MetaNeer Labs Is Different
Hi, my name is Andrew Bellay and I run MetaNeer Labs.
MetaNeer was originally founded in 2010 as an education start-up. But the global recession hit the education market hard, forcing me to adapt or give up. I adapted and since 2012, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs and innovators at both the largest and smallest companies to build their vision.
How Is MetaNeer Labs different?
The short answer is that I have and follow a process. The long answer is below.
The number one question I get every week is “How do I save money on my project?” The answer is so simple that it’s actually disappointing: Have a process.
But even though the answer is simple, the vast majority of development firms don’t have a process or don’t follow it.
Most dev shops lure customers in with big promises and flashy sales techniques. But once they’ve closed the sale, everything changes and you – the customer – take a back seat to the next customer.
Deadlines are missed and the quality of the product is poor. And yet the invoices keep coming.
But what can you do? Hope that they’ll keep their promise this time and finish the project as promised or you can fire them and find another firm to pick up the pieces. Both options are terrible. You’re better off finding the right team the first time – a team that has and follows a process.
The Process Evolved
I have 2 engineering degrees, both of my parents are engineers, and I started building and using computers when I was just a little boy. I grew up around technology and my Chemical Engineering degree was 4 years of hands-on process engineering.
I developed the MetaNeer process when I was teaching myself to code, back in the days of the iPhone 4. I quickly figured out that if I drew a lot of sketches and wrote down the spec in excruciating detail, that I would discover 90% of the pitfalls and issues that would arise during the coding phase and I’d be able to crank through my work much faster than if I just winged it.
When I started working with clients, I used this process with them. Together, we defined terms and got on the same page about what features meant and how the app would behave. Miscommunications were basically non-existent.
As I successfully built more and more software and worked with more and more groups trying to bring about some change in their world, I discovered that I was able to add a lot of strategic value to my client’s businesses as well.
Now I also write, teach, and speak about strategy at straty.com.
Over the years, the process has evolved – incorporating strategy, design, and development into one package.
The MetaNeer Process
My process is simple.
After we schedule an initial call to get to know one another and answer any questions you have, then…
1) I get everything out of your head onto paper.
I do this by asking you a lot of questions over the period of a several hour meeting – either in person or on the phone. I start by asking you about the long-term vision for your company and we end by talking about the specific features of your product. In the middle, we cover everything from who your users are, what they can accomplish, your marketing plan, monetization ideas, and a lot more.
2) We refine those ideas until we’re excited about a concrete vision.
After we’ve gotten everything down on paper, I start to put ideas together – sketching the big picture and the details of your project until it starts to all make sense. Here’s where we’ll deal with the hardest product questions and battle with scope. We’ll also define our own precise vocabulary so that we know that we’re on the same page, minimizing the risk of miscommunication.
Typically, I do a set of drawings and then we talk about them. We repeat this until we’re happy.
By the end of this phase, your project will be precisely defined & scoped and you’ll have a decent estimate of costs.
3) I write a detailed technical spec.
Once we’ve agreed on precisely what we want to build, it’s time to make it technical. The output of this step is a technical spec.
Since I’ve been developing software professionally since 2010, I know exactly what developers want in a spec. And developers love working with me because they get to focus on what they’re really great at (writing code) without having to decode a poorly designed spec, be a project manager, or work directly with clients.
By the end of this step, we’ll have made 98% of the decisions we need to make and we’ll be ready to hand a clear, precise, and technical spec over to our developers.
Everything up until this point can be done in about 7-10 days, depending on schedules.
4) I assemble the right team.
A few years ago, when development costs were sky-high, it made sense to find the smartest developer you could afford and pay them to build your app or website quickly, but well. The global market for developers has changed though and this is no longer the best answer.
Now developers are much more specialized and there are sub-specialties for iOS, Android, and web. There are experts in machine learning, artificial reality, specific front end libraries, and various back end stacks.
So today, instead of working with a bunch of generalists who can learn quickly, you’re better off working with a small team of specialists and one generalist (the project manager or PM).
These specialists and experts are faster and better because they’re so focused – which means that they’re cheaper at the end of the day.
Yet another way to drive down costs is to work with developers who don’t live in San Francisco and New York City – some of the most expensive cities in the world. Working with talented developers in Belgium or Argentina is far cheaper than paying a developer’s $4,000 per month rent in Silicon Valley – meaning that you have more budget for marketing, future development work, or whatever else.
I have ties to thousands of talented developers all over the world. During this step, I’ll help find and interview the right developers for your project. If we need other skills – graphic design, 2D/3D modeling, machine learning, etc – we’ll find them at this stage too.
5) The team and I develop your app or website and maintain it.
Once we have the team assembled, we pick a start date, divide up tasks, and start building. The first focus is on technical tests – proving that we can accomplish any of the things that we may have been uncertain about in the spec.
Once we’re sure there are no show stoppers, the team follows the prioritized spec until we reach the end. Typically code is shipped every few days or even several times a day.
As the PM, I keep the wheels greased, provide technical support, help debug, and orchestrate the entire project so that no one is idle or waiting around for anything.
If we plan on shipping to one of the app stores, then we begin preparing for submission and review during this step. Sometimes getting an app through review can be a huge hurdle (especially for iOS) and I have a tremendous amount of experience getting apps through review.
Once we’re live, we have a few options for next steps and long-term maintenance. I can help you vet a CTO. I can help you find an inexpensive, more permanent person to maintain the code base. Or we can repeat the whole process, building the next phase of your product once we have user feedback.
No matter what you choose, I’ll make sure you’re in good hands and that things transition smoothly.
MetaNeer Is Different
To recap: MetaNeer is a different kind of dev shop.
I have a perspective and philosophy about the right and wrong ways to develop software and I have the experience to back it up. I have a process and I stick to it. I’m not just a designer or a sales guy, but I’ve actually built a ton of professional software since 2010. I have a huge network of developers who like working with me because we speak the same technical language. And I know how to assemble the right team so that we can make your vision a reality, on-time and on-budget.
What Should I Do Next?
If you’ve read this far, it’s probably time for us to hop on the phone. I use a tool to help schedule calls without having to do a lot of back and forth over email:
I’m all over the internet so check out my full bio, my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter accounts (@stratydotcom & @andrewbellay), and my essays and lectures on strategy. And if you’d like to invite me to speak to or lead a workshop for your company, please contact me.
Finally, if you’re trying to reach me for anything else, contact me here.
Here’s what my clients say about me:
"MetaNeer developed an app in one week that was demoed to rave reviews at a trade show two weeks later. We've already booked our next sprint with MetaNeer and are excited to continue our partnership."