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How to Choose the Right Software Development Agency: A Guide for Founders

How to Choose the Right Software Development Agency: A Guide for Founders

Building your startup? Avoid the tech pitfalls that cost millions. Learn how to choose the right software development agency and build with impact from day one.

March 25, 2024
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Choosing the right technology is one of the most important considerations for your startup. Ignoring it can come back to bite you. 

We’ve seen this scenario play out. A company (we’ll call them Company X) built a highly marketable product on shaky technology. They scaled fast, focusing on market growth. Tech issues were left to fix later. 

Potential buyers came in with a lucrative offer but found the technology too messy; they retracted the offer. 

By then, Company X had accumulated years of technical debt. Getting to the root of their issues was no easy task. They needed outside help from a software dev agency. 

Finding the right agency takes time. With proper tech guidance, they could have avoided this situation in the first place. 

At Apexive, we understand the challenges founders face, because we've been there. This guide equips you with the framework and considerations to find the right software development partner for you—and avoid the complications of Company X.

Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY) Framework for Agency Evaluation

Don’t Repeat Yourself “DRY” is a software principle that emphasizes avoiding duplicating code. It’s core to what we do. The principles of DRY aren’t limited to software. You can apply it to several areas of life (like we do!). This includes when choosing an agency. 

Our framework borrows from DRY principles to streamline the agency evaluation process.

1. Define Your Objectives

Outline your objectives before starting your search. A clear goal keeps you focused. This clarity becomes your North Star throughout the selection process.

2. Think

Take time to understand the problem you’re trying to solve and all possible solutions. This step is huge and saves you tons in the long run.

Test your assumptions first!

Following DRY principles, we always advise founders to test their assumptions first. Do this before building a product from scratch, or before approaching a development agency to fill the missing pieces. 

For example, is there a market for your product? You’d want to test this theory with no-code, low-code, or white-label solutions before building everything from scratch. 

3. Research

With clear objectives and an understanding of your needs, it’s time to research potential agencies. 

Key items to look for include:

  • Services offered
  • Cultural fit
  • Agency process
  • Success stories 

Services Offered 

Every agency has its niche. Some specialize in the backend, or the inner workings of an app. Others focus on the frontend, the user-facing interface. Several agencies are "full-stack," meaning they handle both sides. They may offer additional services, like Machine Learning or DevOps.

Once you’ve narrowed down on services, it’s time to look into the agency’s technology choices. It’s crucial to choose the best tech stack, or combination of technologies, for your project. It acts as the foundation of your product, ensuring it runs smoothly and scales efficiently. 

“The right tech stack says yes to your business.” - Alexis Yushin, Founder & CTO, Apexive.

Struggling to navigate the tech landscape? Get actionable tech advice for startups from Apexive’s founder, Alexis Yushin

Cultural Fit

Technical expertise is essential, but don't underestimate the importance of cultural fit. The development agency you choose will be responsible for bringing your vision to life. A great one acts as a partner. 

Some key aspects to consider when assessing cultural fit include:

  • Values: Do their stated values align with yours? 
  • Work ethic: What’s their work ethic? How do they talk about their projects? Are they passionate and dedicated? Can they point to high-quality results?
  • Company culture: Does their company culture resonate with your approach? Will their team fit with yours? Will this relationship foster a collaborative and positive working environment?
  • Communication style: What’s their response rate? Do they actively listen and communicate clearly? Is their style transparent and collaborative?

Agency Process 

Most agencies have their own approach or process to work. Here are some things to consider:

  • What development method does the agency use? Popular options include Agile, Waterfall, or a hybrid approach. 
  • What are the deliverables under each phase of the development process?
  • How long does the entire process take? What's the timeline like? 

Success Stories 

Success stories, or case studies, clearly define the project challenge, the agency’s solution and services offered, and the impact of the solution. Great case study shows: 

  • Relevance to your industry and project.
  • Results achieved. Look for key metrics that point to how they helped their client succeed. 
  • Challenges the agency faced, so you understand how they overcome obstacles. 
  • Strategies the agency used, so you can understand their approach to problem-solving and how they tailor solutions to different clients.
  • Frequent and recent success stories. Technology moves fast. Updated case studies should reflect this. 

Questions to Ask Prospective Software Development Agencies

Selecting an agency is like building a long-term partnership. With the right questions, you can find out if you’re a match pretty quickly.

Consider these key questions to help you make an informed decision:

Understanding You and Your Project:

  • How do you assess cultural fit with my company?
  • Can you walk me through your process for understanding client needs and project goals?
  • Based on your experience, what are some potential challenges you foresee with this project, and how would you address them?
  • Do you have experience working with companies in my industry or with similar projects?

Technical Expertise and Approach:

  • What technology stack do you use for software development?
  • What development methodologies do you use? Why would they work for my project?
  • How do you stay updated with the latest technology trends and advancements?
  • Can you provide examples of successful projects using the same tech stack?
  • How do you ensure the security of the software you develop?
  • What measures do you take to ensure the scalability and maintainability of the software?

If you want to get slightly more technical, consider asking: 

  • How do you handle version control and code management?
  • What tools and processes do you use for testing and quality assurance?
  • How do you handle documentation and knowledge transfer during the development process?
  • What is your approach to integrating third-party APIs and services?
  • How do you ensure compatibility with different platforms and devices?
  • How do you handle data migration and integration with existing systems?
  • What’s your experience with cloud-based solutions and deployment?

Team and Communication:

  • Who will be my dedicated point of contact on your team? What’s their level of experience?
  • How often will we receive updates on project progress? What communication channels do you use?
  • How do you address the challenges of distributed teams and remote collaboration?
  • What specific methods ensure ongoing communication and transparency throughout the development process?

Costs and Timelines:

  • Can you provide an estimated timeline for project completion, from start to launch?
  • What’s your strategy for managing project budget and timeline? 
  • What’s your pricing structure? Any additional fees I should be aware of?
  • How do you handle unexpected challenges and project scope changes?

Success Measurement and Future Growth:

  • How do you measure the success of your projects? What KPIs would be relevant to mine?
  • How do you measure the success of a project beyond simply meeting deadlines and budgets?
  • Do you offer post-launch support and maintenance?
  • Can you share examples of how you have helped your clients achieve growth beyond the initial project launch?

Software Agency Green Flags and Red Flags (Quick Cheat Sheet)

Know exactly what to look for, so you can sift through agency options with confidence.

💚 Green Flags

Positive online presence:

  • A well-maintained website
  • Active social media accounts. Look for the faces behind the names! Active employees, whatever the platform, are a good sign. 
  • Good reviews on sites like Clutch, Google reviews, Glassdoor and more
  • Strong testimonials 


  • Fast response rate 
  • Transparent communication 
  • They explain their processes and solutions clearly and concisely 
  • I’m in touch with the same point of contact throughout 
  • Collaborative mindset
  • Willing to work closely with clients

Experience and Expertise:

  • Strong portfolio of success stories 
  • Relevant case studies 
  • Explain technical solutions clearly 
  • Experienced team 

Proactive Approach:

  • Proactive approach to problem-solving
  • Suggests improvement before I ask for them
  • Up-to-date with thelatest tech trends 

❌ Red Flags

Unrealistic Promises:

  • Overpromising on project timeline without previous success stories
  • Overpromising results without a solid strategy or plan 


  • A rigid approach to project management
  • Unwillingness to adapt to client needs
  • Lack of collaboration
  • Early signs of blaming

Poor Communication:

  • Slow response times
  • Unclear explanations
  • Lack of transparency 

Poor Reviews: 

  • A history of poor customer service 
  • Bad reviews from previous clients and employees (reviews citing unethical practices are a major red flag)

Lack of Experience: 

  • A limited portfolio 
  • Few relevant case studies 
  • An inexperienced team 

Game Changers Unite

We are the software development agency and we love helping mission-driven startups in turning their ideas into amazing products with minimal effort and time.