March 27, 2024
min read

Tech Product Development: how to choose from in-house teams to product studios

In the fast-paced world of tech development, the path to building a product is less a straight line and more a journey through uncharted territory.

Wes Botman
CEO, Founder

Tech Product Development: how to choose from in-house teams to product studios

In the fast-paced world of tech development, the path to building a product is less a straight line and more a journey through uncharted territory. It’s a path filled with crucial decisions, each capable of steering the project toward success or leading it astray. Among these, one of the most pivotal is choosing the right development approach: should you harness in-house power, tap into the flexibility of freelancers, engage with a software agency, or collaborate with a product studio?

This choice is far from one-size-fits-all. It's nuanced, and deeply intertwined with the nature of your business—be it a startup, an SME, or corporate —and the unique challenges you face. At the heart of this decision lies a blend of strategy, insight, and foresight, all crucial for navigating the complexities of building successful tech products.

In this blog, we aim to bring clarity to this decision-making process. We'll delve into how each business type can best align its needs with the most suitable development path, weighing the pros and cons of each option. Whether you're looking to harness the raw power of in-house development, the agility of freelancers, the structured approach of a software agency, or the end-to-end expertise of a product studio, understanding the nuances of each option is key.

The goal is to guide you toward making a choice that not only resonates with your current needs but also lays the right foundation for future growth and innovation within your business.

Matching development strategies with your business

Choosing the right path for tech product development is a decision that sits at the crossroads of your business's current capabilities and future aspirations. Let's explore what this means for your business and how to align your development strategy with your unique needs and resources.


For a startup, the road of developing a tech product is often synonymous with the journey of the startup itself. The key here is flexibility and agility. If you can build a team of in-house developers within a reasonable timespan coupled with a solid grasp of product design and software development, leveraging these resources from the get-go makes sense. It's your own speedboat – quick to maneuver and adapt.

However, not all startups find themselves in such a position. Many have expertise in either design or development, not both. Here, collaboration with a product studio can complement your existing skills, filling in the gaps and strengthening your foundation. And for those startups at the very beginning, without the luxury of an in-house team or extensive tech knowledge, a product studio isn't just a choice; it's a strategic partner guiding you through uncharted waters. In this ecosystem, where agility meets expertise, ideas evolve from sketches on napkins to scalable, market-ready products.

Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs): 

SMEs often find themselves in a unique position. While tech might not be at the core of your business (yet), it’s an undeniable driver of growth and efficiency. Building an in-house tech team is an option, but not a common path for many SMEs, primarily due to the investment and time required to develop such a team.

The alternative? Freelancers. They offer flexibility and a potentially cost-effective solution. However, this route can be similar to walking a tightrope without a safety net. The risks? Misalignment, project management challenges, and the complex task of piecing together distinct parts of your tech puzzle.

Software agencies offer a middle ground. They come with structured processes and an extent of experience. Success here hinges on your ability to articulate the problem you're solving, align it with the right product strategy, and communicate effectively on a technical level. But if these elements feel like foreign territory, a product studio can be your guide. They bring a holistic approach – from ideation to launch, preventing scope creep, and aligning your product with radical impact, all while ensuring cost-efficiency. And for those SMEs eyeing the future where tech becomes their core, the right product studios can pave the way for this transition, transforming external expertise into an internal powerhouse.


The corporate world often deals with a multifaceted matrix of choices when it comes to tech product development. If you’re dealing with a product that touches mission-critical elements or core infrastructure, the involvement of in-house experts who understand the intricacies of your organization is critical.

But what about products that are not aligned with the core corporate strategy, such as initiatives under a Corporate Startup model? Here, the agility and fresh perspective of a product studio can be invaluable. The right studios offer the benefits of an in-house team – a well-documented codebase, an accessible stack, and full rights to the IP, paired with flexibility.

For corporates with in-house development capacity, the decision may be straightforward for products that align with the core strategy. However, when exploring new territories, the expertise and external viewpoint of a product studio can be a catalyst for innovation, ensuring the product not only sees the light of day but also generates traction among its audience.

Understanding the options for product development

Whether it's in-house teams, freelancers, a software agency, or a product studio, each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

In-House Development: 

Starting with the familiar, in-house development is similar to playing a home game. The comfort of having your own team, deeply ingrained in your company’s culture and goals, cannot be understated. In-house teams offer unparalleled alignment with your business’s long-term vision. There's a rhythm to this approach, a kind of operational harmony where communication is seamless, and oversight is straightforward. However, this route requires significant investment, not just financially but in time and resources to build and maintain a skilled team. It’s a commitment to cultivating talent, nurturing a culture of innovation, and constantly upgrading skills. This might be a challenging path for early-stage startups and SMEs, especially when agility and specialized skills are needed quickly. Speaking from a product studio’s perspective, the situation of an inhouse team is often what we work towards to with our clients.

Hiring Freelancers: 

Freelancers are the nomads of the tech world, bringing in diverse skills and fresh perspectives. Their adaptability and the ease of scaling up or down make them an attractive option for specific projects or when you need specialized skills that your business lacks. The flip side? Managing freelancers requires a skillful hand. Coordinating between different individuals, ensuring consistency, and keeping the project aligned with your vision demands thorough oversight. It’s like conducting an orchestra where each musician plays a different tune, yet you must create harmony.

Working with a Software Agency: 

Opting for a software agency is similar to bringing a seasoned player into the game. Experienced software agencies provide structured processes, a wide range of services, and a level of reliability. They come with teams that are already attuned to working together, which can accelerate development time. This can be particularly advantageous for SMEs looking for expertise without the long-term commitment of an in-house team. However, this path can sometimes feel like navigating a maze, especially with IP arrangements, rigid contract terms, and lacking the experience to guide you properly on a business and product level. The key lies in finding an agency that resonates with your philosophy and understands your specific needs.

Partnering with a Product Studio: 

A product studio, like Eli5, offers a blend of agility, expertise, and a collaborative approach to product development. It’s like having a Swiss Army knife; whether it's starting from a napkin sketch or scaling a product, the right studio adapts to your needs. Product studios offer a middle ground for startups without the bandwidth to manage extensive development teams or corporates exploring initiatives outside their core strategy. They bring to the table an entrepreneurial mindset, the flexibility to pivot as needed, and a commitment to your product’s long-term success. The beauty of this option lies in its collaborative nature and the ability to scale alongside your business. It’s a partnership that values transparency, from avoiding cumbersome IP rights to understanding the intricacies of your product. 

The downside of product studios often arises when your product reaches complex technical challenges, whether this is regarding leveraging or building AI functionalities, operating on the bleeding edge of tech, or integrating a product in corporate digital landscapes. When hiring a product studio, always consider your mid- to long-term perspective. If you know you’ve got technical hurdles down the road, ensure the studio has what it takes to take on complex challenges and is not just a shell of slick looking user interfaces. This, for example, is what sets Eli5 apart from most studios. We have the technical capabilities to overcome the most complex challenges while we maintain our swift, design-driven, and highly innovative approach to building products. 

The common thread in each of these paths is finding a fit that aligns with your business ethos, resources, and mi- to long-term vision. The decision isn't just about the immediate need; it's about where you see your product and your company in the future. 

Key considerations for decision making

The path you choose must align with your vision, resources, and goals. Let’s take a look at three pivotal considerations: expertise and experience, intellectual property, and scope and scalability. These factors serve as your compass in helping you choose between different options to develop your tech product.

Expertise and Experience

Choosing the right development path leans on matching skills with project requirements. It's about understanding the depth and width of expertise needed to bring your vision to life. For startups, this might mean seeking a partner who excels in agility and innovation. SMEs might prioritize industry-specific experience and a track record of scaling product products for similar-sized companies. Corporates could look for teams with experience in handling large-scale, complex projects. Assess the skill sets of your in-house team, freelancers, agencies, or product studios to ensure they align with your technological needs and business goals. This alignment is crucial for smooth progress from concept to market.

Accelerative Mindset

In the realm of tech development, time is a currency as valuable as your investment. An accelerative mindset – one that promotes swift, efficient progress without being bogged down by cumbersome arrangements, especially regarding intellectual property (IP) – is vital. Your development partner should empower you with full ownership of your product's IP, ensuring freedom and control over your innovation. This philosophy is about more than just legal rights; it's about fostering a culture of rapid experimentation, iteration, and growth, enabling you to pivot quickly and respond to market demands without external constraints holding back your product's evolution.

Scope and Scalability

Every tech product begins with a vision, but the scalability and scope determine its trajectory. Startups might initially focus on a narrow scope to quickly validate their product, while SMEs and corporates might need a broader, more scalable approach from the onset. Evaluate whether your development choice – be it in-house, freelancers, an agency, or a product studio – can adapt to the evolving scale of your project. Can they scale up as your product grows? Do they have the resources and expertise to expand the product's scope in response to market feedback and technological advances? Your choice should align with your growth strategy.

Bonus: Matching Philosophy and Personality

Building a tech product is not just a transaction; it's a partnership. The philosophy and personality of your development team or partner profoundly impact the product's success. It’s about more than a skill set; it’s about shared values, communication styles, and a mutual understanding of what defines success. The right chemistry fosters an environment where ideas flourish, challenges are tackled collaboratively, and the final product resonates with your vision. When choosing between in-house, freelancers, agencies, or studios, consider the cultural fit. Look for partners who understand your business goals and share your passion and drive for innovation.

Eli5's unique approach to building tech products

At Eli5 we stand for effective accelerationism, a testament to the philosophy that swift, effective progress is the cornerstone of innovation. Our approach is not just about speed; it's about smart, strategic movements that propel your product forward in the market. We believe in the power of quick iterations, rapid prototyping, continuous feedback loops, and a high shipping cadence ensuring that your product is not just a step but a leap ahead.

One of the great examples of our ethos is our commitment to IP flexibility and avoiding cumbersome arrangements that decelerate the growth and development of your product. We understand that your product is your brainchild, your venture into the unknown. It's only fair that you hold the keys to this. Our policy is simple: the IP we help create is yours. Unfortunately, this stance on intellectual property is rare in the tech world, where IP arrangements can often be restrictive and slow down progress. By ensuring you own your product's IP, we foster a culture of trust and collaboration, empowering you to take your product to new heights without any strings attached.

Handling complex projects is our forte. Whether it's integrating advanced AI functionalities, navigating the bleeding edge of technology, or crafting solutions that fit seamlessly into expansive digital ecosystems, Eli5 is equipped to tackle these challenges head-on. We don't shy away from complexity; we embrace it, turning complex problems into simple, innovative, and elegant solutions. Our team's diverse skill set and adaptive approach mean that we're prepared for any technical hurdle, ensuring that your product isn't just built, but made to excel in a competitive landscape.

Unlike most development companies, transitioning from an external partnership to an in-house team is something we promote and help our clients with. Eli5's approach extends beyond building and scaling tech products; we're here to help you set up your own capable, innovative, in-house team of product experts, designers, and engineers. From sharing insights into the technical intricacies of your product to assisting in the recruitment and training of your team members, we ensure a smooth and well-informed transition. This approach not only sets the foundation for your future growth but also aligns with our belief in building sustainable, self-reliant businesses. 

Making the right choice 

The key takeaway is clear: the path to building a tech product is as unique as the vision behind it. The decision between in-house teams, freelancers, a software agency, or a product studio like Eli5 is pivotal. It's not just about meeting the immediate needs; it's about setting a course that resonates with your long-term ambitions.

Companies such as Eli5 stand out in this ecosystem. At Eli5 we embrace a fast-paced and agile approach, tailored for those who aim to sprint ahead. Our ethos of effective accelerationism is not just about speed; it's about moving forward with purpose, clarity, and agility. We don’t just build products; we build solutions that are the embodiment of innovation and radical impact, taking them beyond the MVP stage, through the most complex challenges, towards traction and success at scale.

Evaluate your needs, consider your growth trajectory, and consider the partnership to elevate your product from a concept to making radical impact. Embrace the journey with a partner who understands the nuances of innovation, who shares your drive for excellence, and who can turn your vision into reality. Consider Eli5 as your product development powerhouse in this adventure, and let’s build something great together.

Wes Botman
CEO, Founder

Discuss your design needs in-depth? Book a call with one of our founders.