We talked to Liubomyr Pohreliuk of Inoxoft on how they build market-leading software by building the world’s finest software development teams.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: While the majority of people were skeptical about the seriousness of the disease, I always thought we all would have to deal with it anyway. From the beginning of the pandemics, I have had a feeling that Covid-19 was somewhere around the corner and one day it stopped by our home. My parents were affected and hospitalized. Those days were pretty scary for all of us. Fortunately, my family recovered, and I wish it to be that way for as long as possible. Personally, I feel discomfort because staying home on quarantine is intense and feels unnatural. I wish we could go back to the pre-quarantine times when everything was ok. Covid-19 has cut off communication, an indispensable need for living our lives fully. I guess, quarantine deprived us of our major daily habits, which made us understand how much simple things matter.
How do you organize your workday schedule and rest?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: Apparently, working days became longer due to extra flexibility. No more commuting to the office, no breaks from work now. It blurs the point when the job ends and your rest time begins. I always talk myself into the fact that it’s enough work for today and I should stop from now on. Then, my wife and I usually watch movies, take long walks to feel rebooted. Rest is a super-power factor our health depends on heavily, so we should never neglect it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Inoxoft.
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: My background has always been software development, so I learned the business inside out. I graduated from the university with a Master of Computer Science, working on my Ph.D. in Information Technology right now. Few unsuccessful spin-offs in launching my own thing were worth valuable experience that gave me a good understanding of what it takes to start.
There’s a note of irony in an abundance of stories about successful people who started their own business but left the university being behind the curve in studies. Such an event was meant to be in my life: I was expelled from the university on the first course which however helped me to find my first business partner, Maksym, who is Inoxoft’s Head of Delivery today. Having enrolled the second time, I met another business partner, Nazar, the company’s COO. It was a destiny to meet them; that’s why I had to finish the first-course year twice. As a team, we understood that starting a business needed excellent knowledge and a profound skill set in the domain.
We decided to learn and gain enough expertise to be able to grow steadily as a company. So, as students, we got jobs in the software development field, and with time we reached the positions of Senior engineer, Team and Technical Leads. Even combining it with studies, we climbed up to our career ladders outstandingly fast. We shared a mutual goal, and everyone was supportive, never let others down. My teammates and I being just 23-24 years old became business-oriented and ready-to-go-forward leaders. That’s when our knowledge and skills made us feel prepared and mature to decide it was the right time to create something of our own.
How does Inoxoft innovate?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: Up till Covid-19 happened, till the 1st quarter of 2020, we were providing generic software development services. In 2019 we narrowed down our expertise to grow proficiency and maturity in exact domains and technologies. This brought us decent progress at the end of 2020 as we hired a team of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Python engineers. Adding ML and AI assets were part of our journey to innovate our company becoming a stronger competitor with specific software development knowledge for growing vertical solutions. Successful decisions could not happen without the right people by your side. Fortunately, our third partner Brad helped bring this innovative direction into the company, which now we are actively developing.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: To tell the truth, it was challenging at the beginning. A few clients backed out. Like any other software company, we were slightly affected by coronavirus pandemics. However, due to the strong diversity of projects, it did not take the ground away from us. After 2-3 months of pandemics, clients started to recover except travel industry clients who are still expecting full reviving from the quarantine lives. Many of our clients caught positive trends that allowed them to grow, and we grew with them as well. Inoxoft has done its best to support and offer flexible cooperation, but an undefined state of some businesses has still vague predictions because of quarantine.
To add, Inoxoft’s digital marketing approach became really handy during pandemics: we grew in the traffic. Before pandemics, we had 85-90 people in the company, and now there are 110 of us. Sustaining growth is the main goal that we continue actively fulfilling.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: When the pandemics started, the sales team, though being highly experienced, encountered difficulties in selling. Outreach did not work out as many business processes halted, clients weren’t coming, everyone panicked, so I had to decide to cut the bigger part of the lead generation team and rearrange the department merging it with the engagement team. Unfortunately, it’s always hard to say goodbye to your people you have been building relationships with. Especially when you hired them in such a meticulous way, I believe people should be hired with reason because the right ones will help your business grow the right way. People should be fired for a reason as well, but the pandemic forces companies to make such a hard decision as firing even when it is never the fault of employees.
In 2019 we created a strategic aim for 3 years, which presupposed our actions in case of future crisis we predicted to happen. Either it would be the Ukrainian unsatisfactory political and economic situation in the middle of a war or the crisis inside the software development field. At our OKR presentation, it was evident that demand was higher than the proposition, and this had to be dealt with straight away. We wanted to be prepared for unstable events and rapid changes that could have happened. However, the Covid-19 crisis we are now experiencing came all of a sudden and caused problems humanity was not able to solve.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: First of all, quality time with my wife and family helps recharge a spirit. Nothing helps you to relieve stress and anxiety better than a joyful time with beloved ones. Another relaxing way to overcome stress is going in for a hobby. For example, now I’m engaged in swimming: sports help relieve negative thoughts and energy accumulated during the day. Also, I’m into chess. Playing board games like chess makes you more collected, less anxious about your troubles. Chess makes one think outside the box and operate with his reasoning better. No wonder, it’s a smart game.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: Let me put it this way. Software companies on a local level and in the whole of Ukraine, which count above 100 people are our potential competitors. So, we focus on our potential to keep up with them conducting SWOT, Porter’s Five analysis of our company. However, our prerogative lies in focusing on the next level companies, which have 300-400 employees. If we want to stay afloat, Inoxoft should be competitive among the companies alike. However, if we want to grow, we need to envision what we are approaching. Thus, shifting focus to higher-level companies is a good practice we stick to.
Moreover, Inoxoft continues to build narrow specialization, offering outstanding top-level services and expertise in software development. At Inoxoft, we also care a lot about our brand. Here, we have a good marketing team and maintain the best delivery results. All of these factors lead us to sustainability and growth, successful releases, and a strong brand name.
Recently, we have received three Clutch awards in a row. Inoxoft is among the top 1000 b2b companies, top 100 fastest-growing, and top 100 sustainable growth companies in 2020.
Your final thoughts?
Liubomyr Pohreliuk: Thank you for the interview and such requisite questions today that inspire new ideas and reflections. I hope everyone is doing great today despite the difficulties of pandemics. It would be fantastic if my answers could inspire at least one person to get things together and move forward.
“There is no good or bad experience, only cheap and expensive ones”. — Liubomyr Pohreliuk, CEO at Inoxoft