5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS, with Marcelo Lopez and Mitch Russo

Do you know your business could be much bigger than it currently is, but aren’t sure how to get there? I can help!

Improve your confidence and the confidence you have in others. In yourself, because it’s important to believe in your ideas and know that you have the capacity to achieve all of your goals. But also in others because you will only achieve those objectives if you surround yourself with people that can complement you, bring different points of view and even challenge you. Those are the people who you should trust to make you see things you haven’t seen before and to help you to go further from your comfort zone.

As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcelo Lopez. Marcelo is the CEO and co-founder of UruIT, a nearshore software development company. He has also founded other tech companies in which he’s now a board member, such as CRMGamified, Conexio Group and NearSure. During the last 15 years, Marcelo has worked in distributed teams and Agile development projects, being able to learn about the software industry from different perspectives and roles including software development, project management, marketing, sales, and more. His main goal is to connect startups and established product companies in the US with some of the best tech talent available in South America.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I am a cofounder and the CEO of UruIT, a software development company from South America that has been creating web & mobile applications for the US for over 10 years now. I’m also a Software Engineer. My parents gave me a computer for my 7th birthday, and that’s when I started falling in love with technology. I like programming and that’s how I first got into this industry, but then I grew more and more interested in management. That led me to engage in an Entrepreneurship Program at the Columbia Business School. I believe that technology can improve people’s lives and that’s why I decided to pursue a career in IT. During the last 12 years I have worked in distributed teams and Agile development projects, in areas such as software development, management, marketing, sales and others.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

My friend, Iang Yim, and I started UruIT in his garage in Uruguay back in 2007. We met in 2004 while working for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), helping to grow the branch that was serving the US market remotely. We learned a lot about running offshore deliveries in an effective way, but as software engineers, we realized that it was possible to deliver even better quality products.

It was 2007 and Latin America’s outsourcing capabilities were in its early stages. We decided to leave TCS and create our own company where we could work in a different way, in a less hierarchical and bureaucratic scheme than that of multinational companies. Our dream was to create a more flexible and innovative place, putting our focus on the clients and their needs by using great technology and never compromising quality over growth. It’s kind of a boutique service. One of our first clients was Microsoft, so we like to think we somehow started off on the right foot!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I can say for sure that we had a lot of tough times since we started UruIT. However, I never considered giving up. I believe that from any bad situation we can take an important lesson that will be vital for our growth in the future. Let me give you an example.

In 2010 we created an UruIT spinoff. This new business unit was focused on a product, an application that incorporated gamification techniques with existing CRMs, allowing companies to boost sales. We thought we had the best idea in the world and dedicated significant resources to create this app. Once it was ready, we couldn’t understand why it wasn’t taking off the way we had imagined.

Despite this, there was one feature of our app that was connecting exceptionally well with its users. Soon enough, it hit us: the users were telling us what they truly wanted! And it wasn’t what we had assumed. From this mistake, we learned that we should always start by understanding the market, and not just imagining what people may need. Go and ask users, instead of deciding for them. This is a new approach that we learned from there and that we started putting into practice in all of our projects from that day on.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are good and challenging, as always! We just opened our third office in South America, more precisely in Bogotá, Colombia. Besides this location, we’re around 60 professionals in Montevideo (Uruguay) and 30 more in Medellín (Colombia). The team is growing and we envision more employees and projects in the near future. The idea of reinventing ourselves constantly to keep providing better services and developing Latin American talent is what drives us.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

A really silly mistake we did when first getting things started was not hiring an accountant from day one. We soon realized that the lack of someone who really knows their finances could have an enormous negative impact on the company. Also, looking back we should have invested in sales sooner and accepted investors when they offered funding at the very beginning. I think all these things have to do with feeling insecure about letting other people be part of what we were creating with so much hard work. Over the years, I’ve realized that it’s best to bring people in and trust that the professionals in each area can take care of their work.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

UruIT’s main differential is its people. We have very talented professionals that feel motivated and believe in themselves and their work. That’s the recipe for achieving great things, in my opinion. I could tell you several stories in which our teams have shined, but there’s no one better to share their opinion on this subject than our clients. This is a quote from one of them, the CPO of Building Engines: “In addition to providing top-notch development resources, UruIT was able to scale a team very quickly to meet client needs. They continue to contribute a lot of value to many products, producing quality, testable code alongside internal scrum teams.” Listening to this kind of testimony makes us so proud! At UruIT we strive for creating an enjoyable and inspiring environment, where people are glad and feel they have everything they need to be the best version of themselves.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

In my opinion, every entrepreneur should, from day one, cultivate a work culture in which people believe in what they are doing and their capacity to bring value to the project. To achieve this goal, it’s important to keep reinvesting in the company to continue to grow. In our case, UruIT is a horizontal organization where you can find yourself working in very autonomous teams with a strong focus on collaboration. Anyone can participate in our company’s varying projects and activities — from presales to marketing — and this collaboration has fueled our growth all of this time. Also, we strive to offer time and space so people can have a great work-life balance. Everyone works hard, but they all deserve to rest and play a little foosball every now and then. This is what allows us to reinvent ourselves constantly and have fresh ideas every time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes, there are several people I’m grateful to have met and worked with during these years. If I have to choose one, I’d like to name my former boss in TCS, Martín Machín. Iang and I were working under his leadership in Tata and when we shared with him our plans of starting our own business, he was incredibly supportive. In fact, he was the one who put us in touch with Microsoft, who ended up being our first client. We appreciated his help and sympathy a lot and still do.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many clients your company currently has? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

Since 2007, we have helped more than 100 brands, startups and SaaS companies in the US bring their digital products to life. We have worked on the creation of very diverse applications, from a telecom e-commerce portal, to a content analysis tool directed towards marketers, as well as a SaaS rewrite for the Commercial Real Estate industry. Nowadays, we are working on more than 15 development projects, web and mobile products from a variety of industries such as telecommunications, CRE, sports, healthcare, and personal development.

In order to transform a business idea into an established company, I’d recommend following three simple rules: foster clear and simple communication within your team, hire the right roles to support you down the road, and go after opportunities all the time — don’t wait for them to come knocking on your door.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We offer basically two engagement models to our clients: we can scale their development team or be their entire development team. From our first conversations, we present a custom proposal for each of our clients so we can agree on commercial terms at the very beginning of the nearshore partnership. We work with a Time & Materials model, with a budget cap as well as a flexible scope. We believe this model works best for both us and the client, since it gives the team flexibility and encourages a work culture based on prioritization and value-orientation.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.

First of all, communication is key. At UruIT, our foundation for success is built upon fluid and transparent communication. So frequent communication among our teams is very important and it shouldn’t matter if team members are in the same room or in different countries. Apps like Slack and Zoom facilitate our daily work by giving us the feeling as if we were side by side.

Secondly, always assume feedback is gold. In the example I gave above, the story of our spin-off, you can see it clearly. We don’t have all the answers, so it’s important to listen to others. From their opinions we can find brand new possibilities!

Third is that crazy ideas can be scary, but you should try them anyway. Personally, I encourage every UruITer to try new things and not give in to the fear of failing. The best way to learn and grow is trying new things and even if they don’t go as you expect, you will learn something anyway.

Fourth, improve your confidence and the confidence you have in others. In yourself, because it’s important to believe in your ideas and know that you have the capacity to achieve all of your goals. But also in others because you will only achieve those objectives if you surround yourself with people that can complement you, bring different points of view and even challenge you. Those are the people who you should trust to make you see things you haven’t seen before and to help you to go further from your comfort zone.

And finally, dedicate time for yourself. One of my favorite habits is practicing mindfulness through the day. I try to combine intense working moments with relaxing pauses, I believe both of them are important to have a balanced and productive day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I started my company based on two main things: common struggles CTOs face and the impressive talent that there is in Latin America. A big part of what I do is to connect the two. First, detect those CTOs’ problems to then offer our teams in South America as the perfect solution. Nowadays, in the IT industry, it’s hard to find people to work with. There is a lot of competition and a talent shortage, especially in the United States, hence where we come in. Latin American countries have great professionals and that’s not it, the rates are also lower than in the US. So by going the nearshore route, you can get a high-quality team for a reasonable price and you don’t even have to take care of recruiting. I would love it if more people realized the benefits of working with Latin America and learned how we are creating great, innovative things from this side of the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. UruIT is also on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About the author:

Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via [email protected]

5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS, with Marcelo Lopez and Mitch Russo was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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