As a startup co-founder, I was once pitching investors in London. One day I met Max Kelly, Managing Director of
IF YOU HAD TO INVEST IN ONE COMPANY…
At the time I was also in the rush of hiring my team, so I asked him the following question:
If you could invest in one company right now, which one would you go for? A one with a great idea but a poor team or a startup with an ordinary idea but having a very talented team?
Without any hesitation, he picked the second option. He said:
A great team sooner or later would realize that the idea was not great and would pivot to better product or service.
Whereas the poor team would never be able to deliver anything big even with the most sophisticated product.
I really liked his approach. It looked as if his intention was to invest in motivated and talented people.
THE BEST TEAM SET-UP IS BASED ON…
Max has also pointed out one crucial thing. For him – as Director of Techstar London – successful startups have their team set-up based on a geographical point of view:
- CEO from the United States which have a long tradition in entrepreneurship
- Sales & Marketing from the UK which has been the world’s trading and merchant center for years
Developmentteam from Eastern Europe which educates the best tech talents
Well, in 2019 this is even more real because we live in a connected and collaborated world, especially in the tech industry.
MOST FRUSTRATING STARTUPS’ ILLS
Recently I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with startups in Berlin, Zurich and New York. For all of them building their competitive edge in technology, it is crucial to hire the best engineers. However hiring in these cities is hard, since for the same limited talent pool there are also fighting corporations having big budgets.
Even if you finally manage to hire great techies they will be on the target of other hungry startups crazily looking for devs. And what if you lose your engineers at the peak of product development? Both investors and you would not be happy.
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH FINTECH STARTUP’S CPO
In June last year, I have met with the CPO of a well funded Fintech Berlin startup. We set up our meeting in a cozy place near ‘Zoologische Garten U-Bahn Station’ where they serve the coolest burgers and startupper’s drink ‘Mate’. He told me that he had just received funding and badly needed to ramp-up a tech team responsible for delivering new microservice as a part of his product.
His startup was one of 15 ventures that Berlin-based Company Builder has been launching every year. They were building a Fintech platform for financial institutions and brokers. His internal recruitment team didn’t manage to find as many developers as they needed in a short period of time.
NO ONE SAID IT WILL BE EASY – 5 MISSING JAVA DEVELOPERS AND TIGHT ROADMAP
His startup was looking for a team of five Senior Java developers and one Architect. The team should work independently and keep up with their tight product roadmap. CPO was previously a founder of Silicon Valey startups and faced the same problem in San Francisco even harder.
Next day I was invited to his office and met the whole team which counted 18 people.
When I was flying home I thought that I could help them. After 15 years in IT delivery, I knew what to do.
LET’S FIX THIS: THERE IS A PLAN
After a couple of days, I called them back and said that I would like to discuss my idea that might be beneficial for them. Next week we were sitting in their office and I presented my plan. I offered to build their own scrum tech team in … Warsaw. And yep, they were surprised, but not for long.
I showed them step by step, how in a 2-weeks they will have a team composed of the best Polish Senior Java Engineers. In fact, to get to Warsaw it takes a 1-hour direct flight from Berlin. It is a very convenient connection. Their Lead Engineer or Product Manager could fly there and back even on the same working day. Having face time with the team is very important to build commitment and motivation. And the undeniable benefit of this solution was that they would have really great engineers for a very competitive rate. What’s more, the team would be located in the same office and composed of engineers who have been working together previously. The team would accept relocating to Berlin after 9 – 14 months if the Client was pleased with their performance.
The additional idea was to keep the team in Warsaw and set up kind of Tech Labs which could deliver products also for other ventures. That sounded like a good plan for them.
I didn’t even finish my whole presentation while they nodded – “Ok, we are in. When can we get started?”
HINT: According to HackerRank Polish developers are the best in the world. You can google it yourself.
And as for Java Developers… Just have a look. So… why not have them in your team?
RAMPING UP A TEAM IN POLAND
Next week did all paperwork: signed a Master Service Agreement and SoW (Statement of Work) where we described how our service would look like. We as a “Contractor” agreed to provide a team of engineers to assist “Client” with developing the platform. It is Corp to Corp Agreement. We hired these developers and rented them as a service to the Client.
WHO HAVE WE BEEN LOOKING FOR?
Next days we’ve been discussing all the requirements for the team. They were looking for engineers familiar with the following tech stack:
✔ Java 8, Spring 4 (Boot, MVC, Data, Maven, JUnit)
✔ Databases powered by MongoDB, MySQL, Elasticsearch, and Redis
✔ Interfaces using AngularJS or ReactJS
✔ Git for code versioning, continuous integration with Travis, software run in Docker containers and deployed with Ansible
✔ Each developer should have Microservice Architecture Design Patterns knowledge.
FINDING A PERFECT MATCH
I had all the things to start. Using our close partner network and internal recruiters we’ve prepared two teams that met requirements. For the final stage, I invited CPO to Warsaw. He had face time with the teams and finally picked one. It was a fruitful day and I have seen that both sides were on the same grapevine. We were ready to start working.
We have prepared 3 stages of ramping up a team:
At first, Architect with one Senior Developer were to design a high-level architectural design of the platform. They’ve spent one week in Berlin working together with the client’s team. They had a chance to talk with business to better understand expectations.
After getting back to Warsaw they started designing platform components and creating tasks in Jira. We were ready to join the rest of the developers. On 1st September the whole team of 5 developers started working at full speed. Our Client was more than happy. So did I.
As per the client’s needs, we added to his team a part-time Senior DevOps Engineer to help with building automated pipelines. He used to work only two days per week and the client paid only for these hours (we have an hourly rate). We were also discussing to add a part-time Scrum Master.
HOW IS IT GOING NOW? HONEST FEEDBACK IS No 1
Today it has been six months since we have started to work together and our Client keeps asking for more. They are going to set up another team that will be responsible for new microservice. We are eager to start that cooperation soon.
P.S. Together with the Client we have hired an independent agency to do code review. The results were higher than expected. Currently, our team is teaching other client’s teams on how to write modular and concise code. It helps them to avoid technology debt and problematic code refactoring.
Our cooperation is based on true feedback. Thanks to that, we are able to make improvements and adjust to the client’s changing needs.
What did this Startup benefit from this cooperation?
- They no longer need to compete for IT talents in Berlin
- The risk of losing developers is far lower
- Much easier replacement
- Saved money on hiring full-time employees in Berlin
- Monthly fee per developer/team
- Free onboarding of new people (with at least 2-weeks overlapping)
- Office in the city center (10 mins by taxi to the airport)
Here you can find the example profiles of engineers you can build your team with:
And this might be your example Java Team:
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Here are TOP 10 Benefits of Building a Dev Team in Poland.
Something for you to consider…