As far as finding good places to find designers and developers, I have always found that word of mouth is usually the best bet. Finding designers and developers can be somewhat difficult, particularly when it comes to finding reliable and competent individuals. In my experience I have mainly relied on referrals from colleagues or friends.
Regarding protection of your IP rights, you should be very careful. From the sound of your post, it seems like your business is premised around a unique/novel app, and its worth is most likely all within the “idea.” So the importance of protecting your idea is extremely high.
Although you are not incorporated, you can still take steps to protect your IP interests when hiring outside individuals. Typically, the best bet is usually trying to secure a patent or some sort of legal protection. However, you can also draft employment contracts with your developers and designers that can also protect your idea. However, there are limitations when it comes to employment contracts, and you will need to do some research.
The best advice I can give you is to hire a lawyer. A lawyer will be able to help you find the best possible protection for your business, at the lowest cost. Filing a patent can be a lengthy and expensive process, and there may be much more realistic alternatives. Finding a lawyer that has experience with helping startups like yours can make all the difference in protecting your IP interests.
Especially in the SF area, there are so many qualified attorneys in this area, that you can easily find a great attorney at an affordable price. You should check out our site,. We have so many startup attorneys in the SF area that have experience in the IP field. As a startup, you want to limit your costs and maximize your success. Our site allows you to find the best legal advice possible for your company at the lowest price, so you can do just that.
I have founded two separate startups and I cannot tell you how important it is to hire an attorney. Particularly with my current company, the novelty of the “idea” has been key, so I completely understand the need to protect your business idea/model.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you want to hire a lawyer who has a business mentality and who will be able to give you both legal and corporate guidance. I cannot understate how much of an asset that can be to your company.
I hope this answer is helpful. If I can help you out at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally. I am always excited to help a tech startup get off the ground and succeed. Best of luck!