outsourced It’s MVP
Even platforms, designed for advanced users, can leverage outsourcing for development. Like many founders, GitHub’s Tom Preston-Werner, Chris Wanstrath, and PJ Hyett were bootstrapping their idea. But, they quickly recognized they could not do everything themselves. Their first hire was Git expert, Scott Chacon.
Tom met Scott at a local Ruby on Rails meetup. He knew he needed an expert and Scott was the expert on Git. The founders hired him as a consultant to build the complex backend of their website. By contracting instead of hiring Scott, the founders were able to ensure the success of a crucial part of their MVP without going bankrupt.
Eventually, Scott joined GitHub full-time when the venture had the resources to hire him. Today he is the CIO.
4 | MySQL Leveraged Global Teams to Scale
The open-source, relational database management system relied on outsourced teams to scale globally. When Oracle acquired MySQL in 2010, management immediately chose to outsource to teams across various countries, to boost operations in remote locations.
Today MySQL is run on millions of servers and is used by the world’s fastest growing companies like Amazon, Github, and Facebook. The technology's success is largely attributed to the decision to be open-source and to scale via outsourcing.
5 | Google - The Outsourcing King
If we’re talking about tech unicorns, we can’t leave out Google. When Google launched Adwords, its support unit quickly became overrun with tickets. To keep up with customer demands, Google famously outsourced its support center to thousands of reps globally.
Today Google is one of the world’s most well-known companies. While Google used outsourcing all throughout its growth stages, the trillion dollar company still heavily relies on contractors. Nearly half of Google’s workforce are contractors.
What Can We Learn from these Stories?
You Can Leverage Outside Expertise To Grow At Any Stage
These companies show that using outside help can be a smart move at any stage. How you choose to leverage it will be the make-or-break decision. All of these companies were deliberate in their decision to outsource, seeking out experts in their fields that could help them fill a skills gap.
There Are Many Opportunities and Reasons To Outsource
There are so many opportunities and reasons to outsource work. It's important to determine what you should keep in house and what should be outsourced. Determine where your core strengths and weaknesses are. Do you have technical expertise like Slack but lack design experience? Outsource your UX/UI. Do you have a great idea and need the technical expertise? Contract some expert developers to help you build your vision.
Seek Out Experts, Not Cheap Labor
In software, your customer’s first impression of your product will define your success. If it’s constantly breaking or is confusing to navigate, chances are they’ll log out and never come back. That’s why getting it right the first time is so important, even in your MVP. When turn to outside help, seek out experts who can help you clean up your product’s weaknesses so you can make a great first impression.
The decision to outsource has turned out to be wildly successful for these 5 tech unicorns. But, they aren’t the exception, they are the example. Learn from their successful processes to develop your own strategy.
How will you use outside expertise to propel your growth story?
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