What was the scope of their involvement?
There's a saying here in Silicon Valley: “if you want work done, go to India; if you need difficult work done, stay in America; if you require the impossible done, go to Minsk.” Yep, I can attest to that.
XB Software developed the UI of my app. Understandably, Webix is used because I paid a license for it. They also used Vue.js, Node.js, MySQL, industry-standard SSLs, and other layers on top of those.
What is the team composition?
I worked with Kate (Sales Manager) and Dmitry Raituzov, XB’s Business Analyst. They also had five dedicated people working around the clock. Dmitry is extraordinary. I’ve never worked with someone so quick to grasp complex business problems and come up with solutions which solve the problems, the first time he does it. One of the show persons said “dude, that guy doesn’t say much but then totally got my problems when he drew it out. Where’d you find him?” Olga created a front end that blew away the customer and blows me away every time I look at it. It looks like it was designed by Apple. No, really.
How did you come to work with XB Software?
I came up through the ranks in enterprise software sales, starting my career at Oracle, so I am confident here in what I am about to say. This is what 97% of sales reps do: 1. How much $$ you got (maybe you will make my quarter)? 2. How quickly will you buy my “x” (so I can make my quarter)? 3. What do I need to tell you to get you to buy my “x” vs. my competitor (so I can make my quarter)? 4. Who else needs to be involved to make a decision so that you will buy (by the end of my quarter)? 5. Will you to introduce me to your CIO ASAP so that my boss can hump his/her leg to buy (before the end of my quarter)? After the sale, “see ya sucker!” and you never hear from them again. Then you are handed off to “customer support” which is a phone tree black hole of death.
Kate and the team were the polar opposite of this. She was not pushy, always helpful, and followed up after the deal was done every week to check in and make sure I was happy. Dmitry and Olga (their UI designer) spent hours with me going through the various iterations of designs, with a seemingly endless ability to focus intently. My market can now use my product with ZERO training. I was and am, totally taken aback by this behavior. In the case of XB, it’s the sales management which has encouraged this uniquely un-American behavior and for that, the U.S. software companies have a lot to learn from XB’s sales management. “Oh, we do that in our company” says every U.S. software company. No, you don’t. You can’t. Wall Street makes sure of that. CEO’s get fired for worrying about the customer more than the quarter. I spent 25 years coming up the ranks and have been very successful selling software (top 1-2% every year), so I am qualified in saying no, you don’t. Not like this. We have a lot to learn from these guys. Maybe it’s a Minsk thing, I don’t know.
Travel to Minsk: Because I have worked for Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, and other big tech companies, and I have learned the need to look into a team’s eyes before I entrust a project to them. I traveled to Minsk because I wanted to meet them face to face before making a deal. Everything I spend is literally coming out of my savings, after all. After meeting them, I knew they were the “one,” so I decided to move forward.
Incidentally, I highly recommend Minsk, it’s a strangely clean, very safe, and super friendly city. It’s a mix of Paris, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C. You just have to go and see. The city is lit up because it’s dark pretty much the whole winter. You know, that Arctic circle thing. So, picture the wide streets of D.C. the long Paris architected buildings and parks, lit up like Las Vegas, and it’s something like that. I became obsessed with finding at least one piece of litter on the streets. Picture Tokyo; Minsk is cleaner. Everyone is blue eyed, blond, and very attractive there. Not literally everyone okay, but it sure seems like it. They are a tech focused country, so they are making a very friendly business environment for outside investors. It was remarkably seamless and easy to do business and get around. It shows they want to attract U.S. companies. I stayed at the Doubletree. You walk inside and you’re inside a hotel in NYC. You’d never know the difference. Everything is in English and everyone speaks English, and the rooms are great. I realize I must sound like some tourist guide, but you need to consider I grew up in the 80's, when we in America were taught to be afraid to go anywhere except western Europe (which turned out to be complete bullshit). I will tell anyone who will listen to me that what we were taught is totally false. I feel a lot safer in Minsk than San Francisco! You must go to the old town district. I took a photo in the old town district of a stone street with Christmas lights spanning the street that I have shown people and they say "oh, that's Zurich!" Nope, that is old town Minsk. Old town in December was a bit like going to Disneyland. Only cleaner than Disneyland if that's even possible, and moreover old town isn't a recreation, it's the real thing. Again, we could learn a thing or two from these guys. Minsk is open for business and they mean it. You’ll see what I mean if you go there.
How much have you invested with them?
I invested less than $20,000. But now I’m looking at spending $50-100K (if just my $) or $1M or more, depending on how my VC meetings go in a month. Yes, brand name VC meetings are being scheduled in a month because of the buzz around the app.
What is the status of this engagement?
The project lasted from December 2019–February 2020 and is now, as far as I’m concerned, indefinite. I was looking at the first iterations of the application by the middle of January. We made a couple of changes, and they were basically done by the first week of February. For anyone who’s interested, I can show them all the social media about the app. It’s overwhelming. The app appears to have begun to go viral. And I owe this to XB, so yeah, I’m motivated to tell anyone I can about it.