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Alex Kalachik: Growth of a Software Development Company During the Pandemic

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Alex Kalchik, Fively

Alex Kalachik, founder of Fively tells us about software development.

Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Fively?

Alex Kalachik: I have been developing software for more than ten years of my life. Several years ago, I made the decision to start my own company. This is how Fively​ was born. The story of the company’s founding is quite simple. The beginning of my career path dates back to 2011 when I was hired as a junior PHP developer. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. I changed a couple of employers and worked on dozens and dozens of projects. In a raft of projects, I was fortunate enough to make acquaintance with people whose views and principles in regard to modern technologies were close to mine. Our dealings grew into friendship, and over time, we came to the idea that it would be nice to start our own software company. That’s how we came to what we have now. Thus, it turned out that at the origins of the company stay not just managers, but people with a really wide development background. Perhaps this feature sets us apart from other software companies.

How does Fively innovate?

Alex Kalachik: It should be noted that our company is not a conveyor that hammers scheme-built solutions based on off-market patterns. We take on projects that have a challenge and are really interesting to us. With glowing eyes and a sheer sense of pride, I am ready to talk about any of the projects we have ever worked on.

Probably the main highlights are Uniqkey, Volt, WebinarNinja, Zentist, and BetterComp. These projects respectively belong to such domains as cybersecurity, event services, edTech, insurance, and fintech. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?

Alex Kalachik: Hearing the first news about the coronavirus was quite disturbing, but to be honest, I did not yet realize the scale of the disaster. However, the sooner the local outbreaks turned into a pandemic, the more my concerns grew. The first time I felt the real impact of COVID-19 on business was when the number of our employees in projects related to entertainment and tourism decreased by 30 percent. Some of our clients asked for price decreases – we treated such requests with understanding and responded to their wishes. However, every cloud has a silver lining – the number of jobs taken in the development of various online services has increased significantly, especially in projects related to online learning.

It is worth making an important remark here, in my country, Belarus, strict quarantine measures were not introduced. Therefore, some companies did not bother transferring their employees to a remote mode of work. In turn, we decided to play it safe and send the entire team home. Now, it is obvious to me that this was the only way.

In the spring, when the number of coronavirus cases decreased significantly, we even took advantage of the situation a little. Since all our employees worked from home, nothing prevented us from moving to a more spacious office, where we planned to return after the pandemic with a couple of new guys employed.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Alex Kalachik: There is certainly competition, but it is not particularly tough. The software market is a big one, and there is room for everyone. Most importantly, with the advent of new technologies, the market is only growing, and at the moment, in my opinion, in some domains, there is even a shortage of specialists.

Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?

Alex Kalachik: Speaking of young blood in our company, I think that this is precisely one of the main difficulties associated with the entire period of the pandemic. Just before the onset of the crisis, we were on the rise – we were expanding rapidly and were actively recruiting future teammates.

When people work in an office, there is continuous communication between them. They share experiences, exchange information, tell ideas. The office is a kind of cauldron where all the magic happens. If new employees aren’t immersed in this whole atmosphere, their engagement may not be as effective.

Nevertheless, in this regard, we did not encounter great difficulties. We definitely began to use video calls more often and actively wrote to each other in chats. And yet, I would not say that we had to adopt something that we had not used before. Rather, we have just become more reliant on some technologies and services.

As for the company’s employees, everyone is fit as a fiddle, and this makes me happy most of all. We managed to switch to the remote work mode quite easily. This is definitely an advantage, and not all businesses have this kind of flexibility. It just so happened that developers and designers can work in their living rooms, if not more efficiently, then certainly no worse than in the office.

To put it bluntly, we have always tried to organize our workflow in such a way that employees were not bound to the office and could work from anywhere. I think this approach is rational enough. For me, it doesn’t matter wherefrom people work – the main thing is that they do a good job and have a proper work-life balance. Nevertheless, before the start of the pandemic, most employees still preferred the office because of the special creative energy floating around.

I understood perfectly well that some projects would be closed at the initiative of our customers, some would be placed on hold only for the duration of the pandemic. But in all this gloomy atmosphere, I saw new avenues. Perhaps the situation in the world will help to increase the level of trust in remote teams, and therefore many businesses will abandon in-house development. Such a U-turn may change the game completely. But at the same time, I was certainly concerned about our clients and their business since many of them depend on offline interactions.

Your final thoughts?

Alex Kalachik: Doing business has never been easy – ups and downs are an inevitable part of it. I would like to believe that soon the pandemic will vanish into smoke, and life will return to normal. But until covid-19 is defeated, we can only summarize interim results. Probably, the whole scope of the tragedy can be estimated only in a couple of years. So far, we are in no hurry to return to the office – not everyone thinks that the time has come. However, I hope that this year, we can all get back together again, and then we will definitely have a party to celebrate the long-awaited reunion.

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