We Have Partners, Not Clients

The only time you’ll hear the word “client” at Originate is when we’re talking about code. That’s because at Originate, we exclusively have PARTNERS, not clients. We aren’t trying to be fun or cute… we truly believe that developing extraordinary software products requires a fundamentally different approach than the one used by accountants, lawyers, and PR firms—all of whom engage clients.

A company’s software—its digital experience—is an expression of its vision, an extension of its brand, and increasingly its biggest competitive advantage, or disadvantage. It only makes sense, then, that people who have both an intimate understanding of the company and who are fully vested in its success develop its software. Yet, this type of close relationship—a partnership—cannot, and does not, happen under a traditional client model, no matter how many billions of dollars companies throw at “outsourced” development. Partnership can only happen when deep trust is developed and incentives are well-aligned.

This belief is what drove me to start Originate.

I had seen way too many companies throw good money at bad software by hiring outside developers who didn’t care. I wanted to create a new model, one that formed a perfect partnership between the world’s best companies and the world’s best talent. To do this, I based Originate’s structure on my experience that there are few things that motivate a team as much as having a share in both the risk and the future success of a product. This is why the benefit that goes to Originate’s designers and engineers, and to Originate itself, is directly tied to the success of our partners.

I believe that traditional software outsourcing is dead. Or at least it is on the road toward a slow and painful death. The idea that people should bet their business on someone that is incentivized to charge as much as possible to do as little as possible seems almost crazy.

So why does the outsourcing model seem to work for so many other professional services? The reality is that it is relatively easy for a client to assess quickly whether their accountant or lawyer is doing a good job. There are even professional standards to help make the determination. Shortcuts in these industries rarely pay off.

Contrast this to software.

On a technical level, the difference between high-quality code and code that barely works is literally orders of magnitude, but extremely difficult to detect (especially for non-developers). With all of the open source, app frameworks, and code samples available online, almost anyone can hack together something that appears to function properly. And it may even appear to work for a long time. The problems don’t begin to manifest themselves until the worst possible moment: when the product is getting traction and the company is starting to scale. This is known as the “success disaster.” Unfortunately, by this time, the outsourced company/contractor responsible for the disaster is probably no longer around and there is often no time or money left to fix the problem, if it can be fixed at all.

On a design level, even if the code is solid, the final product may deliver an uninspired or ordinary user experience. If a company is under pressure to launch or roll out a digital product quickly, it may be stuck with an interface that is lacking because it is the best option available. Or, the company may have asked for the design to function that way, simply because decision-makers at the time didn’t have the experience to know what else is possible. A designer who is tied to the product’s success would never let bad design see the light of day—even if it is a design the company signs off on. Far too often, though, I see freelance designers work to make their “client” happy so they can get paid, instead of fighting for a truly great product for the end-user. This does not benefit the company or its partners.

So the solution is easy right? Just go hire a bunch of really smart software engineers and designers, give them options, and enjoy the long-term alignment! Easier said than done…. But I’ll save that for another post.

What you really want is the best of both worlds: access to the world’s best talent and talent that is incentivized like your employees. This is what we call “The Originate Partnership.”

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