Rob Lynch


December 9, 2020

Why We’re Here

We had a wonderful experience with our low-cost, outsourced software development agency” – No one

It was never my intention to found a software development company.

Back in 2016, I was another newly-minted, bright-eyed entrepreneur who had left a well-paying job in finance to boldly go where a host of other City exiles had already gone. I had had my Big App Idea, with no real clue how to build it, but I was happy for the techies to figure out the details.

Which techies though? To my naive surprise, I wasn’t immediately flooded with offers from software prodigies to join me. Apparently Google’s offer of high pay and stellar CV points beat my “equity-only package”, despite my sincere promises of a non-stop ride to startup Avalon.

But why not just learn to code myself? I’ve seen people do it, but unless the product sells, markets and raises money for itself, you’re making an incredibly hard job much, much harder.

Option number three was to pay someone else to do it. That sounded more like it. Costly maybe, but clean and simple. But who? How do you choose someone to build your tech when you haven’t got a scooby-doo what building tech even means?

Well, cutting a long story short, I took some advice from one of my new Tech City buddies and landed on a “dev shop” in Eastern Europe. While it didn’t turn out terribly in the end, my god it proved a time-suck. There were three main problems.

  1. Communication: I found myself on a video call for an hour or so a day to a junior developer, explaining every last detail of my plan – again, and again.
  2. Transparency: What I would have given for a timeline! I understood in principle that estimates were hard to make in tech, but if they couldn’t tell me roughly when they were going to be done, who could? I certainly couldn’t. And where exactly was the time being spent? Why has “setting up the environment” taken 3 weeks??
  3. Quality: Junior devs are the primary workhorses here, I get that. But without any guidance from an experienced head, weeks can easily be lost going down dead end paths.

Having now spoken to many entrepreneurs and product managers, these are all common problems, and each one is HUGE. Extra development time costs both time and money, both of which are in short supply in the early days. Also, I was one of the lucky ones; horror stories abound of software agencies that don’t deliver.

Three agencies later, I decided to build my own tech team in the Philippines. By then I’d cut my teeth, learning the hard way how to build quality products with minimal fuss.

As soon as Covid reared its head in early Spring, the writing was on the wall for the hospitality-tech startup I’d lovingly grown for four years. I was devastated, but the next step was as clear as day. Together with Rob W, who had been through a similar experience, we could build the firm that we’d both needed back in 2016. Not just another dev shop, nor just another “accelerator” offering opinions for a fee. We’d get our hands dirty – helping innovators through each stage in the process of designing and building their first tech product. As startup builders ourselves, we could give innovators the benefit of our experience too, acting as a sounding board on any and all aspects of starting a business where needed.

Old.St Labs is the result of all this. We strive to be a new type of software development company, with transparency, communication and quality as core values.

Our recipe for achieving this is simple enough:

  1. By managing each project ourselves from London, we can listen, understand and carefully translate business goals into products.
  2. We keep clients up to date using our own purpose-built client portal, featuring a live, fully auditable timeline of estimates, updated daily.
  3. Staffing a highly experienced senior developer to oversee projects ensures a robust, future-proof product.
  4. With our tech team based in the Philippines, we’re able to remain cost-competitive while providing great career opportunities for some of the most awesome developers in the country.

And so far, it’s been a blast. We’re building an AI-driven iPad app helping kids learn to read, a platform to match people with their perfect psychotherapist, and our in-house client portal to help us practise what we preach.

At the time of writing, 2020 is drawing to a close with Covid vaccines beginning to be rolled out in the UK. It’s been a bleak year, but we’re looking forward to our role of supporting inspirational leaders as they help build a brighter future.

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