Arbisoft co-founder Yasser Bashir on building trust with start-ups – TechCrunch
Today, the company has a few hundred employees across Pakistan, Australia, Texas and Malaysia, but it continues to serve startups of all sizes, says Bashir.
Omri Traub, CEO of the e-commerce startup Popcart, told TechCrunch that their company has worked with Arbisoft since its inception.
âWe had access to the best talent and, above all, to the elasticity of hiring. If we wanted to add a developer, we could have an amazing one on our team in less than a week, âTraub said. “It would have taken us weeks and months to recruit and hire a developer in Boston or in the United States”
According to Anna Bailey, product manager at Volta Charging, âhelp [from Arbisoft] allowed us to build reliably and on a large scale without burdening our in-house engineers.
We spoke to Bashir to find out more about how Arbisoft works with its clients, most of whom âhave either closed or are about to close Series A rounds,â he said. During our conversation he discussed Agile Development, Data Science, Customer and Employee Satisfaction.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.
Can you briefly tell us about your background and what inspired you to create Arbisoft?
Yasser Bashir: I was 10 years old when my father and brother bought me a Commodore 64. In the small town where I grew up, we were among the only three families to own a computer. I know very few people who used one of those C-64 machines in the 1980s and didn’t come to like computers or computers. I was no exception. I then got an undergraduate degree in computer science from the best computer science school in my home country and then ended up at Stanford University for a graduate degree.
Each of these stages paved the way, in one way or another, to a career in IT in general and building a tech company in particular.
In 2007, along with a few other colleagues, I founded Arbisoft because we liked to solve a variety of IT problems rather than staying close to a particular area or technology. We thought it was much easier to do this in a software service company than in a software product company.
Along with our love for software development, we also had strong ideas about the kind of culture that would likely make smart people do their best in a tech-driven organization. Arbisoft is a manifestation of many of these ideas.
How has Arbisoft evolved since its inception 13 years ago, and how has it grown?
What started with three people in 2007 is now one of the most successful software companies in our region. We have nearly 750 people, mostly engineers, and we are software development partners for many leading organizations in their verticals including KAYAK, MIT, edX, Insurify and many more.
Almost all of our growth has been organic; Companies with extensive experience in outsourcing their software development needs highly recommend our services to others. Not surprisingly, we consistently get a Net Promoter Score of 75 or more from our clients in our semi-annual NPS surveys. Our growth is a direct result of promoting our clients to others.
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How is your team structured?
Arbisoft is structured as a network of independent and cross-functional teams. Each team usually works on a single client project at any given time. We firmly believe in autonomous, self-managed, agile and constantly evolving teams to improve their efficiency.
Among the many books that have shaped my thinking on organizational structures, one of the most important is that of FrÃ©dÃ©ric Laloux âReinvent organizationsâ. His designs for Teal organizations are very ambitious – sometimes too idealistic – but definitely paint the picture of a much more evolved organization than the majority of companies in the world today. To shape our team structures, we borrowed many ideas from the book.
What range of services do you offer? Why did you choose to go beyond the full stack?
Our range of services, due to our size, is quite wide. We offer comprehensive web and mobile application development, DevOps for cloud computing, machine learning, AI, user interface / UX / product design, project management and manual software quality assurance and automated. Basically, we provide most, if not all, of the services that a modern tech startup might need to get a production-ready solution. Beyond launch, we continue to support our customers with maintenance, bug fixes and new feature development.
Among your clients, at what stages are the startups you work with? How early can they be?
We work with startups at all stages of their development, but more generally with those that have closed or are about to close the A series. However, there is no restriction on the start-up phase as such. For the right idea, we can start right from its inception.
How do you build a relationship of trust with your customers that makes them potentially willing to rely on Arbisoft for all their engineering needs?
Openness and transparency are fundamental catalysts for the trust our clients place in us. We make sure to represent our capabilities exactly as they are so that we can set the right expectations and exceed them where possible. Our teams working on client projects are seamlessly integrated into clients ‘own teams and, for all intents and purposes, work as if they were part of the clients’ business.
Vulnerability also plays a role in building that trust – when we make mistakes, we are open to sharing them and learning from them, so they don’t repeat themselves. Other agile principles also help, but irreproachable retro are probably the most effective tool for open discussion and learning from mistakes.
Can you tell us more about the data side of Arbisoft?
For many of our clients, our primary service is data collection, cleansing, analysis and presentation. We have developed deep expertise in libraries and frameworks that help us in our data science practice. From the start (no pun intended), Python was one of our favorite languages. Fortunately, Python is one of the most powerful languages ââfor processing data. Libraries like Scrapy, NumPy, Pandas, SciPy, Plotly, etc. are very useful for all of our data science needs and we have quite a deep expertise in them.
You also built solutions like Edly, ListenTool and many more – can you tell us about it and why you are doing it?
This is an excellent question. Since Arbisoft is a reasonably sized organization today, we often need technologies to manage our processes more efficiently and maintain our leadership position as a software service provider. When we fail to find a good match for our needs, we develop solutions to solve our own problems. If it works for us, then we produce the solution so that it can solve similar problems for other organizations.
For example, we built ListenTool because Arbisoft is big on frequent instance-based returns. We built Edly because we often found ourselves creating custom learning management systems (LMS) for our customers and it felt natural to abstract many complexities of an e-learning solution into a product offering customizable.
This strategy has been successful and we will probably continue to develop such products in the future. We are also turning some of these products into organizations that can maintain and grow independently of Arbisoft.
Why do you have offices in Texas, Australia, and Malaysia in addition to Pakistan, and what are the benefits of this setup and locations?
Most of these locations are reception desks closer to where our clients are located. Since 80% of our clients are in the United States, it really helps to have a presence on the ground. We have our clients well distributed between the West Coast (San Francisco) and the East Coast (New York and Boston), so having an office in the middle maximizes time overlap and travel. Our customers can benefit from the high availability and quality of service of an onshore supplier with the cost and other benefits of an offshore operation. It’s the best of both worlds.
The Pakistani tech scene seems to be taking off. What was your personal involvement and what impact does this growing ecosystem have for Arbisoft, if any?
I have been very involved in the country’s startup and tech ecosystem since its inception. It’s indeed rocket-launching right now, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. This year, startups have raised more funds than all previous years combined. Arbisoft is thrilled because a lot of these startups are in need of technology services and as a result we have an exciting new market at our disposal. We have a great brand and most companies consider Arbisoft to be one of the most trusted and trusted technology partners they could hope to have. The demand for our services has therefore increased by an order of magnitude.
What are the arguments for Arbisoft to attract and retain talent?
Arbisoft is known for having a great organizational culture – we care deeply about our people and create opportunities for them to constantly learn and develop their capabilities. I have to say this is the main reason people come to Arbisoft and stay there. We have one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry. When people leave, it is usually for opportunities outside the country or ambitions like higher education. Invariably, you will find that Arbisoft alumni are our best ambassadors, helping us not only to find new talent to replace them, but also to redirect new business to us.