Rešad Zacina, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Ministry of Programming tells us how the software design, development and investment company specializes in working with tech startups.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rešad Zacina: We are generally well. As a family, we went through Covid with combined severity of symptoms, pneumonia, and so but the important thing is that we are all good now. We take special care of our mental health by regularly going into nature and staying positive by helping people.
We had more than 40 infections in the company. Unfortunately, one of our colleagues lost his fight and died recently at the age of 33, leaving behind a wife and 2 kids. We are doing everything to support them now.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded the Ministry of Programming.
Rešad Zacina: In 2015, we lived in two cities, Stockholm and Sarajevo, and our network was pretty interesting. Amra and Rešad were living in Stockholm where Rešad was a lead developer in the initial Fishbrain crew, at the same time Faris was doing great things in the music tech industry in Miami. Fishbrain was one of the top 50 digital startups in Europe in 2016. Mixed in Key is also one of the flagship names in the DJ industry, used by David Guetta, Hardwell, etc.
We wanted to leverage the knowledge we accumulated over the years and our connections, so we founded the Ministry of Programming to focus on new products and startups. A part of the motivation to actually start the company was also the huge struggle that we were having in Stockholm as economic migrants, and let’s say Amra and I pushed Faris a little bit to leave the comfort zone 🙂
It is important to understand that there is a strong need for a company like the Ministry of Programming in the startup world. We definitely increase the chances for startups to succeed.
We managed to build a tech champion in the region of Ex-Yugoslavia that is able to create other tech giants all over the world. We have more than 150 employees today and are the only company from Bosnia and Herzegovina that made it to the Financial Times FT1000 list.
How does the Ministry of Programming innovate?
Rešad Zacina: We are a startup studio with a specific process tailored for tech startups. We provide many services, including product management, design, development, DevOps, quality assurance, recruiting, fundraising, and strategizing in situations where that is needed.
Standard consulting companies don’t serve startups properly, and they are usually not interested in working with risky products that have a low chance to succeed. We like the underdogs.
We solve 2 main problems for early-stage startup founders and innovators: Product and Recruitment. Why? Products have a product problem (design, development, product-market fit) and a recruitment problem (recruiting people in big tech centres like Stockholm, Berlin, London, and Silicon Valley), so we jump in as a special type of service for early-stage product companies.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Rešad Zacina: It speeded everything up! It is interesting to know that the pandemic gave birth to the biggest number of new companies in history. Everyone wants to do a startup today, there are many unsolved problems, and people are trying to fix them. For us, it meant even faster growth, and only in 2020, we hired more than 50 people while growing financially up to 5M EUR revenues and more than 3M EUR in equity value which is consistently growing.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Rešad Zacina: During corona times, we didn’t have to fire anyone, but on the other side, the challenges were more in the sense that the whole team had to adapt to a new way of working. We were fully enabled for remote work from the founding of the company in 2015, but this is a completely new moment; at some points during the crisis, the team was working in hybrid mode in the office/home while a part of our 150 people crew was fully remote. We gave everyone an option to form their own home office with high-end equipment provided by the company, and we organized events for their kids and various types of perks.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Rešad Zacina: We use Notion for everything!
The only change was more frequent check-ins with everyone and working as units to make sure our startups succeed in tough times.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Rešad Zacina: We didn’t get a single euro from the government. On the other end, we paid back millions in taxes and contributions. We have quite huge support from UNDP, EBRD, and similar organizations because of our orientation towards SDGs and making an impact on the world.
Your final thoughts?
Rešad Zacina: I strongly believe that there never were more options for investing & innovating. The times are tough, but at the same time, they are a perfect chance to create new value. I will finish with a quote from Napoleon Hill:
“Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit.”
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