Nelly Yusupova has heard her share of startup horror stories. The worst one was a female entrepreneur who paid $60,000 for a developer to create her website. She saw bits and pieces of the site over the course of a year, but the developer finally asked for $20,000 more.
Called in to help, Yusupova – a tech expert who has been building products for over a decade – sat in on a meeting. But she quickly realized that the developer wasn’t a developer at all; she was just contracting out the tech work to someone else, and she had wasted tens of thousands of dollars.
In her years of speaking, Yusupova has come to realize the severity of this problem: women entrepreneurs, often schooled in sales and marketing, get swindled by greedy or incompetent programmers who take advantage of their ignorance.
“Fear is a big driver there. Women don’t start businesses because they are afraid of being ripped off,” says Yusupova, the CTO of Webgrrls International.
So she’s launching a two-day conference called TechSpeak for Entrepreneurs on hiring, planning for, and managing tech consultants. Here are some of her top tips:
1. Observe their attitude. When you ask a consultant to explain something, they shouldn’t be annoyed or evasive. For example, they should be able to justify their choice of technology or programming language, rather than just picking what they are comfortable with.
“The developer is not the god, as they like to think of themselves,” says Yusupova, who calls herself a “tech doctor.” “This whole mindset that the developer is the know-it-all so I have to do what they think is right, is a whole wrong mindset that I’m trying to change.”
2. Wireframe your idea. Wireframing a rough schematic of your website will make it clear what you want to build and avoid unpleasant surprises in the future. As Yusupova explains, you wouldn’t ask an architect to build you a “home” – you’d specify whether you want a Victorian mansion or a two-bedroom apartment.
3. Don’t be afraid to fire. The longer you employ contractors who aren’t performing, the more dependent on them you get, as you sink more and more money into the project.
TechSpeak for Entrepreneurs takes place on September 20-21 in New York City (men are welcome, too). Get a 15 percent discount with the code “TechCocktail.”