MVP Outsourcing Contract Writing Tips

This is a post in our series about outsourcing a digital Minimum Viable Product to test the viability of your idea with real customers. This could be a good read if you're looking to build an MVP for your startup or enterprise.

In the previous post we talked about finding and vetting your future partner. In this post, we'll be looking at how to seal the deal with a solid contract.

The project is starting to look good to go. Next, you must prepare for the case that despite all your efforts some problems arise during the project.

If you're working with an experienced partner, they will probably have their own contract that they will be looking to use. In fact, seeing their contract or lack of can be one more step in the vetting process. In case you're working with a freelancer, you might need to come up with your own contract.

In any case, it is wise to involve a lawyer in the process. Depending on the depth of your war chest, you might wish to engage an experienced contract lawyer from the get-go. A more economical option is to get the contract as far as possible just between you and your chosen partner. Then in the end of the process hire a lawyer to check and fix potential problems.

Let's go over some of the key principles your contract should cover.

  • The contract should explicitly state what you're hiring the vendor to do. This should summarize and reference the request for proposal as well as the definition document.
  • Define the responsibilities of each party and what happens when there are problems (delays, disagreements, etc.).
  • You will want to ensure transfer of immaterial rights on payment. You will want to have the contract be very clear that you or your company will be owning the IP rights to all deliverables produced (code, graphics, etc.).
  • Non-disclosure. You will want to ensure your confidential information is not used in a way that you don't want. Testing and fixing of bugs. You will want to touch on how your MVP is tested and how bugfixes are handled.
  • Dispute resolution. How and under which law and where are possible the disputes resolved.

In case you have to come up with your own contract and lack the resources to hire a lawyer to do it, you can scour the internet for templates. With a lot of time and effort, you can put together a reasonable contract on your own as well. Still, it's best to involve a local lawyer to ensure it's valid in your and your vendor's countries. A very lightweight starting point could be Contract Killer by Stuff & Nonsense.

Especially if you're looking to get funded, it could be critical that your contract is well thought out and covers your bases properly. Investors could view the lack of proper contracts as a risk they don't want to take.

ps. If you're interested in the topic of outsourcing your startup or enterprise MVP, you should take a look at our course Fligtplan: MVP Outsourcing Course.