We talked to Yariv Levski on how everyday AppReal work hard to make life of their clients better and happier.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yariv Levski: Thank God, everyone is safe and healthy. Covid-19 is challenging for everyone, from senior citizens – to kids. We tried to keep routine during the quarantine: eating healthy, sleeping, doing daily sports exercises.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AppReal.
Yariv Levski: My company (AppReal) specializes in building remote Offshore dedicated teams in Ukraine. It was 5 years ago, Oculus was about to be released, and I was thinking (hoping…) that VR will be the next big thing. I founded AppReal as a VR boutique software company. Later we have discovered that VR (and/or AR) is more niche than the mass market, meaning we will have a limited amount of customers. We pivoted to Mobile and Games and scaled to other territories as well.
How does AppReal innovate?
Yariv Levski: As an outsourcing IT company, we don’t own the IP or code. Our innovation is on the management side, being able to provide our customers with elite R&D teams that are located in another country. Our innovation is about small weekly improvements that will make our customers’ life easier.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Yariv Levski: Our challenges during such times are how to manage HQ in one country (Ukraine) while the CEO is located in another country (Israel) and there are no flights.
Another challenge is how to continue and grow during uncertain times like this. How do you convince a customer to open an R&D team in another country without even meeting them face to face – once? How do you recruit and hire new people in a country that suffers a high number of new daily cases (Ukraine) and employees might hesitate whether to move from one organization – to another?
Having said that, I believe our challenges are “good ones” since we focus on growth. The software business is solid, and besides a few weeks during the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2, companies went back to hire developers and grow.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Yariv Levski: I tried not to release anyone from HQ. I remember thinking that firing someone is easy, and bringing him back is hard. Our employees have families, and it’s not only about profit or loss. It’s also about people. When our customers ask us what our USP is, we answer “People first.” It means in good times but also in bad times.
About my competition, and what competition really means to us.
Yariv Levski: Actually, while most people think that competition means to put in rivalry with someone, the source of the word comes from Latin. In Latin, competition means “to meet or come together; agree or coincide.” So my competitors aren’t my rivals, and we all meet and come together in a way that develops our market. I feel that remote offshore development is something that many companies support these days. It’s good for my competitors, and it’s good for me. The more my so-called competitors will develop – the more I will have to develop my company as well. So for me, my competitors are like other runners in the 100-meter run in the Olympics. Whether they are stronger or faster than me, they will help me run as fast as possible and achieve my own personal record. Thank God I have my competitors.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and AppReal in the future?
Yariv Levski: I am not sure I am the best teacher for stress-management…when I’m stressed, I’m trying to do sports (run or gym) and release some energy.
At the beginning of Covid-19 and as an Israeli, I felt I have more info in the media about what is happening than my team in Ukraine. I communicated a few times a week. I remember sitting in Tel Aviv in the first week of March, telling my team to buy gloves, masks, and toilet paper in Ukraine. They probably thought I was crazy. But the ones that did it – thanked me. Israel was 2-3 weeks ahead of Ukraine in the understanding of the situation, so I felt lucky that I can bring some valued information to my team over the ocean.
Your final thoughts?
Yariv Levski: Everyone said it many times. Covid-19 is a crisis, and in every crisis, there are winners and losers. As a CEO, you should be prepared for the next crisis, mostly with a strong team and enough cash in the bank. Working lean (we are bootstrapped!) is a big advantage when things go wrong.