SMI #008 - Host the NFL Combine for App and Web Developers

Skill based benchmarking for contracted web and app developers

Opportunity in a Tweet:

If you’re building an MVP on a budget, it’s hard to know what level of quality you are getting when it comes to contracted app and web development. Even if the company you use is “based” in the US, the coding is usually done overseas by commoditized coding labor. Create a gamified skills and quality test at the individual developer level.

What This Is:

  • A gamified testing program for individual mobile app and web developers

  • Similar to bench / broad jump / 40 yard dash tests in athletics you’d create different skill based tests for common tasks involved in mobile app and web development

  • Score is a combo of speed (since app development cost is in some way a direct or indirect function of hours) x accuracy (which is quantifiable) x looks (which a judge can score). Then you multiply all of them together for an aggregate score

  • There are language specific tests (Java, PHP, C++), role specific tests (front end vs back end vs full stack) and also general knowledge tests that everyone takes (like the 40 yard dash)

  • Similar to positions in football, not expected to score high on sprinting if you are a lineman and don’t need to take the throwing test at all if you are a safety

  • Idea for this inspired by the My First Million podcast, where they discussed youth sports combines and applying the combine model elsewhere

What This Isn’t:

  • An affiliate marketing play like G2Crowd,, TrustRadius

  • Primarily linked to the development company (company must be secondary and prioritize individual like LinkedIn)

  • Meant for more specialized types of coding and development (i.e., excludes machine learning, IoT, security tools)


There are lot of developers in the world, and not all of them are good

  • There are more than 25 million developers in the world, growing at ~6% per year

  • As the number of developers grow, the baseline for quality widens

  • There are thousands of contractor companies based in India, Bangalore, China, and the Ukraine specializing in projects for non-technical entrepreneurs and starting dumpster fires

    • Takeaway: Some international development outfits are great value and true biz partners, while others are chop shops who will pump and dump

Project managers don’t do the coding

  • Both the suave biz dev rep selling you the project and the project manager assigned to you after starting are often based in your country, as you’d expect, but they don’t do the actual coding

  • The coding usually takes place about 17 time zones away on a smokin hot 4 mbps connection

    • Takeaway: It’s easy for a non technical business owner to get rope-a-doped into working with a company in the US or UK who outsources the actual coding to someone who is punching a clock

The current review sites are broken

  • G2 and Clutch rankings and reviews are totally pay to play

  • Plus, the ratings don’t go to the developer level, only the company level

  • There’s a big survivorship bias where you never hear from companies that fail b/c they blew their wad on a dumpy MVP

    • Takeaway: Relying on inaccurate rankings and reviews is like following a TomTom into the app graveyard

(Disclaimer from our imaginary general counsel: Having a great developer is never a substitute for a terrible app or business idea. There are plenty of doomed marriages between ugly ideas and foul developers)

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Back of the Napkin Market Sizing

Note: To get the ball rolling, I’d focus on only three countries (maybe even fewer) and app type (i.e., Android). To further segment, you could market to “newer” developers trying to distinguish themselves and prove their skills. About 13% of the world’s developers have less than 5 years experience and about 40% have less than 10.

Kinda Biased Competitive Landscape

How It Makes Money

Waves This Rides

  • Professional Certifications

    • CPA and CFA for accounting and finance professionals

    • Lambda School degree

    • Udemy courses

    • Online certifications for anything you can imagine

  • Professional Profiles

    • LinkedIn

    • angellist

Future Expansion Areas

  • Combine for copy writers / blog writers

  • Combine for web photography and video contractors

  • Combine for any other Indie Hacker contractor work you can think of

Why This Might Fail

  • Bad developers will avoid it

    • No one chooses to take a test they know they’ll do poorly on; the SATs were scarring enough for most

    • Would need the pressure of not having the certification outweigh the avoidance (i.e., also not-yet-known as testing FOMO)

  • Testing must evolve quickly

    • The pace of innovation with progressive web apps is constantly changing

    • Testing and materials would need to always be cutting edge and relevant

  • AI and ML replace developers

    • How meta would it be if coding was taken over by robotic coding

    • Also, I’m entirely unsure if that’s the correct usage of the word meta

Potentially Reliable Stuff I Read at 3 AM

Completely Irrelevant Post Script No Reputable Business Publication Would Allow

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“Doubt is only removed by action. If you’re not working then that’s where doubt comes in.”

-Conor McGregor