Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lifting the Skirt

Posted by Hidayat Hidayat at 9:14 PM
MartianCraft has received a surge of requests for quotes and proposals in the several weeks. A disturbing trend that I've been noticing in some of these proposals is that more and more of the people who contact us are wanting us to sign NDAs before they'll lift their skirts even a little. Often, we can't get the most basic information about a project, not even things like ballpark budget, timeline, or type of application until we've signed an NDA, often a pro-forma NDA that was downloaded from the web.

The last thing any reputable iOS dev shop is interested in doing is stealing your idea. First of all, it would destroy our business if we did that. NDA or not, it would be unethical. This is what we do for a living. If we were to steal an idea and publish it as our own, word would get out and people wouldn't trust us. Our business would die even without ever being sued.

More than that, though: Ideas, with only rare exceptions, have little value without the ability to execute on the idea and execute on it well. I guarantee you that no matter how great you think your idea is, we have several of our own that we'd rather be spending our time on. But we don't even have time to work on our own cool side projects right now, never mind steal yours.

It's absolutely understandable, of course, to reserve certain strategically important details until after a contract is signed, but you have to give us enough information for us to decide whether we're a good fit for your project.

Every NDA or contract we sign costs us money, and not an inconsiderable amount of money. Every single one goes to our lawyer before we'll sign it, and most of them have to be modified and negotiated. It's a costly process. Even the simplest NDAs cost MartianCraft hundreds of dollars by the time we've signed it. We're not going to spend that if we don't have some notion that it's a good project for us and that we have the resources to do it well. We'd quite honestly go bankrupt if we were to forward every NDA request we got to our attorney.

If we know a little about your timeline and budget and a brief synopsis of the app you want to build, we're far more likely to submit a proposal. If you're not willing to give us even the most basic information, then we're going to politely decline your NDA and pass on the project unless you're a Fortune 500 company… maybe.

Here's the important thing for you to realize if you're looking for any mobile developer, but especially an iOS developer: there are nowhere near enough competent, experienced mobile developers right now to meet the demand. By now, all the large companies have realized that mobile is the strategic battleground for the next several years. As a result, experienced mobile developers rarely have to look for work. MartianCraft has existed for less than a year. In that time, the only advertising we've done is to put a banner ad here on my blog, and yet we already have had to turn down at least as much work as we've accepted. I say that not to brag, but to show what the current state of the market is. It's not unusual for us to receive a half-dozen requests for proposals in a single day when you combine requests to MartianCraft and those that come to us individually. When we don't submit a bid on one of those proposals, it's not out of hubris, but rather out of practical necessity.

We are far from alone in this. All of us have friends in other longer-established mobile dev shops, and it's the same story all around. There's a lot of work — a lot of interesting work — and simply no way to accept every interesting project that comes along.

If you insist on an NDA before you give any information at all, you are potentially limiting your pool to the developers who are desperate for work, and given just how much mobile dev work there is out there right now, I'm really not sure that you want to limit your talent pool to just the ones who are desperate for work.

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