Can you write a web app, like Ebay, for me?

Today I had a phone call which went along the lines of ….

Prospect: Do you develop web applications?
Me: Yes… <cue sales pitch>
Prospect: I’ve got a great idea, it’s like eBay…. I need a programmer….
Me: <thinking: oh not another….>
Prospect: I think it’s about 2 developer months worth of work….
Me: Well, we’d need to see your requirements spec to determine that.
Prospect: Would you be willing to do the work for free in return for a stake in the resultant venture? How much would it cost?
Me: Well, I’ve not seen any sort of requirements specification; I’ve no idea what’s involved….. Just how long is a piece of string?

I don’t quite understand why people think they’ll be able to create an eBay/Amazon/Google/whatever killer/competitor with minimal funding, a couple of months development and also persuade me to do the work for free on the outside chance they’re successful (that’s like a <5% chance). I might consider reducing the price of the development in return for a share in any resultant company – but I’m sure as not going to commit to anything before I’ve seen any sort of business plan.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll get someone wanting a site “like Facebook” costing a few thousand pounds… ‘cos we do PHP just like them… and it can’t be hard can it?


  1. Well you know what this country is like a lot of people with ideas with little idea of what it would actually take to put those ideas into reality. They think you load up front page draw a few nice boxes and thats it job done.

    I see lots of management types with big ideas my favourite was a “project manager” (I use the quotes as he didnt really manage anything more screw everything up) came to me because he needed some firewalls built and configured quickly because as per usual he had left it rather late. Now to be nice I gave him a realistic building time for them of 8 hours. Its pretty accurate in my experience. He then says what if I get another firewall guy in maybe even a contractor 2 of you can do it in half the time. I did try to explain with only one console port only one of us could work on the kit at once but he didnt seem to understand…

  2. I’ve had people in the past who want us to do development in return for a % age of a company; I’m not against the idea, but I’m also not going to do it for free…

  3. Send them this way….I’ll do that for £8.37 and a bag of chips. Yum, chips!

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