Questions to Ask a Potential Development Partner for Your Startup

By Colin Dowling

Questions to Ask a Potential Development Partner for Your Startup

Choosing the right development partner for your startup can mean the difference between a successful launch and a costly failure. This critical decision goes beyond just coding capability—it involves considering the prospective partner’s project management approach, communication styles, financial compatibility, and even company culture.

Diving headfirst into a partnership without a clear understanding of the other party can result in misaligned expectations, unmet goals, and wasted resources. By asking the right questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of your potential partner's capabilities, work ethic, and values. This article will guide you through a dozen critical questions, ensuring you’re armed with the knowledge to choose the best development partner for your startup.

These questions aren't meant to be an interrogation, but rather a dialogue, which is why they are presented as a conversation instead of a list. The answers to these questions will provide valuable insights into the workings of the potential development partner and how they might align with your business objectives. Each section of this article will unpack the rationale behind the questions, what to listen for in the responses, and how the answers can affect your startup.

Remember, there are no universally correct answers to these questions. The best response would be one that aligns with your startup’s vision, mission, and culture.

Understanding the Basics

Your first set of questions should aim at gaining a broad understanding of your potential development partner. This involves asking about their expertise, portfolio, and experience with previous clients.

The question, "What is your expertise?" helps you assess whether they’re equipped to handle the technical requirements of your project. If your startup is building a cloud-based SaaS product, a development team with expertise in web-based technologies and cloud computing would be an ideal fit.

Requesting their portfolio or examples of previous work gives you tangible proof of their capabilities. You should look for projects that mirror your own in terms of complexity and technology. The way these projects were executed can give you an idea of what to expect for your own project.

The types of clients they've worked with before can tell you a lot about their adaptability. Have they worked with other startups? Large corporations? A variety of clients often signals versatility, but a focus on startups might indicate a familiarity with the specific challenges you're likely to face.

At Apollo 21, we recognize that we aren’t a great fit for everyone just as they aren’t a great fit for the work we do developing digital products. As such, the “get to know you” questions create a conversation so that all parties can evaluate if this is a relationship worth moving forward.

Project Management

The next set of questions focuses on project management, a critical aspect that often determines the success of software development projects. Good project management ensures the efficient use of resources and timely delivery of the project.

Inquiring about how they handle project management allows you to understand their work methodology. Do they use Agile, Scrum, or Waterfall methods? The answer can give you insight into how flexible and responsive they can be to changes during the development process.

Understanding the project management tools they use can show their level of organization and collaboration. Tools like Github Projects, Trello, or Asana, for instance, allow for better task tracking and team coordination.

Asking about their communication and reporting process is vital in ensuring transparency. Frequent updates and open communication channels ensure that you’re always in the loop regarding your project's progress and any issues that may arise.

Our team has a specific way we like to work and communicate, but we are also not inflexible. Sharing with potential clients our preferred systems, toolsets, and workflows isn’t just about us. It’s also about giving them a view of what it’s like to work with us. 

Technical Proficiency

Technical proficiency is, of course, an essential aspect to consider when choosing a development partner for your startup. The technology and programming languages your potential partner is proficient in should align with your project requirements.

When you ask, "What technologies and programming languages are you proficient in?,”  you're not just inquiring about their skills—you're also indirectly probing their ability to handle your project. Remember, the technology stack they're comfortable with should ideally match the requirements of your project’s compatibility and collaboration.

Compatibility and collaboration between your startup and the potential development partner significantly impact the project's success. The right partner doesn’t just execute your ideas, but also collaborates with you to enhance them, add value, and prevent potential pitfalls. For example, our team is best-leveraged when our experience is tapped into at a strategic level. We can help validate ideas or bring new vision to a product.

Inquire about how they handle disagreements or conflicts in a project. Their response will reveal their problem-solving capabilities and if they foster a culture of open communication and respect. A partner who is responsive, considerate, and proactive in handling conflicts can be a major asset to your project.

Ask them to share a time when a project didn’t go as planned, and how they handled it. It’s not about pointing out their failures, but understanding their ability to manage risks, adapt, and learn from their mistakes. 

Find out how they handle feedback and adjustments to the project scope. Development projects often require modifications along the way, and you need a partner who is flexible and accommodating to these changes.

Financial Considerations

Last but certainly not least, financial considerations play a crucial role in the choice of a development partner. Your partner's pricing model should align with your budget and you need to understand the value you’re getting for your investment.

Whether they offer fixed pricing, time and material pricing, or a combination of both, understanding this upfront helps in budgeting and avoiding surprises later.

Request details about their payment terms. Information about down payments, installment schedules, and their policy on late payments can provide insights into their financial policies.

Inquire about any hidden or additional costs that could come up during the project. This question will help you avoid unforeseen expenses and plan your budget more accurately.


Choosing the right development partner for your startup is a significant step that can impact your venture's success. By having a conversation around these questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of your potential partner's capabilities, work ethic, and compatibility with your startup's vision.

Remember, this isn’t an interrogation, but a back-and-forth that should benefit both parties. The goal is to foster understanding, build a potential partnership based on mutual respect, and eventually drive your startup towards success. Choose a partner who not only understands your vision but is also excited to embark on the journey with you. Apollo 21 is committed to being that partner for you. Our team of experts is ready to answer your questions and guide your startup on the path to success. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

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