Question: Why did you start your company?
Even back to 2010, Ukraine was already known for the Development talent it has. With its very much engineering-like traditional educational system, with dozens of thousands of highly educated and very sharp-minded people getting to the “wild” market of the 90s, it was obvious such a talent capital would have gained its fans all over the world. Asian countries famous that time for outsourcing abilities already had created a demand on the market, were so to say “mature” markets were in the hunt for the right talent or skill. For a decade, things only got more shaped – the Software Development Market got already defined here in Ukraine, the companies with foreign capital and founders have already formed the vision of Ukraine as a country that is able to do very complex things at the very reasonable fraction of cost.
Operations overall, both on tech and people level, were a big part of my career for years prior to Mobilunity’s foundation. Experience and skillset I was using at different roles of mine were finally combined into a solid role in a newly created company where PEOPLE was the key concept – may it be Developers, else Employees, or my Clients.
So, it’s been an easy decision WHAT we will be doing, complex part was how we would be different from everyone else. But this is already part of another question :)
Question: 9 years on the market is impressive! What advice can you give other CEOs as it relates to building, maintaining, and developing a company as you have?
We would not be here where we are now without 3 key factors:
- Key people around me I was lucky to find and convince in joining the Company
- Readiness for changes of even those things that seem to be working just fine
- Continuous openness to a variety of experiments – 95% of them failed, yet 5% made every else mistake paid off in full
I cannot say my experience is very special in any aspect of it. I had a unique situation, the same as every other person in the world does, and I had to make decisions the same unique as the situations themselves. Still, out of three factors defined above, 1st is the key – as, without People around me, I would hardly cope with 2 key factors defined above.
Business ethics being part of our DNA is something I would also add here. We treat people around us exactly as we would want to be treated ourselves. Relationships with our clients and with employees we hire bring us as a Company to a very special spot – where we WIN only if 2 other “counterparts” win as well.
So, back to the initial question, my advice to other CEOs would be building the Company purely based on what you yourself believe in. Not essentially it will bring to success, but at least you will know for sure what your beliefs are worth :)
Question: Your industry is flooded with competitors, yet you have still been able to grow and prosper. How have you coped with the challenges that competition brings?
We look at the competition from a few perspectives.
First – is GEO competition. We as Ukrainian companies compete with let’s say Polish companies, with Bulgarian, or maybe with Indian. Every country has its typical “ideal” client profile, market’s benchmark and operational overheads unique to the geographical area, taxation, cost of services in a country or a region. From this perspective, let’s be honest, there is close to no competition if we are talking about an “ideal” client for Ukraine:
- Someone who comes for high-end Software Engineering services, where talent, experience, ability to reflect and critically think, play the major importance
- Someone who is fine with the time zone where we as European country are operating, and who is fine with potential intersection hours with the headquarters or else development team
- Someone who is looking for the large pool of talent to choose from as Recruiting and ability to Retain would be the key factors for the vendor choice
Market capacity, cost of operations (thus, price) and little to minimal mass brain drain (as Ukraine is not part of the European Union) are making Ukrainian proposal a very tempting to specific kind of a client.
The second dimension would be the Model. We thoroughly examined the pain points of our clients and introduced a 3R Nearshoring approach, where we focus on 3 key things – Recruitment, Retention, and Relationships.
Our local competition would stand mostly for the model itself – as, other companies may be operating else models, with else implied deliveries, and maybe hunting for else “ideal client” opposite to what we are seeking for. However, Models’ differences are something that is not always clear and defined for the clients who just start their Nearshoring Journey. Thus, as I mentioned, the Model and Delivery definitions are important parts of our competitive positioning.
Question: Earlier you mentioned Ukrainian development. It’s even part of your motto. So What makes Ukraine in particular special when it comes to developing remote teams?
First of all, I need to make a disclaimer – I am biased ;) As Ukrainian myself, of course, I cannot be 100% objective. On the other hand – and, that would be another disclaimer – before, I used to work with different development teams, from various places. Within my career, in regards to software development, I used to work with 3 countries in Asia, both countries of North America and 4 European countries.
So, disclaimers put, my personal opinion is that Ukrainians are one of the best options for those purposes where complex development is required, where critical thinking is essential, where there are no “known paths to follow” and where a very specific dedication is required from the team itself. Ukrainians by mentality are very much close to the classical “European” mindset. These people take lots of pride in what they do, and they will barely be willing to be part of something common, basic or useless. What makes this nation strong, same makes it less attractive in the eyes of a potential client. I have seen numerous cases when Ukraine was chosen to be a destination for outsourcing of something that Ukrainians by design should not be part of – just because this will be boring, or will be too expensive, or will be just ineffective to do here in this country.
Remote teams, as a model, I think, is one of the best appliances to what Ukrainian engineers may be effective with, and this is why:
- They have direct access and collaboration process with the Headquarters – as, to Ukrainians, I think is very much important to know and see (on a daily basis too!) who and why they work with.
- They like having a more global impact on what they are doing. Let’s be honest, the domestic Ukrainian IT market (as for the services, needs) is quite narrow. Ukrainians are very much used to working for export, and with remote development teams model it is implied the client is making something that puts an impact whether globally (win!) or, to a local (yet, unknown and thus, intriguing) market of some specific country of the region.
And of course, it’s worth mentioning that Ukraine has a huge tech talent pool with more than 200K developers which allows finding the right person pretty quickly if your vendor knows what are decision making factors for the talent pool itself.
Question: Now that we know why Ukraine is special, tell us, what is so great about your model in comparison to the other models out there on the market?
Ukraine is well known for having a vast IT talent pool and it’s not a secret that there are hundreds of outsourcing companies applying different models of engagement. Competition brings out the best in us because it keeps us in a constant state of awareness. Understanding what is most important for our clients we developed a distinguishing model of 3Rs: Recruitment, Relationships, and Retention.
Recruitment: finding a developer is easy. Finding a fit for the client/product and capability to build a team – that’s where the hard part comes. We leverage our understanding of the local market and the best recruitment practices to make sure we pick the perfect match.
Relationships: we believe that the relationships we build are the most important part of our service. No matter the distance, we foster the growth of relationships with our clients and dedicated teams by truly investing in them, and understanding their needs.
Retention: our staff takes care of all operations, making sure that your team has all of the Staff Services activities to keep them satisfied. At the end of the day, it’s relations with other people (peers, clients, contractors) that matter the most.
Talk to competitors, and you will see that their primary expertise is either technology (i.e. Java) or domain expertise (fintech). Ask me what we are focused on – and that will be People. People, in a nutshell, is our expertise, and this is what our model is all around.
Question: Sales are important for every company no matter the industry. So with that being said, What is the most challenging part about bringing in new clients, and where do you get your clients from, any particular region or industry focus?
The Challenge is properly assessing whether or not the Client (or, a potential client at this stage) is a fit to what we do, how we do, and what we believe in. Oddly enough but our business model does not allow anything else but triple “win” – when Client, Developer, and we as the Vendor benefit from ongoing relationships. Simply put, especially in regards to the question asked, if we make a mistake assessing the Client’s needs, we will be punished in a very timely manner – as things will not work out, guaranteed.
This is why during the presale stage, we make a very dedicated effort explaining what our service is all about, what kind of time commitment the model will require from the Client, what kind of decisions and communication would be required from the Client side. As, at first, almost anything will look like “outsourcing” but only getting into the details will get clear answers to numerous important questions.
Let me be honest with you, many leads entering our pipeline drop out hearing what we expect from the Client. In time, some return back, more eagerly open to know-how we are sharing at this stage. But, as I said, good results may only come from like-minded companies. Our mentality is not something mysterious, one is widely expressed through our social media, and, of course, through our brand ambassadors such as myself, business development, marketing, and account management teams.
Speaking of regions, the majority are Western Europe and North America. And this is not because we put focus on these regions, rather because these markets are already mature enough in regards to how businesses think, what lessons they had already learned hiring teams locally or going for traditional outsourcing.
Our success on Swiss market (#1 country by the share of our clients for Mobilunity) and speed this region grows with us also speaks for the quality of our services – it is obvious that Swiss business, in general, would not have worked with anything (at any cost) that is not satisfying high-quality standards this region has. Our clients from InsurTech, Fintech, E-commerce, Business Tools and Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence and many other industries come to us not because we are able to provide expertise in some specific industry or domain, but rather because we are very good in providing them a talent possessing that expertise. This statement understanding clearly defines our model, our positioning and our pricing.
Question: You also mentioned that retention is very important. How do you ensure that you not only recruit, but retain talented people and keep them from being headhunted?
I always tell our clients that as a vendor, we are able to commit to 49% of the Retention result. The other 51%, no matter what, will solely depend on the Client.
No matter how comfortable office is, how convenient and fast commute is from employees’ houses to the office itself, no matter of what perks we provide – may it be medical insurance, gym vouchers or relaxing massage sessions – primary thing that matters is what kind of job the Client is asking an employee to perform, what technologies will be used, what development methodology/process is in place, and what the product is all about. As a Vendor, we are certain these 4 things (fully in dependency to our Clients) are defining that 51 % of Retention we all would want to see.
What remains to us? Making an atmosphere of trust, value, and respect; ensuring that peers around are alike-minded, provoking our employees for cross-team communications, sharing common interests, and so on.
There is a dedicated role in our structure, a Resource Manager, in charge of the team’s retention for every client of ours. While this person is the process owner so to say, deliverables are still produced by all set of Staff Services, such as Office Management, IT Helpdesk, Accounting, Legal, HR, Event Management, all from Mobilunity as the Vendor side; and, of course, the Client’s side, that we do not always have direct influence on, but what we always try to impact through our experience sharing and advisory to the Clients themselves.
Question: If you could go back in time, 9 years ago to when you started Mobilunity, what advice would you have given a younger Cyril Samovskiy?
First of all, I would compliment myself for making a good job by gathering such a nice and talented people under one roof :) But, to be more serious, I would advise being more open to peer CEOs of other companies, with bigger experience in some areas than I had at that time. With the years at this role, even now I remember the toughest decision challenges I had, and in most cases, I was getting insights purely from communicating with peers. Most times, I was not asking the questions straight, and I was not hearing a straight answer. But, talking even on else matters, was often very much insightful for me on my current issue.
Saying more, I would even give this advice to Cyril-2020, too, as often my time is taken with operations, while I wish I had more opportunities and chances to be talking to other people, successful or not, in their areas, as consider such talks to be one of the most effective educational channels to myself. Might be that’s why an interview to CEOWorld was a tempting proposal to me. Who knows, maybe I get connected with some of your readers, and that connection will bring us even more value.
Thanks for your time!