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Reminiscing our journey with Upflex

A few days ago, our client Upflex announced raising a round of Series A funding from a collective of strategic investors which includes WeWork, Newmark, Cushman & Wakefield, and the Silicon Valley Bank 🎉

Of course, we are really happy too. As Upflex’s engineering partner throughout, we’ve directly been involved in helping Upflex get to where it is today. We’ve navigated the ups-and-downs of building a startup together, including that fire walk every founding team has to endure—finding product-market fit.

In the five years since inception, Upflex has signed up names such as American Express, Richemont, Trinet, FlexJobs, Stella Connect, and Schneider Electric as customers, and Colliers International as a partner. More recently, the company partnered with Anarock to expand operations in India, and its digital platform covers more than 5,500 office spaces in 75 countries. All in all, the future is looking bright for Upflex, but the seeds of this growth were planted a long time ago.

In 2017, We Got A Call…📲

…from Upflex’s co-founders, Christophe Garnier and Ginger Dhaliwal. That’s when it all began. At the time, Christophe and Ginger had a rough-around-the-edges idea to build a digital platform that allows companies to book flexible workspaces. In their possession was a partially completed MVP and a small budget which they had managed to put together by themselves. 

Being non-technical founders, they were looking for someone to help complete the MVP and handle all end-to-end engineering duties if the MVP succeeded in gaining traction. We said yes, but on the condition that completing the MVP and taking it to market was going to be treated as a pilot project. We believe this is a better approach to developing software, as it allows both parties to understand whether they’re a good fit for each other. It’s also a very fair way of doing things, in our opinion.

The MVP garnered positive interest and we also liked working with Upflex, so we agreed to become Upflex’s engineering partner. In order to accommodate their limited budgets, we agreed to provide our services at a discounted rate. Not only did this unique agreement allow Upflex to continue working with us, but it also allowed us to perfectly align our incentives with those of the Upflex team.  

That’s not all though. we even decided to become seed investors in the startup. To us, Christophe ticked all the boxes as a founder. He was passionate, resilient, and had a lot of experience in the industry. Being a founder-led company ourselves, we knew what it takes to build a thriving business, and in our eyes, Christophe had it all. Therefore, the decision to become a seed investor in Upflex was an easy one to make.

Pivot, Pivot, Pivot

Between what it is today, and how it was first conceptualised, Upflex has gone through many pivots in response to market conditions—as startups do. In 2018, Upflex operated as a marketplace that allowed anyone to book a shared office space with ease. The company targeted business travelers who wanted a nice office space to work out of, and long commuters and remote employees who didn’t want to work from home but also didn’t want to spend hours on the road everyday.

Upflex’s value proposition in 2018, as described on its website. Source: The Wayback Machine

12 months later, Upflex realised that lots of companies were very interested in setting up distributed offices around the world without signing up for expensive leases. As this was a lucrative market that could provide a more stable revenue stream, Upflex decided to double down on it. We worked with Ginger, who by then was running Upflex’s product team, to roll out a slew of new features to support the company’s new direction. Among them was a portal that business customers could use to add team members on to their subscriptions and allocate usage limits on an individual basis. Once added, team members could book workspaces under the company’s name. At the end of the billing period, the company would be sent a single invoice to pay, sparing accountants from periodic headaches.

Launching SafeSpaces™

Then came COVID-19, and it necessitated another pivot. While the world collectively embarked on the single largest remote working experiment it had ever seen, many predicted the death of the office as we know it. 

But Upflex correctly sensed that post-pandemic, there will be a significant subset of workers who wouldn’t want to work from home, but also would not want to put themselves through the misery of a long commute as before. Companies wanted to become as asset-light as possible (Why pay for office space that you don’t need?), but at the same time had to provide employees with a safe and hygienic office to work in. The latter contradicts the former, as you can’t vouch for safety and hygiene when you don’t actually have control over the upkeep of the building that houses the office.

There was also another side of remote work that was becoming more apparent with every passing day. New employees to 100% remote workforces were finding it hard to build social bonds with coworkers, and as a result, collaborative cultures carefully nurtured over time were at risk of falling apart.  

SafeSpaces™ is Upflex’s answer to this trilemma. Under the SafeSpaces™ program, companies can provide employees with flexible workspaces that meet CDC and WHO standards, thus providing them and their families much-needed peace of mind. Employees can choose from any of Upflex’s 5,500+ workspaces around the world and make bookings by themselves.

Late nights, deadlines, and disciplined iteration

Driving rapid iteration and hitting every deadline is no walk in the park. Things become even more complicated when you consider that our team in Sri Lanka has to work around a 9.5 hour time difference with NYC, where Upflex’s team is based. But we never shied away from the challenge, and simply found ways to adapt.

On some days, that meant scheduling calls at odd hours for both sides. It’s not easy (They have their own lives too!), but we trusted our teams to find a balance that worked for them. It also meant investing a lot of time and effort into building trust with Ginger and the product team at Upflex, as that is the bedrock of a strong working relationship. 

Anticipating customer needs

In keeping with Upflex’s pivot to adapt to a post-COVID world, our product engineering team worked tirelessly to introduce a ton of new products and features. For instance, we built a set of white labeled apps that can be used by third party real estate brokers to sell workspaces to their own clients. We rolled out intelligent local currency billing to eliminate currency conversion hassles, and introduced QR check-in. Each and every product and feature was carefully built to complement the existing mobile app, which again, was built by us. We understood that in a future where work will be distributed, customers would rate singular, convenient, and zero-contact experiences very highly. It was also a good way to differentiate Upflex’s value proposition from its competitors.

Upflex’s story shows what happens when you deploy software smartly to solve real world problems. Of course, it also helps to have a proactive engineering partner like us 😉

Looking to build a cutting edge digital product of your own? Talk to us to find out how we can help!

Cover Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

AnnouncementsLife at CalceyNews

Calcey Among Top 10 IT/ITeS Best Workplaces™ in Sri Lanka Again

Colombo – 26 May 2022

Calcey Technologies has been yet again recognised as one of the 10 Best IT/ITeS Workplaces in the country by Great Place to Work® Sri Lanka. The award is based on extensive ratings provided by a company’s employees in an anonymous survey conducted by Great Place to Work® in Sri Lanka during the study 2021 – 2022.

The Great Place to Work® institute assesses all awardees using the Great Place to Work® Framework, a proprietary model. According to the 2021-2022 Study, the key drivers of the employee perception in the IT/ITeS Industry are Manager Reliability, Management Role Modeling, Mental Health, Good Facilities, Managers Keep Promises, and Egalitarian Treatment.

“Receiving this award, particularly for the second consecutive year, is an immensely satisfying achievement as it proves that the Calcey Way—the set of guiding principles behind Calcey, are functioning the way they should. As an exporter of knowledge-related services, our people are our most important asset and this award will definitely inspire us to raise the bar when it comes to what a great workplace can be,” said Mangala Karunaratne, founder and CEO of Calcey.

Calcey Technologies is a Gartner recognised technology consulting and software product engineering services provider based in the United States and Sri Lanka. For more information visit www.calcey.com

Great Place to Work® is the global authority on high-trust, high-performance workplace cultures. Through proprietary assessment tools, advisory services, and recognition programs, including Great Place to Work-CertifiedTM, Best Workplaces™ lists and workplace reviews, Great Place to Work® provides the benchmarks, framework, and expertise needed to create, sustain, and recognize outstanding workplace cultures. Follow Great Place to Work online at www.greatplacetowork.com or www.greatplacetowork.lk

AnnouncementsLife at CalceyNews

Calcey Among Best Workplaces for Millennials in Sri Lanka

We’re proud to announce that Calcey has been recognised as one of the best workplaces for Millennials by Great Place to Work® Sri Lanka. We won this accolade based on extensive ratings provided by our employees in an anonymous survey conducted by Great Place to Work® in Sri Lanka during 2020 – 2021.

“As a millennial myself, I always try to look beyond the pay slip and venture more into what this company can offer, whether this culture will embrace me like one of their own, whether it has a clear purpose that we can be proud of, and whether the company invests in the growth of its employees. And Calcey easily ticks all these boxes. We have a vibrant culture. Everyone is very helpful, and that’s why I love Calcey as a millennial”, said Chomal Miguntenne, an Associate Tech Lead at Calcey.

“It is indeed an honour to be recognised as one of the best workplaces in the country for a cohort of employees who are now entering their prime years as professionals. As employers, we have a responsibility to invest in them, as they are going to be the drivers of our future growth” said Mangala Karunaratne, founder and CEO of Calcey.

Commenting on the award, Gehan Dias, our General Manager said “The millennial generation of employees are different from those before them in that they are driven to harness their talents to the maximum, and possess a strong sense of ethics. They demand more of themselves and their employers, which motivates both parties to aim to continuously raise the bar for excellence”.

Calcey Technologies is a Gartner recognised technology consulting and software product engineering services provider based in the United States and Sri Lanka. For more information visit www.calcey.com

Great Place to Work® is the global authority on high-trust, high-performance workplace cultures. Through proprietary assessment tools, advisory services, and recognition programs, including Great Place to Work-CertifiedTM, Best Workplaces lists and workplace reviews, Great Place to Work® provides the benchmarks, framework, and expertise needed to create, sustain, and recognize outstanding workplace cultures. 

AnnouncementsNews

Agile Guru Pete Deemer Joins Calcey as Advisor

We’re excited to announce that Pete Deemer has joined us at Calcey Technologies as Advisor. A familiar face within the Agile software community, Pete has spent many years in Silicon Valley building products and leading teams. He played a pivotal role as VP of product development at Yahoo! after serving as SVP at c|net Networks. Oh, and he also co-founded the award-winning website GameSpot.

In recent years, Pete has dedicated himself to promote Scrum and Agile development. He is the founder and CEO of GoodAgile, which has offices in Sri Lanka, Singapore, and India, and is the lead author of The Scrum Primer, one of the most widely read introductory texts on Agile development. Pete was Chairman of the Scrum Alliance in 2016 and served on its Board of Directors from 2012-2017.

“We are delighted to welcome Pete into the Calcey family. The standards set in the Valley are regarded THE benchmark for software development. Pete’s appointment will help us keep our processes and engineering practices world-class through the next phase of our growth” said Mangala Karunaratne, founder and CEO of Calcey Technologies.

A proud alumnus of Harvard University, Pete also studied computer science at Stanford University and neuroscience at King’s College London. Pete has spent a number of years as adjunct faculty at the University of California Berkeley, most recently at the Haas School of Business, and has been a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Systems Science at the National University of Singapore since 2010.

“Having seen what Calcey has accomplished over the last 18 years, I’m very excited to help Mangala and the team grow and evolve the business even further. Moreover, Calcey’s ability to stick to its refreshingly honest principles and deliver world-class software from its beautiful innovation park in Colombo, is a testament to both Calcey’s future potential as well as that of Sri Lanka!”, Pete added.

Ayubowan Pete!

NewsOpinion

What to expect when you work with us

We love building great software. That means doing a few things differently 

At Calcey, we develop software. We are a boutique development outfit with an office in Colombo, Sri Lanka. But we are also not your typical software development company. We prefer to think of ourselves as providers of small, extended remote teams for global clients in need of software development services.

Developing software is not like selling a commodity. People matter. Quality matters. When the two meet, magic happens. To build good software, the interests of a developer must align with those of a client. Anything less is a huge no-no.

If you’re a developer just starting out in your career… 

One of the best and fastest ways to sharpen your skills and grow is to work in a small team, and on a challenging project for some time. This helps you develop a deep mastery in a given area, while preventing your effort from being buried under that of a hundred others. Deep mastery equals better learning, and higher visibility equals faster promotions, all else remaining equal. Of course, when the time is right, you should choose to move between teams to learn new tech stacks and skills. This is one advantage service companies like ours have over product companies. At Calcey, we have the ability to give our developers the chance to attain deep mastery and upgrade their skills with time by moving between teams if necessary. But at a product company, developers are often doomed to work on one part of a software forever.

On the other hand, if you’re a client…

You must look to work with a small, stable team that you can get to know with time, so that everyone can quickly develop a sense of camaraderie and start working towards a common goal. An organic relationship built this way allows for developers to become emotionally invested in your product, and allows them to take ownership and drive the process forward, instead of you having to push from behind with all your might. A small, stable team is inherently better at getting people to work together than a large, sprawling one. That’s why a certain Jeff Bezos prefers two-pizza teams.

A remote extended team will also allow you to reap the benefit of working with a group of developers who almost feel like your own, without taking the financial risk of actually hiring them and sinking a significant amount of capital into it.

Our approach…

Simply brings these two elements together to create a system that keeps everyone happy. Developers get to work on interesting things, while clients receive top-notch projects, finished and delivered on time. It also aligns our incentives with those of our clients. As we ship more and more successful projects, our clients can grow their businesses. That growth in turn comes back to us in the form of more projects, and we get to hire more people to work on them. Basically, it’s a virtuous cycle that everyone benefits from. This model has worked so well for us that we’ve managed to grow completely organically from a 2 person startup to a 140-strong team.

Henrik Palmquist is the CTO of Nelly.com, one of the largest online fashion retailers in the Nordic region. Nelly.com has been a client of ours for the last 3 years, and has benefited immensely from this extended remote teams model we’ve staked our reputation on. Here’s how Henrik felt about his experience working with us.

There are also a few other things that you ought to know about us, which we consider key pillars of the Calcey Way.

Transparency

We like to give our clients a high level of visibility into their projects. The more our engineering teams and our clients know about each other, the better, as it eliminates room for misunderstandings, and stops people from feeling like they don’t belong. Before COVID-19 took airplanes out of the sky, we encouraged our clients to come visit us in Colombo and get to know the team that would be working for them. They could have a team workshop and do a deep dive into the client’s domain or business challenge, or simply go out for dinner or on a trip around Sri Lanka. We encourage such visits and face-time because we know that is how the seeds of a great relationship are sown.

That’s not all though. Once the project is in progress, clients are free to join daily stand-up meetings and even talk directly to our project managers and developers. Here at Calcey, there are no middle men or lengthy email chains that make you want to rage-quit. Instead, we have actual, normal, and reasonable human beings who’d be always happy to get on a call with you and walk you through how your project is going, what we’d be doing next, what works, and (most importantly) what doesn’t.

Mikke, the CEO of Ancon—a Swedish firm that develops software for the restaurant industry, is someone who has visited our offices many times in the past to hang out with our developers. He was pleasantly surprised by how well our team got along with his, and had some nice things to say about us.

Straight talk all the way

At Calcey, each and every individual is encouraged to tell it like it is, politely and with respect for each other. No beating around the bush, and no false platitudes. Humans sometimes have the tendency to downplay things (or let them slide completely) in the hope of not upsetting the proverbial apple cart, but that doesn’t really help anyone. This is particularly true in our case, where we end up working with clients from different cultures with wildly differing levels of technical understanding. Being straight with the facts has helped us bridge these differences and made it so much easier to form trusting, mutually beneficial relationships.

As developers, sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we can clearly see that the approach a client is planning to take won’t help them achieve their goals. When we run into such situations, we encourage our developers to actually speak up, challenge the client’s assumptions where relevant, and put forward better approaches or suggestions. This can often happen when clients don’t come from a technical background, as Joanna and Lucy, co-founders of The Oneness Movement found out. Luckily, our team was on hand to help them navigate the confusing maze that technology can sometimes be.

Take ownership

Whether its a simple dashboard or a fully fledged enterprise app, we approach every project as if it was our own. When an outsourced development services provider doesn’t take ownership in their work, it naturally breeds a short-termist attitude where the focus is on delivering the project, billing the client, savouring that ‘ka-ching!’ and moving on. Things like strategic fit and future-proofing go out the window.

Instead, we like to think like product owners and take the long term view. This motivates us to flag issues as soon as they arise, and suggest features and fixes which we think would be helpful over the long run. For instance, if a client tells us to build a native android app, we would always try to find out if there would ever be a need for an iOS app as well. If there is, we would always take the time to suggest the option of building a react native app instead, which suits both dominant smartphone platforms thus saving time and money over the long run. If we don’t, the relationship we have with the client will be in tatters once the client realises that they’ve been taken for a ride.

When Compare Networks came to us to help them build an enterprise sales app for the biotech sector, they probably thought we would build it, ship it, and be done with it. Instead, we naturally took ownership of the project, and helped them envision the entire feature roadmap of the product. Our developers took the time to understand the mindset of the end user and empathise with them in order to make the features of the app very easy to use and understand.

Bespoke teams

The composition of engineering teams at Calcey tends to be flexible, and is always geared to meet a client’s evolving needs. Instead of having projects transferred between teams like a weird game of musical chairs, our clients get to work with the exact same core team while a few additional specialists will be brought in as and when required. For instance, a client who comes to us with the intention of developing an MVP might only need a small team to get things started. Later, when it is time to build a functioning app, the team might need a few more engineers and designers whom we can bring into the team. Eventually, if the app has to be scaled to accommodate millions of users, the team will need the services of architects and other experts whom we will draft into the team.

That is how we helped a London-based startup, Fresh Fitness Food (FFF), evolve from a fledgling meal delivery service to a global fit-tech company that is driven by technology. After all, we were once a startup too and know what it is like to try and achieve product-market fit and get a steady stream of cash trickling through the door. Over the years, FFF has been able to rely on us to shape and develop their product, business strategy and more. As FFF’s needs evolved, the composition of the Calcey team supporting them also evolved in tandem, thus ensuring that all the development resources FFF needed were always at its disposal.

Do the right thing, always

To this day, all new clients knock on our doors thanks to direct referrals from existing clients. We consider this to be a signal that we are doing something right. It also serves as an incentive for us to safeguard our reputation in the business, because one disgruntled customer is all that it would take to bring down the house that we so painstakingly built. That is why we always try to do what is right. Sometimes, that means saying ‘No’ to a client if we feel that we are ill-equipped to take on a job. At other times, it means making accommodations to suit talented and deserving employees, who may be going through tough times in their personal lives.

This ethos of doing the right thing has helped us cultivate a pool of happy clients and loyal employees, both extremely crucial for our success. Perhaps that is why our NPS scores have been consistently high, despite COVID-19 upending the way we live, work, and move. Over the last three quarters, our Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been on the rise, and hit an all time high of 78% despite all of us being forced to work from home due to the pandemic. Achieving this kind of NPS rating places us squarely amongst some of the best software development companies in the world, and leaves us feeling very optimistic about the future.

Should you be on the lookout for a reliable and agile software development partner for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us through our website. Our client onboarding team will reach out to you in no time ?.

AnnouncementsNews

Gehan Dias joins Calcey as General Manager

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Gehan Dias as General Manager at Calcey Technologies. Gehan joins us after having served as General Manager of LSEG Technology (part of the London Stock Exchange Group). Formerly known as MillenniumIT, LSEG Technology is one of the best-known success stories in the Sri Lankan IT ecosystem, having grown from a startup into is a leading provider of mission-critical, high performance, high availability systems to the world’s financial markets, culminating in an acquisition by the London Stock Exchange.

Gehan has spent almost 20 years managing large teams and delivering complex, multi-year enterprise projects. Aside from his time at MillenniumIT, he also founded one of the first mobile app development agencies in Sri Lanka – Appwolf – providing mobile app development services to clients around the globe. He holds a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford. 

Calcey’s CEO Mangala Karunaratne said, ‘We are thrilled to add Gehan to our team as we prepare for a period of aggressive growth. Despite the current challenges in the business climate, we expect the technology sector to thrive and perhaps even gain new momentum as digitization becomes a priority for all businesses. Gehan’s many years of managing complex projects and teams within a rapidly growing company are an ideal complement for our growth plans”. 

Gehan said, “I’m delighted to join such an outstanding technology company just as it is about to enter its next phase of growth. Calcey has a 17 year track record of excellence in the software industry and I’m looking forward to helping it to reach new heights.”

Welcome on board Gehan!