Tongue Tango and the Perils of Outsourcing

October 31, 2012

11:00 am

I met Eddy Roach on last Saturday morning, the same day he released the latest version of Tongue Tango. When he started this project, he was nearly two years younger and thousands of dollars richer. But finally, he has an app that he can be proud of, he says.

“Tongue Tango isn’t even about the money for me anymore,” says Roach, with an energy drink on the table in front of him. “If it was just the money, when you keep spending hundreds of thousands of dollars that you don’t have, you would have folded up a long time ago.”

Roach has it harder than most entrepreneurs, at least time-wise. He has been a senior manager of technology at Sam’s Club, which keeps him on the road a lot. His wife is pregnant, due in March. And his developers are spread around the world – in Romania, the United Kingdom, India, and North Carolina – so he’s up most days from 10 pm to 2 am.

Tongue Tango is a deceptively simple app. It imports your phone and social media contacts to create a visual address book. With a few taps, you can leave a voice message for someone right in the app, like a walkie-talkie. It works great when you want to be more personal, like leaving a birthday message or saying “I love you.” And you can post the recording to Facebook and Twitter, so maybe, eventually, celebrities will want to use it to connect with their fans.

Roach started outsourcing because he couldn’t find any local developers in Las Vegas, where he relocated for work. After getting a beta version built for $15 per hour, he raised some initial funding. That money went toward new developers: first, an agency in Las Vegas, and then one in Austin, Texas. The app looked better, but some things still weren’t right – it couldn’t handle a ton of users before crashing. Roach raised more funding.

But he’s finally happy with his international team. But it’s taken a long time to get here, to what Roach calls an MVP – a “minimum viable product.” Most startups hope to build those in a few months.

“If I would have known what I know now, I would never have went down the feature set I did, because it’s delayed things – a year, literally,” says Roach. “It’s exciting, but it also tests you, like crazy. And I think that’s why a lot of people just fold up.”

Yesterday, Roach quit his job at Sam’s Club. So he’ll be watching to see how much his 2,000 users grow – and whether perseverance really pays off.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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