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An interview with Solwey’s Andrew Drach – FiratNews

An interview with Solwey’s Andrew Drach – TechCrunch

Software program advisor Andrew Drach’s two corporations Callentis and Solwey exhibit his entrepreneurial abilities, however his shoppers additionally worth his instructional background, as we discovered by way of FiratNews’s survey to determine one of the best software program consultants for startups.

Telling us why her firm picked Solwey, eDiscovery Assistant’s Kelly Twigger cited “Andrew’s Ph.D. and analytical background associated to information,” in addition to the consulting experience for startups that he supplies.

Experience is just helpful when it’s carried out, although — and Solwey does this too, Twigger stated. “We don’t simply add duties to a Trello board for them to finish, we talk about the targets, why and the way finest to attain them with value/profit evaluation in thoughts.” This level was seconded by different survey respondents, so we reached out to Drach and his crew to be taught extra.

Editor’s notice: This interview has been edited for size and readability.

Are you able to inform us a bit about your current background and present corporations?

Andrew Drach: I’ve been doing consulting in engineering and software program on and off just about ever since I began coding. And after a couple of years working in academia, I spotted that I didn’t need to go the tenure-track school route. I informed my spouse [Monika Jociunaite] that as a lot as I used to be obsessed with science, I had determined to go away academia and develop freelance consulting into an company and that she ought to be a part of me.

Monika was an ideal co-founder with complementary expertise and talent set. Her background consists of two grasp’s levels — in worldwide enterprise and advertising — and he or she spent 5+ years working in giant worldwide companies. She was curious to discover a extra artistic facet of selling as she loved engaged on UX/UI initiatives prior to now; and I knew firsthand that for the tip customers, high-quality code with out good UX/UI is not any totally different from damaged code.

In December of 2016, Monika and I established two sister corporations: Solwey Consulting, centered on know-how technique and execution, UX/UI design and enterprise intelligence; and Callentis Consulting Group, a analysis and growth enterprise centered on translational analysis and know-how switch from academia to trade apply.

Extra particularly, Solwey supplies consulting in all phases of software program design and growth technique and execution. We work with our shoppers on structure and infrastructure design, optimization of UX/UI design and person flows, back-end and front-end software program growth for internet and cell, and enterprise intelligence/information analytics to allow our shoppers to quickly develop and transfer ahead.

Why did you select the boutique consultancy mannequin?

We each had strained experiences working with giant companies and staffing companies and feeling deserted or not necessary sufficient to have the total consideration of the managers or undertaking house owners. Moreover, we each had seen firsthand how terrifyingly crippling waterfall and damaged agile might be for the progress of a undertaking. So we got down to construct Solwey and Callentis as small-by-design companies. We immediately have interaction with our shoppers, and Monika and I take private accountability for each single deliverable from our crew.

How is your crew structured?

We needed to construct a virtual-first, remote-first company from day one. Whereas it appeared unconventional in pre-pandemic days, this allowed us to remain as lean as one of the best startups on the market, whereas drastically enhancing our hiring prospects. We’ve got been extremely fortunate with the expertise that joined our crew and to have fun a number of of our staff’ fourth anniversary whereas being only a five-year-old company.

At the moment, we have now eight full-time builders, a DevOps supervisor and our Chief Working Officer Nima [Kargah-Ostadi] who has a Ph.D. in engineering with a decade of expertise main engineering and analysis groups and is a licensed Venture Administration Skilled (PMP).

How have you ever been discovering shoppers?

After we began, I simply googled platforms for distant contracts for software program builders and registered on a couple of of them. In a few days, we had already bought a contract, so we instantly bought hooked on the freelancing platforms; Upwork was a main supply of initiatives as a result of it was so fast to discover a contract there. However over time as we grew and elevated the charges and crew measurement, Upwork grew to become much less of a match for us. These days, we get referrals from former shoppers, new contracts from returning shoppers, fairly a couple of requests from natural and paid search, and listings on B2B platforms like Clutch.

My focus in 2021 has been on diversifying our supply of leads and we have now been experimenting with many various approaches. To this point, the least profitable has been hiring enterprise growth reps and attempting out chilly outreach (emails and LinkedIn) however perhaps we have been simply doing it incorrect. On the opposite facet of the spectrum, we have now had nice success establishing partnerships with VC funds and advertising companies. Different approaches (social media, paid adverts, content material advertising, networking) additionally offered attention-grabbing outcomes.

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Are startups your important shoppers, and what do they require?

60% to 70% of our shoppers are startups or small corporations at numerous phases. We’ve got helped startups at pre-seed stage to create prototypes and information their know-how growth plans. At seed stage, we work with them to develop their minimal viable product (MVP), and in subsequent phases, we get to assist them with a few of their many newly fashioned initiatives.

A few of these corporations method us earlier than even having a know-how crew, some are beginning to rent and develop their growth crew, and a few have a totally staffed know-how crew that’s swamped with current work and can’t tackle extra initiatives.

We at all times try to assist startups rent and full their know-how crew, particularly if they’ve an concept that revolves round know-how. In actual fact, I’ve served as interim chief know-how officer (CTO) for 3 startups.

Why do you assume structure design recommendation is necessary?

Early-stage shoppers are usually centered on their MVP and launch schedules. Too usually, we have to stroll this delicate path of serving to them transfer as quick as attainable to beat the competitors and impress their buyers, whereas on the similar time attempt to cease them from dashing into architectural or technique choices that would come again to chew them laborious when it’s time to improve some options, add new performance, iterate or aggressively scale. In the meantime, we’re doing our greatest to offer steering, forestall some widespread points and clarify why early investments in structure or formal operational processes would assist in the close to future.

We are inclined to focus our suggestions on the time span of roughly six to 12 months in order that we don’t get caught with untimely optimization. A custom-tailored architectural design permits for a extra environment friendly growth course of, quick iteration and will get to the strong and scalable software program answer leaner and with fewer bumps alongside the best way.

What’s your billing mannequin?

Monika and I strongly imagine that transparency and easy-to-understand billing have helped us so much in constructing belief and powerful relationships with our shoppers. We use a project-based billing mannequin with a flat hourly charge.

In the course of the preliminary diagnostic conversations with our potential shoppers, we attempt to perceive their priorities and carve out an inexpensive scope for initiatives divided into stepwise phases. Nima and I then put collectively a Gantt chart to visualise a sensible schedule of duties and estimate the variety of hours it could take to design, develop, take a look at and deploy the anticipated answer given shopper and useful resource situations. The proposed price range is solely this variety of hours multiplied by our hourly flat charge, which incorporates all overhead prices.

What’s your typical timeline?

For a typical startup product that’s at preliminary phases of creating an MVP, we usually advocate two weeks for discovery and necessities gathering, 4 weeks for UX/UI design together with infrastructure and structure design, eight weeks for agile growth and steady testing to implement the main performance and at last two weeks for deploying the MVP answer and last-minute tweaks.

Solwey's timeline

Picture Credit: Solwey

We work with our shoppers to postpone any duties that have been collectively recognized as non-blocking or non-critical to maintain the MVP lean sufficient to have a profitable launch inside such a brief timeline. It is because in our expertise, 4 months is lengthy sufficient time to develop most MVPs and quick sufficient to allow fast launch and get a lot wanted suggestions from customers and buyers that assure the success of the startup in subsequent phases.

Two of your shoppers talked about coming to you after not-so-great experiences with different corporations. May you clarify what that is like? And do you’ve any recommendation for startups desirous to keep away from unhealthy experiences?

The very very first thing I inform our shoppers within the diagnostics name, is that typically issues don’t work out, however their destructive expertise doesn’t imply that working with exterior groups is at all times going to fail or that their earlier know-how companion was unqualified or had unhealthy intentions. I joke typically that our crew ought to be known as “iteration #3.” A majority of initiatives that we take over often went by way of two iterations: as soon as with an company exterior of america, as a consequence of cheaper charges, and one other time with a junior or midlevel freelancer. And whereas there may be completely nothing incorrect with both method, founders are inclined to underestimate the extent of hands-on coordination required to finish the undertaking in these situations.

Recommendation on avoiding a nasty expertise? Setting clear expectations and communication. Whether or not a startup is engaged with a staff-augmentation company, or a brief rent, or a freelancer, or an company like us, all of it boils all the way down to having clear delineation of duties and frequent check-ins to make sure that any potential points floor shortly and the crew can pivot shortly. Will there be sudden points, delays, issues? Definitely. But it surely issues how these obstacles are communicated and addressed.

Do you’ve any ideas on faux agile versus actual agile? And why do you imagine within the latter?

In my view, the phrase “agile” has been loosely utilized to many various approaches and techniques to handle initiatives so the dialogue of “faux” versus “actual” agile is difficult with no particular context or instance. By means of our interactions with totally different groups, we have now encountered instances when the agile course of ended up being extraordinarily inefficient for a variety of causes. Typically, a supervisor or crew lead could be laser-focused on agile ceremonies designed for big distributed groups whereas the full crew measurement is simply two builders working in the identical room. In different instances, the method was set to be so fluid that the priorities would shift a number of instances a day. And typically, the crew would outline weekly or biweekly sprints, however then would have a inflexible quarterly plan that appears precisely like a waterfall method.

To be sincere, I’m not positive that our course of would fall into the strict definition of agile as a result of we alter it and attempt to accommodate shopper preferences to cut back any potential friction. We’ve got a number of necessary necessities, together with day by day check-ins with our designers and builders, weekly sprints with well-defined duties, common launch schedules, steady integration flows, striving to have design belongings be prepared 1-2 sprints forward of growth, and so forth. However past these, we do our greatest to accommodate and supply suggestions to the shopper as the method could be fairly totally different for a one-person crew versus a late-stage startup with dozens of crew members unfold throughout a number of time zones.

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