Borschification in progress

The Carphatians

I am sure you all have noticed that these are tough days for Ukraine and its hard working people. We sincerely hope that the current political crisis will soon be solved in a peaceful way, that will allow us all to look forward to a brighter future which this country both deserves and has the potential of creating. In the meantime, our own commitment stays unchanged and focused on building up Beetroot, and in this way contributing as a bridging factor with increased value exchange and communication across borders. In that respect we are happy to update you with some good news from our location down in Odessa.

17 months after we rolled into Kiev with our Lada, the Beetroot is bigger and growing faster than ever. We have also spent enough time in Ukraine to start to get an understanding on how things are working, from everyday practicalities to specifics of the local IT market. The recent Christmas and New Year break gave, just in-line with its purpose, some time to look back and reflect on things as well as building up energy to be unleashed this coming year.

New office

A few months ago, we once again grew out of our old office and moved to a new, more spacious one in the center of Odessa. Each move to a new office undoubtedly gives a boost to the whole team, not only because of increased space and change of environment but also the feeling of growth and the “climbing-the-ladder” effect. Our new Beetroot “garden” has a very cozy atmosphere which makes us all feel like home while at work. We have our own entrance, kitchen, shower, meeting rooms as well as two floors which will allow us to grow in peace for a while. Of course we kicked off work in the new office with a big party with lots of friends and colleagues invited! The party was preceded by a seminar where some of our guests presented their activities and shared some thoughts on different topics, both technical and business related.

During the autumn we launched our new Beetroot website to be more up to date with our present state and capabilities. All comments, suggestions and feedback regarding the site are more than welcome. Sometimes you get blind by working to much in your own garden and second and third opinions are very important.

To give you a view of our activities and what Beetroot is today, here are some numbers and quick facts

Beetroot so far:
– done 4 office upgrades
– 18 persons working in our Odessa office
– another 15 developers and designers engaged in 7 partner teams in Chisinau, Kharkov and Kiev.
– 6 open positions to be filled in Odessa within the coming month
– 25+ clients
– clients from 7 countries
– had 1000+ travelling hours on trains, buses and planes to make everything work
– kicked of the development of our own project deskhive.com together with partners. An Airbnb-like platform for short-term office space rental with beta launch in March 2014

Some of our humble plans for the rest of 2014 are (in an non-quantified format)
– Continue a stable and organic growth both in Odessa and through our project teams thanks to close partnerships with our clients
– Increase the capacity and quality in our focus areas (both technology and client wise)
– Increase our local presence in targeted client markets
– Continue to work with improvements of working environment and chances of personal and professional growth for the whole team.
– Much more which you will see during the coming year:)

BukovelIn other words, the journey continues and there are exciting times ahead! I myself kicked off the year with a train tour through Europe meeting resellers, existing and potential clients as well as some good old friends. I started off with a couple stops in Germany, went down to the French alps for a few days of skiing, continued to Switzerland and last but not least, had a massive trip back to Ukraine through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary. Trains trip can be very enjoyable and even productive, as long as you prepare some “offline work” to be done in the free-from-disturbance environment a train can offer. The past weekend was spent with a big part of the Beetroot team in Bukovel in the Carpathians, a first skiing experience for some and great team building for us all.

We will try to keep you up to date with what’s happening a little more regularly than in the past (not a promise, but an ambition). Good luck everyone and stay tuned!

1 year anniversary

Bambam! 16th of September was Beetroot’s first year birthday, counted as our day of arrival to Kiev one year ago and symbolized by our long Lada trip between St Petersburg and Kiev. It was celebrated with a small and genuine champagne ceremony at the beach in Odessa.  It’s time for a summary and a general status update on how things are developing by the black sea.

Let’s start with filling you in on the past three summer months. The Rootbeet blog has been sleeping while the Beetroot and we have been doing quite the opposite. Odessa is obviously a wonderful place in the summer and so thought many of our friends and acquaintances who decided to visit us and the “pearl by the sea”. We would have done really well as a hostel here with constant batches of friends, families, clients and others passing by for some days to enjoy sunny and cosy Odessa. We counted at least 8 nationalities hosted in our flat at some point. This really made the summer for us with plenty of memorable and happy moments. It also helped us to take some mini-vacations here and there and helped us not to spend all our awake time working, which otherwise would have been a very likely scenario. 🙂

When it comes to Beetroot, we’re growing up. We’ve been just a baby before, but this summer, we took some major steps towards a more mature childhood. Together with a number of key clients we have been focusing the summer on recruiting new Beetroots to the team and we feel both lucky and privileged that we already have such a dynamic and great team of people in Odessa. Each developer is in direct communication with their client, current clients working in a range between website building for web studios, exciting start-ups and educational platforms for some of the largest companies in Swedish.

The office in Chernomorets football stadium which, when we moved there in May, felt like a place where we could grow for a while is now almost full. We are 13 people at today’s date and a few more to be integrated in the team before we move out in the end of October. We expect to sign a new “Beetroot garden” (office) in the nearest future, but we’ll spare you the details until they are fixed.

Parallel to taking care of our Odessa “headgarden”, we are also deepening the cooperation with our Moldovan project partners where now around 15 developers are working with Beetroot client projects. We often enter these projects when they are in a very early stage, meaning that an important part of what we do is working out definitions of the scope and development plans together with clients, needless to say, a very stimulating process.

Over the past year, we now and then got the question if we deal with design services. For a long time the answer was no, mainly because we hadn’t found designers who were good enough and at the same time with the possibility to smoothly integrate into our model.  But for last couple of months, we are comfortable in answering yes to design requests. We have set up a small Beetroot Creative Studio in Chisinau together with one of Moldova’s most skilled and progressive designers. The first delivery will be our own new Beetroot website which will be launched in the next couple of weeks! And the Creative Director himself, Dima, is in Stockholm as we speak, designing the new website of a prominent consultancy company. A site which will be constructed in Moldova during the autumn. Since July we are also testing out working with a skilled team of designers in Kiev. While design and development often goes hand in hand, specifics of the work processes differ quite bit. That’s why we are in a stage of experimentation when it comes to the design services, much like the stage we were at for development services during last autumn.

Something else in the category of important, interesting and exciting news is our cooperation with a team in Kharkov highly skilled in iOS development. We are now engaging a couple of developers in building apps for people with disabilities for a Swedish client as well as building an app for an American start-up. Together with this team we can offer very premium iOS development and we are looking to work closer and closer with our friends in Kharkov during the autumn and winter.

Having summarized the Beetroot news, I would also like to mention a milestone in my own life. In the end of May I graduated from Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) which mean I am officially a Master of engineering with a focus on technology based entrepreneurship. CSE has been an invaluable base of support during the past year and creating my master thesis forced me into thinking about some things concerning Beetroot in a wider way. For anyone interested in a detailed summary on how we came to a location decision for Beetroot, how we worked out our different models etc., just contact me and I’ll send over a copy of my paper “Assessment of IT outsourcing locations within CIS, a field study in Ukraine and Moldova”.

That’s all for now, stay tuned and we’ll try to keep you more regularly posted on our progress and experiences during the coming autumn. For now, we are just concluding that the first year for Beetroot has been way over expectations, and we consequently have high expectations for the upcoming year, which we will be trying to overachieve as well. 🙂

Getting to know Odessa

The first 4 Beetroot days in Odessa was focused on getting a grip of the place, both as a city and as a Beetroot location.  As Gustav already spent a month here 1,5 years ago, it was up to me to approve the location. Result: Approved.

Odessa offered a rather warm welcome for the season with some 8 degrees and sun during the Monday when we celebrated Yana’s birthday walking around the streets of Odessa. It has a comfortable wibe, beautiful architecture as well as warm hearted people who love to make a joke now and then. Having gone through a number of meetings with developers, small IT companies as well as the local incubator Wannabiz, I am also convinced that this is the right place to continue to build Beetroot both when it comes to IT outsourcing and our broader vision. For Beetroot’s account it has also been a good and busy week with positive developments in several directions.

One of the main tasks of the week was to search for a place to live. We did this using some of the local broker services. You call a woman, tell what you want, they search for it among their contacts and then call you back, any time of the day, for any reason.  Making phone calls seems to be the main value creating activity for these brokers and every meeting should be booked, confirmed, rebooked, time-changed, place-changed, confirmed again, and of course followed up on, preferably before the meeting has ended so that the follow up can be followed up. 92 phone calls and 6 flat visits (yes, an average of 15.3 calls per flat) led to results though; we have a flat in Odessa, which should offer a comfortable living for quite some time to come. It even offers a guest room, so friends, very welcome!

Fryday W

Fryday

FrydayThe Fryday event was enjoyable as always, and this time extra valuable for Beetroot when being an official partner of the event together with the other “well known Swedish brands”.  We heard an interesting presentation from the Swedish ambassador and we got a chance to mingle around with both Swedish and local business people in Kiev. Great fun!

A relocation on the way…

I am writing on the bus between Lidköping and Göteborg. For once, I have spent a day at our official office address back in Sweden, I will spend another two later this week, doing some sales activities and paper work. I came back to Sweden on Friday last week after having spent two productive weeks in Ukraine. After some time for reflection over New Year, we spent a full day mini-conference to reflect backwards and plan our time forward in more detail. The biggest outcome was a decision for a relocation. By the end of February, we will leave Kiev and relocate to Odessa. Why? Because putting all the parameters on the table, it makes sense for us to do so… It has a slightly lower geographical availability seen from Sweden but it has better location seen from the perspective of where most of our Ukrainian and Moldovan development resources are located at the moment. Weighting costs, skills and a couple of other factors together Odessa itself should also give us a  competitive advantage. Kiev will be missed, but not lost, there will be plenty of visits to Kiev and we intend to keep the good collaborations as well as friends we have made there. One of the later collaborations is the mentorship role both me and Gustav have taken at Eastlabs. Eastlabs is a start up accelerator based in Kiev which invests in, and help out hi-tech start-ups at the very first steps of their operations. As mentors, me and Gustav hope to be able to exchange some ideas with these bright minded entrepreneurs.

After spending a week in January in Kiev, we jumped onto two different night trains. Gustav’s taking him to Chisinau, where a bigger project as well as few good leads is about to get going. Mine taking me back to the very first location of our journey – Kharkov, also for client requests, but also to build stronger ties to our partner teams. We are happy to announce an official collaboration on Python development with anvil8.com. I also got the chance to try the Kharkov ski-slope not fully convincing called “Switzerland”,  but still offering a good amount of fun together with the Anvil8 team.

On the 29th I will fly back to Kiev, and on the 30th Beetroot will be representing Swedish entrepreneurship in Ukraine at the Frydays event “Swedish Business in Ukraine”.  Before that I will enjoy the IT Innovations Expo fair in Göteborg as well as meeting my group mates at Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship.

So long!

Wrapping up the year

Some of you, who read my tearful farewell of the Lada, and then have seen that I haven’t updated the blog at all for almost 2 months, might have thought that I went down in some kind of a Lada missing depression. While I truly miss the Lada, the real answer to why there has been no blogging lately is that we have been extraordinarily busy, mainly in a good way, but also with trying to recover from some kind of a Virus that has been hunting me ever since the last Lada journey and only now have decided to leave for good (let’s hope). Looking back at the past two months, they seem to be some of the most value creating so far for Beetroot with a couple of major milestones achieved and some good enrichment of experience (take a look at the posts“Kick start in Zaporizhya”, ”Mapping the Moldovan IT environment”and “Visits and getting back to Gothenburg”). Here is a wrap up of this year:

Around three and a half months has passed since we arrived to Kiev with our things packed in an old Lada, some contacts and a rough idea of what we were going to set up in Ukraine.  Personally I feel that I have grown a year or two in experience, and I even need to take a look at my own blog to get an overview of what we have done. We started with a lot of lose threads, a lot of visions and a cloud of ideas, and have been working hard to nail down our concept while dealing with practical matters of everyday life and business. If to look at some of the goals we set up early in the process, we are business wise slightly ahead of where we ambitiously aimed to be at this point. We have a handful of clients who we feel that we deliver good value to with our 12 active team members covering up for around 8  full time positions. Our most important people, our developers and specialists get market oriented salaries, forgetting the small detail that me and Gustav are yet to receive our first pay check, our numbers look good as well.

This autumn, just about everything has circled around work, which was well needed. We left for Christmas holidays with a good base to stand on, some good reason to relax a bit and with a rather clear picture of what direction we are moving in. It hasn’t been much time for non work discoveries though, and while the spring will mean plenty of hard work, it’s also time to balance the time a bit more. It’s probably about time to move up from the floor, out of the office and leave the LAN party state.

2013 is expected to be full of challenges, and things will take new and surprising directions in one way or another, it’s just not worth guessing too much about it at this point, but staying alert, focus at doing a good job and developing Beetroot well, rather than fast. For
the experience base, I see only a fast line though.

Mapping the Moldovan IT environment

We just couldn’t get enough of night trains to interesting places, so after having spent one night back in Kiev we hit the rails again for an 18 hours train ride to Moldova. It happened to be the guest workers train taking Moldovan workers from Moscow back to their families. We found the train to be pretty empty, got our own coupe and got a good catch up of sleep before we reached the border. The Moldovan border guards were by far the nicest we ever met, and the pleasant experience of Moldova continued throughout the week. One reason why we went to Chisinau was an invitation from a friend at the Swedish embassy in Moldova, who I met a couple of weeks earlier in Moscow. He thought that it might be a good idea to research our opportunities Chisinau  he was right. He connected us with some key persons from the IT industry and we did our homework well, after a week packed with meetings, the feeling was that we had met pretty much a majority of the interesting collaboration partners within IT in Moldova (we started to feel sure of this when they started cross referring to each other). We found the potential for us here to be great, from a short term perspective maybe even slightly better than in Ukraine and to make long story short, Beetroot now has operations in both Ukraine and Moldova, and plan to continue on that route. Being active in two countries has both drawbacks and benefits, but for now, with the different set of opportunities that each country gives, as well as the risk limitation effects, the benefits are more.

Chisinau would surprise most first time visitors arriving with a package of the most common western prejudices about Eastern Europe, I was surprised myself even though I consider my package of Eastern European prejudices to be smaller than most westerners. The general language knowledge is impressively high with the younger generation typically knowing at least 3 languages, Moldovan, Russian and English/Italian/French/German. A strong proof of the Moldovan talent for languages is the Swedish company Samres. They have set up a call centre in Chisinau where 80 Moldovans are employed to speak Swedish on the phone with Swedish elders ordering transportation  We were already informed about this phenomenon by Gustav’s grandmother who uses their services, but where happy to be invited to take a look. We were stunned by the slightly surrealistic experience to hear young educated Moldovans speak our native language, knowing that many of them have yet to visit Sweden. Another interesting clash of impressions came on the train back to Kiev, passing by small villages that didn’t look to add too much to the overall GDP, we enjoyed super fast data traffic on our mobiles. Moldova has one of the fastest internet speeds in Europe, partly thanks to Telia Sonera owned Moldcell. While writing this I am in a small French village, and longing back to Moldovan mobile internet speeds.

Kick start in Zaporizhya

We spent a full week in the city Zaporizhya (ZP), where we kick started a new Beetroot team of 4 for an important client. The search of the right team for this client really gave us a wake-up call in terms of strategy since we did found it harder than we had expected to fulfill their needs with a reasonable cost for us and them, if to do it in Kiev. This made us search our way further out in the regions, and we landed in ZP thanks to Anton, a friend, and nowadays business partner, Gustav met on a conference in Kiev a couple of weeks earlier. From the week we spent in ZP, only good memories remains. We where warmly welcomed to stay in the home of Anton and his wife Oksana, and we soon got a close and great relation to the whole new Beetroot team after integrating into the office environment. An intensive week of team building, interviews, tests, negotiations and contracts passed with satisfying results for all parties. We could even afford ourselves to visit a Bachelors party for a good friend of Anton as well as a visit to a very special house where local artists have decided to settle and live.

ZP is a very industrial city, unfortunately with some work to be done on the emission side, but also with a wonderful island park called Khortytsia which we gave a visit. Next time I hope to visit some of the more industrial sites such as the ZAZ car factory, which used to produce the classical Zaporozhets cars, but that now produces for some of the Asian brands. Also the airplane engine producers Motor Sich that produces various engines mainly for the CIS markets is of great interest. In terms of our company strategy, it has become obvious to us that the place to be for IT outsourcing purposes is rather in the regions than in the capital, at least for two highly flexible and dynamic young entrepreneurs who are ready to get onto a nightrain in any direction when needed. One positive side effect of this is that we are “forced” to learn and get first hand experiences from various interesting locations.  My 60 ECTS master thesis which is in production will be largely focused at mapping out various mid-sized cities in Ukraine and Moldova in terms of feasibility for IT outsourcing from the perspective of a small Swedish start up. Moldova? Yeah… that’s where much of our December focus will be.

Speaker at the Open Innovation Forum, Moscow

What an ambitious event! The Russian government with prime minister Dmitriy Medvedev had really put a lot of effort into making the Open Innovation Forum in Moscow a truly prestigious one with guests such as, the prime minister himself, entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson, various ministers of both Russia and other countries, company leaders as the CEO of Ericsson Hans Vestberg and leading people in the fields of science and innovation. I was selected to take part as one out of 100 young innovators, 50 Russian and 50 international. I have rarely met so many interesting people at one place so I really tried to maximize the time spent in communication with people. Four days is a short time, but I managed to get a lot out of it, spending quality time and exchanging ideas with innovators and entrepreneurs from both Russia and abroad. I took the chance to walk around the exhibition area to speak with Russian high tech companies as well as business incubators and technology innovation centers from all over Russia. I just counted my collection of business cards to some 50 pieces, from which at least 20 goes into the category of “very interesting to follow up on” people. At least a couple of those are potential customers for Beetroot and many are interesting from a long term perspective.  So, work still to do there… Richard Branson gave a good advice during his Q&A session, whenever you meet people who you find interesting, let them know that by dropping them just a line or two over email when you come home, and you can come back to the same persons even a few years later in some cases.

My speech? Yes I had it, I as one of the lucky few from the youth forum section to get to present my project in front of innovators and entrepreneurs. The 7 min I was supposed to speak was shortened to 5 because of some time schedule issues. I did my best though, and made a passionate presentation about my first meeting with Russia, the fascination that kept me learning and discovering more in the following 3 years, Beetroot resources business model and vision as well as a few words about exchange in innovation focusing on Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship. I felt that the whole thing was a bit squeezed because of the time limit, but at least I got good response and feedback from people afterwards.

Summarizing a week in Gothenburg

5 days passes fast when you have a busy schedule, I had filled it with some family quality time as well as meetings with clients, potential clients and sales partners. I also spent a full day at the Encubator, it’s an open office space with some 35 bright entrepreneurs are working hard with forming a business case around their technology based innovations for commercialization. Being there for just one day gave a great injection of inspiration for me, knowing that some of the concepts formed here will rise as successful tech start ups with my friends and group mates at the steering wheel.  A special thanks to the team “super fast wireless data transfer” for lending me a work space.

Beetroot took some big steps forward this week as some of the leads that was generated early in time has started to pay off, with a couple of projects started with new clients and also some delivers to happy clients. Writing this, I am at the bus between Warsaw and the Ukrainian border, which means I did catch both my plane and the bus without making any drama this time. We have an exciting week to come with our German partners sourcingbull.de visiting for a couple of days, some delivery to be made and a new sales approach to be tried out starting tomorrow. My girlfriend will also be in town, adding to our forces, as well as working at the Kiev film festival.