What was the scope of their involvement?
They did mobile app development. Then, in the back end they did a lot of dashboard PHP coding. The way it works is as follows: the admin at a store signs in on an online portal and changes the price. Zco created that part and then hooked it up to the app that they created. If the app is downloaded on each device in that store’s system in all the stores, there will be pricing updates.
They offered a lot of UI suggestions and tweaked some of our designs, but we were pretty specific about what we wanted. They were not our first developer. We had developed the app with another developer, probably spent about a year with them, and were just unhappy with the result and a variety of other elements. The other company was 100% US-based. Outsourcing has its pros and cons, but Zco was able to deliver much more functionality much more rapidly for much less money than what we were able to find with 100% domestic app development companies. Zco has its US base, and we would either work over the phone or go in person to meet. It was predominantly online through Basecamp or emails, but they were always very accessible via phone or to meet in person. There are some things that are just too nuanced that a personal meeting is more conductive than necessarily something just emailed. They were incredibly responsive.
I’ve worked with app development companies and mobile development companies, and I’ve been in marketing. I’ve had my own companies, and there’s always that challenge of scope creep. Someone says this and then, as they think about it, they keep doing more and more. We were very cognizant of that and specified everything because we had already built the app once. We knew everything that we wanted and what we didn’t, and we were very detailed about it.
Unlike any other developer I had worked with, they would bring in great ideas. Because it was their ideas, they didn’t keep charging us. If they had an idea to improve something or add functionality, they took pride of ownership and did it. They approached the work as much more of a partnership than a lot of my experience has been, where it was purely a work-for-hire gig and the developer’s goal was to extract as much money as possible and made sure they billed for every second.
How did you come to work with Zco?
We had used a development company in the past out of Portland, Maine. They were very capable; it’s just that things took a long time and always cost a lot more than what was specified. They were very capable people, but it felt like they spent a lot of time with on-the-job training, learning as they went.
When we became discouraged with them, I took a look at most of the top lists, companies like clutch, and looked at people that were regional, that we could go visit. We’re in the Northeast, so I looked at companies in metro Boston predominantly. There were very capable companies there. The process was a combination of taking a look at quality, scale, and cost. Looking at some of the clients that Zco had, they had some apps that scaled very high, so we knew that they could support the back end and that their infrastructure was sound. That was criteria one because with the app that we have, we plan to scale worldwide. It’s applicable to our clientele around the world.
The other criteria was that the company had to be familiar with other cultures, other carriers, and things around the world. By having somebody who is outsourced, and someone who has a more global footprint, they fit the bill there. Another realistic criteria was cost. Taking a look at what some of the other premium app development companies were, they were dramatically more affordable. Those were the three major criteria that we used: the ability to scale, the ability to scale worldwide, and then overall affordability.
How much have you invested with Zco?
With them, I’m going to guess about $125,000 for this first round, and I’m going to guess we’ll spend another $25,000 to $50,000 in our next iteration. To date, I think we’ve spent $120,000.
What is the status of this engagement?
The work is ongoing and will not stop in the near future. This is a long project.