With an existing Nearshore presence in Vancouver and Brazil, global IT services provider Softvision has been leveraging talent from both nations for years, especially north of the border, but was holding back on any Latin American presence, until now.
In a discussion with Andrés Angelani, CEO of Softvision and former Chief Solutions Officer at Globant, announced the company’s movement into Buenos Aires, Argentina. Once rumored as the next possible CEO of Globant, this move brings Angelani – himself of Argentinian heritage – and his company to familiar stomping grounds, where he may soon be in direct competition with his previous firm.
Headquartered in the Bay Area, and boasting such clients as Groupon, Macy’s, Goldman Sachs, Mozilla, and Estée Lauder, Softvision has a network of 2,500 product, design, and engineering professionals located in 17 studios across 8 countries.
In this interview, Angelani outlines his decision-making process for the Argentina move, as well as the challenges of managing a global software company in today’s climate.
Nearshore Americas: What are the benefits and challenges of balancing the different skills and talents available on a global scale?
Andrés Angelani: The key here is that every single region has its own strengths, weaknesses and cost structures, but our geographical diversity allows us to introduce top quality processes at every stage of the product development lifecycle.
On a global scale, we have created various “guilds” for mobile, analytics, user experience (UX), and design, which operate across our innovation studios. Each studio has a community manager that shares training programs, creates new labs, and collaborates on thought-leadership practices, so when a new customer project comes in, that community bond can be extremely useful.
The customer is much less cost-sensitive when they are creating the innovation, when the product is coming to life. Preferably, they would want to work with studios in the same country, because they understand their culture and can work side-by-side as one team. However, as you are producing and scaling the product, the customer naturally needs to become more cost efficient, but will want to continue to want the same level of quality. Having this “guild” structure has enabled us to do this, because that global connection brings in the best from all regions.
Nearshore Americas: Brazil in particular has been a tough market for many companies, especially in its ability to provide IT services for the US. What has been your experience of Brazil, and what are your plans for the country?
Andrés Angelani: In Brazil, we have around 40 people, but I have no plans to expand there. The industry is stable but the country has been a little bit insular compared to the rest of Latin America. I’m Argentinian and started my previous company in Brazil, so I am familiar with the market. The issue is, first of all, it’s not Spanish, which is the language that most clients want to work with, alongside English, and secondly it has always suffered from fluctuations that make you think twice about being there. For my last company, Brazil was really the only country that never panned out, that never scaled, so I didn’t have the greatest experience.
At the moment, Brazil is not strategic for Softvision; it’s lower in the stack with low-level quality, and I’m really focusing on the high-value type of work, higher in the stack, so it’s just too much overhead for me. Our presence there is a tactical thing and it’s a small team. I wanted to have teams that are closer to where my customers are, so we originally planned to enter some locations in Latin America, with Mexico and Costa Rica initially being very attractive for us and Buenos Aires, Argentina, being the eventual landing point.
Nearshore Americas: What were the deal-breakers behind the Buenos Aires choice? With Mexico and Costa Rica in the mix, what were each country’s strengths and weaknesses that dictated the decision-making process?
Andrés Angelani: The decision rationale behind Buenos Aires comes from the fact that now a number of Softvisioners are Argentinean, and there’s a pool of exceptional talent that we can tap into. With the strength of the guilds and the fact that this global company has an Argentinean CEO, it dawned on the executive team that we may develop global roles out of Argentina, as well as extend our design and engineering communities there.
Costa Rica was an initial consideration, as it is convenient and the quality is there. It may not be a large country, but their English is excellent and it’s a great location to take customers to. In the case of Mexico, it’s a much larger market, and, although getting high-quality talent in Mexico is a little more difficult than in Costa Rica, or indeed the conversion of a raw, sourced pipeline of talent, the country has the size. Mexico is evolving very quickly and coming up in terms of quality, so it won’t be difficult to raise the talent pool to an American standard of quality.
We’re hopeful that NAFTA is not going to go away, as the TN visa makes it easier for Mexicans to enter the US than any other category. This is the same for Canadians, who can enter the US on a TN1 visa that only takes 3-5 weeks to acquire. They may speak with a slight accent, but they are perfectly compatible in terms of US culture. The quality in Vancouver is also top-notch in terms of design talent; the influence of companies like Electronic Arts, the great film schools, and great design schools has created an exceptional level of skill for design in the city’s talent pool.
Nearshore Americas: Is there enough talent in the US to serve your needs there, or are you finding that you need to leverage talent in other locations to fill any talent gap?
Andrés Angelani: Talent is really scarce in the US. There are not enough people to serve demand, period.
We have 450 people in the US and we are hiring there constantly, but the real truth is hard to ignore. I live in the Bay Area and there is a constant fight for talent, so regardless of what the government says and what direction it might go, I don’t think they will ever restrict access to technology and design talent, or make things any more difficult, because in reality it would break the industry apart.
To get around this, Softvision will leverage Canada, as well as our new Buenos Aires location. Nearshore provides a place where customers can easily go and check out their teams, as well as places that are attractive for customers to travel to – you always want clients visiting your studios.