“Mobile has been a blessing for nearshore companies.” These were the words of Alex Robbio, co-founder and president of Argentine software factory Belatrix, in a previous interview with Nearshore Americas.
Robbio’s enthusiasm stems from the fact that mobile development is inherently collaborative and iterative, which makes nearshoring much more relevant than outsourcing. As a result, a select group of Latin American studios have managed to establish themselves as trusted partners for North American companies, ranging from startups to large corporations.
From Puerto Rico to Mendoza, Argentina, here are some of the region’s best app makers (in alphabetical order):
When we called Argentine app development company Lateral View for this article, its founder Juan Manuel Abrigo gave us an early scoop: it is about to tentatively join forces with fellow Argentine studio Aerolab. According to Abrigo, both companies are very complementary: Lateral View’s strength is programming while Aerolab is best known for its design and front-end skills. “Joining forces, we could have Latin America’s best app development company,” he said.
Lateral View currently has a team of 12 technical employees in Mar del Plata, and recently opened a small office in San Francisco, where one staffer is in charge of business development. Between 80% and 85% of the company’s clients are based in the US, and the remaining part comes from Argentina and its neighboring countries. Abrigo notes that Argentina’s time zone is quite convenient for American clients, since working with Asia would be much more difficult.
On the other hand, Lateral View isn’t competing with the market’s lowest bidders, and decided to focus on high quality rather than low prices. Since most of its clients are startups, it also has a very hands-on approach, and frequently has some of its developers spend some time at its clients’ offices abroad.
As for Aerolab, it has a staff of 22, working either from its offices in Buenos Aires or remotely from other Argentine locations. Its CEO Agustin Linenberg insists on the fact that they act as product designers, rather than mere executors.
The team dedicates around 90% of its time to client work, and the remaining 10% to in-house projects such as “Acá no hay luz,” a collaborative map of Argentina’s power blackouts that gained international attention.
Aerolab mostly works with startups, but not solely during their early days. As a matter of fact, it is also able to provide them support as they grow. For instance, it worked with digital wallet platform Lemon in the months prior to its acquisition by ID theft protection company LifeLock, which has now become one of its clients.
Belatrix is undoubtedly one of the oldest and largest players in this market. Created in 1993, this software development and testing solutions provider has been dedicating itself to international outsourcing since 2001, and mobile apps were a natural addition to its portfolio of services.
While it declines to name its clients to protect their privacy, its website lists some of its recent mobile projects for different types of platforms and devices, such as an order management system for a direct sales company, a payment solution and a personal wellness app.
In addition to its work for third parties, it also released an app of its own during the 2014 FIFA World Cup: Brazucup Fixture, which let soccer fans catch up with the event’s latest news. It recently organized hackathons in Mendoza and Lima, where its development centers are located.
Although Inflection Point Systems is headquartered in Washington DC, its engineering center is located in Monterrey, Mexico and serves clients all around the world. One of Inflection Point’s abilities as a software technology firm is to develop iOS, Android and Web-based mobile apps on behalf of its clients. Its main portfolio features names such as Cisco, Cemex and Tyco, with a vast majority of its business coming from the US. In the mobile segment, its recent success stories include a VoIP app developed for Mexican telecommunications company Alestra and a multi-platform redesign performed for North Mexican media group Grupo Gape.
The decade-old company prides itself in its work environment. Earlier this year, it was once again ranked as one of Mexico’s “Great Places to Work” in the IT and Telecom category. Talking about Inflection Point’s corporate culture in an earlier interview, CEO Carlos Montemayor said he “brought a bit of the culture from Silicon Valley to Monterrey.”
Intellisys is an IT company based in the Dominican Republic. Despite this location, most of its clients are based in the US and Canada, such as The Brooklyn Game and Mom365. As you may know, Intellisys is also the company that developed Nearshore Americas’ very own apps, which you can download free of cost from the App Store and Google Play. One of Intellisys’ specificities is its focus on employee training. Not only does it hold training sessions every Monday, but its developers also take part every year in programming bootcamps organized by consulting firm Develop With Passion.
iTexico is a cross-border nearshore software development company. While its corporate office is based in Austin, Texas, its development center is located in Guadalajara, where its fast-growing workforce has risen to 80 professionals. A few months ago, it was granted the National Entrepreneurship award in the small business category, a significant acknowledgment for the three-year-old company.
iTexico specializes in two types of services: multi-platform mobile solutions and Extended Teams as a Service (eTaaS), a more integrated collaboration with its clients. As it notes on its website, “being a mere 3 hour flight from Texas, or Silicon Valley, means [the client’s] local team & Guadalajara team can easily travel for more face-to-face interactions. This builds trust and a sense of camaraderie in the teams. “Many of our clients invite their teams to spend a week onsite & vice versa,” it adds.
In a recent interview with Nearshore Americas, CEO Anurag Kumar explained that iTexico has served 60 clients so far, including big names such as McDonald’s and Honeywell. Asked about his company’s differential, he insisted on its versatility, from Agile processes and UX to product development, QA and maintenance.
Mobits is a Brazilian app development company that was created in 2008 by five friends who met while studying computer science in Rio de Janeiro. Hildi Medeiros is one of them, and now handles communications for the 10 people strong company. As she recalls, the team won its first client around the same time it released its first in-house product, movie session guide Cine Mobits.
Mobits has maintained this double profile since then, and keeps releasing products under its own brands while providing mobile development services to companies such as Globo.com and Grupo Trigo. One of its differentials is that it holds regular meetings with its clients during the development process to keep them updated and collect feedback.
Unlike some of its foreign counterparts, Mobits has been working solely with Brazilian clients. “We have been focusing on proximity from the beginning because Rio de Janeiro is home to big companies. There is high demand so we didn’t need to go international,” Medeiros said (translation ours).
According to Puerto Rican serial entrepreneur Ramphis Castro, Polsense is by far the most prolific and highest-quality app maker on the island. In addition, several of its products have been widely downloaded, such as the mobile payment and customer banking apps it created for Banco Popular de Puerto Rico.
The fact that Polsense comes from Puerto Rico is not an accident. An unincorporated U.S. territory, it offers competitive tax incentives that have attracted investors and fostered a growing tech sector that leverages homegrown talent. These companies are also set to benefit from the authorities’ “Gigabit Island” project, which plans to create an ultra-high-speed Internet network supported by a $17 million investment.
With offices in Miami Beach and Bogotá, Rokk3r Labs prefers to brand itself as a “company co-builder” to emphasize its level of involvement in the products it develops, from ideation to post-launch. Its portfolio features around 30 products and companies such as LearnerNation and LiveNinja, which are not mere clients. According to the Miami Herald, Rokk3r owns “3 percent to 45 percent of most companies in its portfolio and 100 percent of some.” Its homegrown products include S3nse, a real-time analytics dashboard used among others by McDonald’s in Latin America.
In the words of its LinkedIn profile, Toro Labs is “an incubator of ideas [that] builds websites and apps for global brands and emerging startups in new markets. The company has offices in New York City and Bogotá, Colombia, and works for international firms such as Claro, Coca-Cola and Subway. It also has Colombian clients, such as Bogotá’s mayor office and coffeehouse chain Juan Valdez, for whom it built a tablet app about the history and cultivation of coffee beans. Big clients aside, Toro Labs helps startups build their minimum viable products (MVPs). Its CEO Jefrey Bulla is also the founder of StartUp Essentials, which organizes training sessions for entrepreneurs and ‘intrapreneurs’.
UruIT is one of several Uruguayan companies dedicated to app development, such as competing firms MVD Forge and Intermedia. Among other things, it stands out by the care it put in its corporate website – ironically neglected by many of its counterparts around the world.
In addition to Montevideo, UruIT has another development center in Santiago, Chile, and commercial offices in Miami. Some of its highlighted mobile projects include migrating a movie theater chain’s iOS app to Android, developing a Windows Phone movie rental app and creating an iPad app for a Chilean construction company. While many competitors mention Agile development in passing, UruIT dedicates a full section of its site to its Agile processes and belief in the SCRUM methodology of software development.
Please keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. For instance, some companies such as Multiplica and PontoMobi do app development as part of a wider marketing-related offering. Other noteworthy players across the region include software companies Infinixsoft, Neoris and Sofftek.
Despite competition between locations and companies, one thing is for sure: nearshore app development is here to stay, and Latin America is well positioned to make the most of it.