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Without knowing more details, it’s hard to be specific, but your developer could be on the mark.
He may have had to install a number of php modules and configure numerous other aspects of the VPS (assuming it was a ‘clean’ VPS). I would have spent at least a day just installing and setting up my VPS for Magento.
Installing Magento is not just a case of uploading a bunch of files and running install.php. It’s a complex application that requires the server running it to be set up and optimised.