The Sweek story – part I

Documenting the synergy between a Dutch startup and a Romanian IT solutions provider

If you are familiar with our blog and with the Qubiz culture in general, you might have noticed that we often use phrases like „one team”, „team augmentation” and „client centricity”. Well, even if they may sound so, to us they are not mere buzzwords, but a very palpable reality, and the best case to support this adventurous claim is the relationship with our colleagues at Sweek. Notice I didn’t use the word „clients”, even if technically that’s what they are. Nevertheless, in practice they are our colleagues, with whom we’ve been working together every day for the past 7 months.

So what about Sweek?

Now, while they are not an isolated case, since we tend to form tight long term partnerships with all of our clients, the entrepreneurs at Sweek are the only ones who decided to cover the entire progress of the project on their blog, complete with minute details of their collaboration with Qubiz.

What’s Sweek again?

Oh, I forgot to make a proper presentation of what Sweek is supposed to stand for. Very briefly, Sweek is a Dutch startup seeking to provide a worldwide mobile platform for reading, writing and sharing books — or stories, as they like to call them. On the one hand, the platform aims to be the first choice of aspiring authors that need an outlet where to popularize their creations. On the other hand, it seeks to be an excellent way for people to discover high quality stories from top authors and read them while on the go. The service will be available in the form of native iOS & Android applications, but also on the web. As you might have guessed, we're helping them build these apps, including a responsive web version.

The story

1. InceptionHow do you get the big idea? Do you plan for it? Or it just hits you out of the blue? Well, often things are more complicated, involving your personal background, internships, the Russian book market, and some interesting trends in the publishing industry. Veronika and Sabine, the co-founders of Sweek, tell their story here.

2. Some (a lot of) researchRarely an exciting endeavor, research can help you clarify concepts, pick up market trends, and even more interestingly, identify your competition so that you don't have to reinvent the… pen. See what our colleagues at Sweek have found out.

3. The namingThere are quite a few resources, techniques and approaches to naming on the web, but from my limited experience with the process, all I can say is that nothing works unless the owner is in charge of coming up with the name. You wouldn't let anybody else name your baby for you, would you? Anyway, after a few descriptive compounds and tweaked words such as Mobitales, Storypecker and Episod, they finally came up with a quasi-real word: Sweek. And they love it. We do too!

Sweek - Stories never end

4. Tons of requirements being prioritisedWhen Sabine and Veronika had a rough idea about the application's functionality and scope, they began writing a software requirements specification (SRS) document, which quickly reached 200 pages, which is a lot if you want to go quickly to market. They stripped the document down to only 100 pages that actually define the minimum viable product. Once Sweek & Qubiz started working together using the SCRUM methodology, Veronika and Sabine, as Product Owners, needed to translate these specifications into user stories and group them into sprints. More on this later.

5. The fundingOK, so you have the idea, you have the information you need, you have a name and you've got all requirements in place — what's next? Well, you need to put your idea in practice, which in case of an application means designing and coding. After flirting with several publishers, VC's and big telecom companies, they've got their funding from a publishing company that's very close to them.

6. The challenges of nearshoring vs. the shortcomings of developing on locationOnce they've got their funding, they needed to decide whether they were going to develop the app in-house, or with the help of a nearshore team or company. Developing the app with the help of a software company nearshore poses the standard challenges: a different language, timezone and culture + the need to communicate online as opposed to face to face. However, building an app on location also has its shortcomings, namely higher costs and the difficulty of finding good and available programmers. In the end they chose a technological partner nearshore — Qubiz — sensing there was a good match between the two companies. The language barrier is not an issue since both the Dutch and Romanians are fluent in English, the timezone difference is small, and the cultural affinity between Sweek and Qubiz was apparent right from our first Skype conference.

7. Introducing the Sweek & Qubiz distributed team!"To make a long story short, we were impressed with the projects which Qubiz team has worked on, saw a lot of synergies from the beginning and could reach a common understanding of what the platform will be about. Moreover, IT professionals in Romania are known to deliver high quality work, while the costs are lower than here in the Netherlands. So, we decided on Qubiz as our partner in crime!" says Sabine.

After this brief introduction, they took the time to present all the members of the unified team. Cool (and fun) stuff!


In lieu of conclusion

We're getting near the end of the first part of the Sweek story. But before typing the final full stop, let's have a peek at a few key learning points any entrepreneur should know before starting a new business:

  • Do your research
  • Don’t give up
  • Things don’t always go as you expect them to
  • Getting the right team in place is crucial
  • Fail early, fail fast, fail often
  • ‘It’s all a mindset’
  • Don’t worry if you don't know everything, you'll learn it on the go

Stay tuned for the second part of the story!

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