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Andrew GreensteinApr 25, 2024 9:57:25 AM2 min read

Unlocking Opportunity: Balancing In-House Expertise with External Agility

I remember the day my brother Erick called me to ask if we had any developers who had experience integrating with the Facebook API. While his request wasn’t unusual, the speed with which he wanted the integration to happen was. Erick was the founder of a startup called Tenor - inventor of the GIF keyboard that billions of people now use to convey emotional reactions in texts and other messengers. I had tried to pitch Erick on our software design and development services before, but he was adamant that he wanted to keep his engineering in-house. As hard as it was to hire and maintain an engineering team, what with the half million dollar offers and tantalizing perks an experienced engineer can command at pretty much any FAANG company, he saw his in-house team as one of his key assets for a down-the-road acquisition discussion.
Fortunately for us, he needed this integration in DONE… in three weeks. An opportunity for GIF keyboard to be featured in Facebook’s annual F8 conference had presented itself, but only if the integration was live by the conference date.

tenor mockup (9)



It’s not uncommon that we are asked to spin up a dev team with a specialized skill set in a short period of time. In fact, it’s one of our key value propositions - we can quickly ramp up software developers with the skills you need but don’t have in-house. But we had never before been asked to literally spin up a team overnight.

It took some maneuvering, but we were able to get the first developer started within a few hours and the rest of the team up and running within a few days. We completed the integration, tested it, and delivered it in time for F8. GIF keyboard was featured at F8, quickly became popular on Messenger, and eventually accounted for nearly half of GIF Keyboard’s 200M unique monthly views (at that time).


GIF from Tenor

The lesson here is not that you should only use in-house developers for your startup, or that it’s ok to use external developers. The lesson is that it’s important to have options. There’s a saying - the more you prepare, the luckier you get. Luck is something that happens to people who are prepared to say yes to opportunities and that have a good intuition about which opportunities are worth going after. If you’re a technology company, you should absolutely have a strong internal engineering team. But you should also have external options to pursue opportunities that or either outside of your core competency, require more resources than you have available, or both.

If you don’t have that, let’s have an intro call and we’ll tell you more about how we work. You can keep it in your back pocket for a rainy day, or for the next big opportunity you come across.



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Andrew Greenstein

Andrew Greenstein is the CEO and Head of Product at SF AppWorks, an award-winning custom web and mobile design and development agency. He's also the host of The Next Great Thing, a popular technology podcast that explores new digital products and experiences — and conversations with the leaders making them great. For over a decade, Andrew has collaborated with Fortune 500s and startups to design, develop, iterate, and grow custom web, mobile, and software projects that create impact. An expert in lean startup methodology, design thinking, product development, and rapid prototyping, Andrew has partnered with AARP, Humana, West Elm, the Golden Globes, Vanguard, Google, and many others, helping them transform their game-changing ideas from concept to code.