Showdigs: The future of software development is remote
It’s inevitable. Deny it or be angry at, but millennials are dictating market rules. They live on-the-go and want services right here and right now. Big-league startups like WeWork, Airbnb, and Uber all managed to hit the target and in the hearts and minds of this particular audience.
New startups should have to do even better to come up with really fresh ideas. One of our clients has accepted this challenge. They are changing the way people find and rent apartments.
Showdigs, a Seattle-based real estate startup, reframes the usual process of showing and renting properties. Their platform enables users to schedule property tours with a trusted broker within minutes and without hassle.
Kobi Bensimon, CEO, and Ohad Ron, VP of Product, spoke with iTechArt about what underpins their solution and shared some plans for the future.
It’s always nice to host clients at our development center in Belarus. Is it your first time here?
Ohad: Actually it’s my third time here. I worked with another company here in Minsk. We had a product team and management in Israel and a development team here in Minsk. It’s actually great to see how the country evolved in the last 3 years and it’s great to be back.
Kobi: This is my first visit. Everyone seems very nice. There is this notion about Eastern Europe and Russia that people are reserved to foreigners and so I can say that this is not my experience so far.
In a recent press release dedicated to the latest funding round, it was stated that you’re running an Uber-like model. Could you please tell us more about the platform you’re building?
Kobi: We help people in the US rent apartments. When searching for a home, there are a lot of options and usually people can look through lots of listings online, but to schedule a time to go and look at the place takes days. So this is the process we’re trying to modernize.
We allow people to find a home for rent online and in just 30 minutes we’ll find someone to meet them and show the place. So that’s where the Uber comparison comes from: people don’t need to plan ahead too much and can rent that place much faster and in a more convenient way.
How was the idea born?
Kobi: I’ve been working in the real estate space for many years. Talking to people who own houses and people who are renting the houses, we identified the major pain points and came up with ideas to address them.
You launched your platform back in November. In terms of platform and geographical expansion what plans do you have for this year?
Kobi: Currently our solution is available in one area in the US. This year is going to be all about getting the fundamentals: make sure the product works, finetune how it works, and adjust the business model. The hope is that we can make it work really well this year in one area so that next year we can focus on other markets.
Across the US or globally?
Kobi: There is a lot of work we need to do, so for now our focus is the US. Canada is also a very similar market. We still have to do work to see if it’s a good fit for other markets such as Europe or Asia.
Do you have lots of competitors? How does the iTechArt team help you gain the competitive advantage?
Kobi: We have some competitors who don’t do exactly what we do, but they are trying to solve the same issue.
Like any technology company building a product, getting it from an idea to a solution that you can sell is very difficult. And the sooner you can go out to market with a solution, the sooner you know what works.
Having you guys as partners helps us build our solution very quickly. It’s now tough in the US to find engineers, as there is a lot of competition. Finding a partner who can help us build our product and do it quickly is very important, especially at the early stages.
What are the main business and technology challenges your company faces?
Kobi: We have an idea of how the product should work, but the moment we start having users and clients, they are telling us a whole different story. We have to be very nimble and flexible in making, adopting and changing.
We are not creating something brand-new and most people don’t even realize they need it. So they are not even searching for the solution. I would say the main challenge is to market ourselves and to educate people on why they need us.
You never know until you try, right?
Kobi: Yes, and the point is that we don’t have other players. I would actually like to have more competitors that are not really good to share this “education” cost.
Ohad: ...or competitors who are not as good as we are. The Showdigs technological part itself isn’t very complex but we have a lot of interfaces and different user roles so we need to be good about design and user interfaces. If we don’t do it well, our product will not succeed.
Speaking about the tech stack, what technologies do you use and what made you choose them?
Kobi: We use PHP and Laravel in the backend, Vue.js in the frontend, and React Native for a mobile app. Basically, we didn’t want to choose something too exotic, but rather something that is simple and time-tested to get the job done.
Ohad: We were looking at wide spread technologies so we could hire good people easily, find the right talent.
To stay competitive, even if you don’t have lots of competitors, it’s vital to have a great engineering team. Does the iTechArt team meet your expectations?
Kobi: They are very dedicated to the product and care very much about it. And that’s what lies at the core of every great engineer - wanting the company to succeed. Once you have that, the rest is relatively easy.
Is this the first time you’ve worked with a dedicated team?
Kobi: I used to work at companies where part of my team was on the West Coast of the US. I really believe that remote teams are the future. I see no point in limiting ourselves to only work with people from one nationality or country. If the whole company is committed to being remote, adopt the right tools and have the whole process designed around that idea and then there are more chances to succeed. We followed that approach from the beginning.
What made you choose iTechArt? What were the key points you were looking for while choosing a partner?
Kobi: We were looking for a partner who has access to good talent, who can help us hire and, mostly, retain engineers in a flexible way. If we need to add a developer - it doesn’t take months. Also, we like that you involve us in the hiring process. It’s not that you’re like...Hey, here’s a developer….
Kobi: [Laughs.] Yeah, we partner together to find the right talent and that also means that we feel responsibility because we picked them, right? It’s nice to make sure we onboard them, train them… and that’s something we like about your model.
If you had a friend who is going to launch a startup, would you recommend iTechArt to this friend or not?
Kobi: I would recommend especially if that person is not very technical themselves. Sometimes you have a great idea but have no clue how to build the product.
And without a tech person?
Kobi: Yes! I think for those people iTechArt is perfect. So, in one partner they get a lot of skills, otherwise we have to hire 5 different consultants or employees. I think it’s a very good solution for early-stage startups.
The Venture Capital that invested in us...I actually was telling them that they should tell all their portfolio companies about you guys because everyone in Seattle is struggling with talent.
A word from the team…
Showdigs (in the middle) and its team from iTechart
Anton Skibsky, Full-stack engineer
As a full-stack developer, I appreciate the opportunity to try my hand at diverse and sometimes tricky tasks. The backend part is my fave since I’m a huge fan of Laravel and Vue.js.
About 40% percent of the development is about digging into a business logic behind it and trying to find the most efficient solution. You have to fully understand the project, mission, and the people behind it. It may sound cliche, but teamwork is really crucial and that’s how things really work here.
Alexey Ladutska, Full-stack engineer
Really enjoyed working with the super productive team. At this project, opportunities for the frontend, backend and DevOps are limitless. I’ve already been involved in the development of new platform features, created autotests to ensure the solution stable performance, and set up CI/CD processes.
Nicolay Arefyev, Mobile engineer
At the mobile part of the project, we follow this well-known “get mobile or get lost” approach. Developing both iOS and Android apps helps a company stay connected with its users and provide crucial real-time updates.