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Published at Mon Feb 20 2023 in
Rows HQ

2023 W7: Agencies - so many, yet too few.

plug n play

Every week I post about one thing that happened at Rows. We're building in public!


Last week I had calls with a number of software development agencies. For the first time, I feel like I can productively engage with those cold intro emails and get value for Rows and the emailer (the agency).

That is, we have a product need that can help us, and the agency (€€€). That need is around the next wave of Smarts for spreadsheets.

The software development company

First, who are these agencies? (Narrating voice ON). They go by many names, and they will introduce themselves as:

  • software development company

  • software development agency

  • IT agency

  • software house

  • boutique developer

  • offshore developer

  • contractor

  • IT staffing agency

  • "the solution to your problems".

They generally send cold intros, which makes sense for their business.

  • "Need engineers?"

  • "What are your needs in FE, UX and design?"

  • "Are you looking to accelerate your mobile development?" and

  • "We saw that you're looking to hire Java developers. We have 2 Java experts that we can staff quickly".

They typically charge per day or per hour of a person.

The problem of the tech industry: capacity

Right now, in early 2023, the hiring frenzy has cooled down and in fact we're in rationalization mode. But it is still true that there is a shortage of tech talent inside Startups and business operators.

At the same time, software development agencies are always trying to score more business.

How can there be a shortage of engineering capacity and oversupply at the same time?

I think the problem isn't (just) capacity. In my opinion the problem is more around trust and efficiency.

What's tech outsourcing got to do with trust? Because it's hard for a company to formulate a problem that is easy to externalize and manage with a new supplier, who will have to be culturally, technically and financially integrated into the operation. This is very inefficient, and frequently wipes away many of the potencial benefits of IT agencies.

Integrating with an outsider hard to do, and very hard to do well. In practice, companies in general shy away from using with some exceptions.

The Solution

There are ways to build that trust remotely and allow strangers to participate.

  1. First, every-single-open-source-project-out-there has already found a way to balance contributions from likeminded folk everywhere. So, we know it is possible.

  2. There's a couple of large market organizers, mostly "old-generation" ones like UpWork (oDesk).

  3. You can open up components to be developed, like DIY Integrations and Connectors in Zapier.

  4. Public APIs also let virtually anyone to add value to your platform.

  5. There's also a new breed of bounties and rewards built into platforms such as GitHub or Replit.

For Rows the contract is simple. We can leverage contractor work in areas where there are clearly established tasks: implementing our Homepage and content systems, building Functions and Integrations, and now building things with our API.

Calling all agencies!!

It is the API path that gets me more excited, and in particular in the AI sense. Our launch of an OpenAI Integration was quite successful, so we want to go down this rabbit hole.

But resources and focus are limited. We're already preparing our Wizard, Table UX and Computation systems for the prompt-verse, and that's no easy task.

So the plan is to pay agencies to use our Rows API to test and then maybe develop thinking abilities for our spreadsheet. The API has read and write capability, so getting all the data from a table and then writing extra stuff is possible; there's no limit to what you can do with this. In the process, maybe they'll find other things to propose (fixes! improvements?), and maybe they'll convert too - agency folks are usually practical, so that's a nice test.

If you work for an IT agency, DM today.

so it begins

See you next week.

- H