Productivity solutions for startups

Building Productivity Features In-House Is Slowing Down Your Startup

Learn how choosing to build in-house over buying pre-built productivity solutions for startups can compromise your go-to-market strategy.


While developing your startup’s go-to-market (GTM) strategy, you will identify several productivity features needed to ensure success once you launch. For example, you may be looking to pull email, calendar, and contacts integrations onto your platform to avoid context switching. Productivity solutions for startups like these will allow you to extract real-time and context-rich customer data to help you build better customer experiences.

Once you’ve determined the need, you will have to decide whether you want to utilize your engineers’ time and effort to build these features in-house or opt for a pre-built solution.

When looking for productivity solutions for startups, many companies believe that building their own is the way to go. In reality, doing so puts your organization at risk of draining valuable resources, places extreme pressure on your engineers, and stalls the process of getting your product or service to market. In contrast, selecting pre-built productivity solutions can accelerate your go-live journey while saving time and energy.

“By building communications features on your own, you’re placing the burden of finding edge cases, missing functionality, unknown use cases, odd workflows, and more on your customer. Inevitably, this leads to a poor user experience, overburdened engineering team, and eroded trust in your brand.”

Brian Wones, Director of Solutions Engineering, Nylas

Delays and unplanned costs

When companies choose to build their productivity solutions, they often fall into picturing the “happy path” to launch. They underestimate just how much work is involved, how long it will take, how much it will cost, and, ultimately, the extent of ongoing maintenance required.

These delays mean a much slower time to market. For bootstrapped or investor-funded SMBs or startups, this could spell disaster. A slow GTM allows your competitors to infiltrate the market before you do and will delay any returns on investment.

Many engineers also fail to account for the time it will take to handle unexpected bugs and edge cases that will inevitably crop up. Setting aside time to solve these problems will only become more troublesome once you deploy your product at scale, where even more issues arise and constant maintenance is required.

Budgeting for these projects becomes very unpredictable. You cannot foresee unexpected provider updates or predict every customer’s use case. It’s critical to maintain your infrastructure as you grow, which increases the financial burden of trying to scale your solutions.

The ongoing strain on your engineers

Building your productivity features in-house requires a dedicated team of engineers. A project like this will eat up significant chunks of their time from creation to ongoing management. There’s also a good chance your engineers don’t know everything about such specific APIs. The time it takes your team to obtain the proper training and knowledge can further trip up your GTM approach.

Once you train your engineers, you have a new risk to consider — tribal knowledge. If or when engineers leave your team, they will take their newfound expertise with them. If not planned for, you’ll be stuck having to start from scratch with anyone who joins the team.

It’s also important to keep in mind that in-house projects require time and energy well beyond the launch of your features. The recurring maintenance will continue to eat away at your engineers’ time. Meanwhile, competitors who’ve opted for pre-built solutions have the time to work on innovative and business-critical work that’ll ultimately give them a competitive edge over you. 

Integration complexity

Developing integration features across different service providers is immensely complex. Every platform has its schema that your team will need to learn how to handle. The more service providers you want to integrate with, the more complex your project becomes.

For example, if you’re looking to build out Microsoft integrations, you need to cater to different types of applications depending on what exactly you’re trying to achieve. Microsoft 365 runs on the cloud and uses a more modern API, while Microsoft Exchange uses an older legacy protocol.

A trusted partner specializing in your desired solution will significantly reduce your developers’ learning curve and help you get to market faster. Companies that offer productivity solutions for startups, such as the Nylas for Accelerator Startups program, have experience getting smaller teams up and running and at discounted rates. 

Negative customer experience

Unexpected problems after launch are not just a pain in the neck for your engineers — they also compromise your relationship with your customers. Once you launch your product at scale, your customers are often the ones to uncover bugs and edge cases. After encountering such issues, you jeopardize your relationship with them. These are the same customers with who you, as a startup, have built your foundations. Losing them could be catastrophic.

Building your features also means you’re ultimately responsible for security. You must adhere to many security protocols, including SOC 2, GDPR, CCPA, etc. Data breaches and cyber-attacks could severely affect your reputation and cost you money. Opting for Nylas’ pre-built solutions means you have a dedicated full-time security team who is there to respond to security threats immediately and help you remain compliant with protocols.

One Fortune 500 e-commerce startup’s build vs. buy story

A Fortune 500 e-commerce company experienced many typical grievances attempting to build their inbox parsers. They wanted to use parsers to tap into context-rich customer email data and create personalized offers for their clients.

Six months into their project, the company faced some significant problems using a team of over 40 product managers, engineers, and data analysts. They were experiencing system latency of more than six hours and risked having their email syncs shut down by AWS. They had also hemorrhaged over $100,000 in R&D and had no choice but to declare the project a failure.

The company approached Nylas, which was able to build a parsing solution using only four engineers in two sprints. The six-hour delay was reduced to 10 seconds, and the inbox parser technology was five times as effective as their in-house build. Nylas created a robust, reliable, and scalable solution that boosted repurchase conversion by 600%.

The build vs. buy costs for a Fortune 500 e-commerce startup.

Deliver productivity features quickly and efficiently with Nylas

Building your productivity features can take a heavy toll on your engineering team, resources, and customer base.

Nylas can help you deliver productivity features in a single, easy-to-use interface. See here for more information on saving time and money by investing in pre-built productivity solutions for startups.

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