Our mobile app development company has existed since 2008. A lot has changed since then. From two developers working from home our company has grown to about 70 specialists sitting in a spacious office in the city center. Years of moving and improving have given us the invaluable experiences which make us who we are. What follows is Yalantis' story.
Seven years ago the mobile app development business was just starting to emerge, following the dazzling appearance of the first iPhone in 2007; Time magazine called it «The phone that has changed phones forever.»
Apple’s innovation became the basis for Yalantis, as developing apps for the iPhone was our first professional strategy. The reason for that was not an all-encomassing love of Apple, but good old-fashioned market research. Alexander Kholodov, one of Yalantis' co-founders and a former developer himself in the past, discovered that the demand for iPhone apps on Elance, an online staffing platform for freelancers, exceeded the supply by miles.
«We started with the goal of filling an empty niche existing in the iPhone apps development market,» he said. «After a while we began to engage with Android and other platforms.»
Kholodov, together with a talented programmer named Yuriy Kotov got together and set up a mobile app development company. Initially they worked from home picking up interesting projects from Elance. About six months later Sergey Fesenko, another skilled developer, joined the team of co-founders.
«When I joined Yalantis, we moved into an apartment, which became our first office,» said Fesenko. «We bought a couple of arm chairs and started off as a real team.»
Kholodov called the company Yalantis — a strange word you won't find in any dictionary. It was created with the help of a random words generator from the word Yalta — the name of a sunny resort city in Crimea (a peninsula in the south of Ukraine). According to phonosemantic analysis, the word Yalantis induces positive subliminal associations, like good, beautiful, strong, light, simple, safe, etc. This is also a unique name. You can’t explain it, but it has a unique look and feel, just like our products.
The first staff members hired by Yalantis were young specialists with little or no experience in developing mobile apps. Their knowledge of technology and level of professionalism grew considerably over time, owing to the supportive attitude of the company leaders and their own aspirations to develop professionally. The majority of these guys are still in the company occupying senior developer positions.
With an increasing number of mobile app development projects the prospect of becoming a bigger company with different specialists (besides iOS developers) appeared brighter on the horizon. This is the point when the original team expanded into a fully-fledged company complete with administrative board, Android developers, project managers, quality assurance specialists, designers, and account managers.
At some point Kotov, one of the co-founders, understood that managing the company wasn’t for him. He left Yalantis but came back a few years later as a senior iOS developer. He chose to do what he likes most — developing great products.
As Yalantis grew larger, Kholodov and Fesenko divided their management responsibilities. Kholodov is the CEO of the company, leading sales and marketing. He also manages our own product development initiatives. Fesenko is the company's financial director, as well as head of HR. He is in charge of our internal processes, employment, and partnerships.
Back in the day work experience wasn’t the main requirement for getting a job in Yalantis. However, the larger the company grew, the more people with mobile app development backgrounds applied. Now we only employ experienced team players highly enthusiastic about what they do. Our people are just as important to us as our clients, and we care a lot about making them feel at home in Yalantis.
Even though the entrance level for job applicants is pretty high, there is another way to get in. About two years ago we started holding iOS development internships each year. The idea of the course is to find talents to join the team and give aspiring developers the chance to learn from a team of professionals. The internship is completely free and includes lectures combined with practical tasks under the guidance of senior Yalantis developers. We are going to organize an internship for Android programmers in the near future as well.
Since Yalantis' earliest days when there were just two people in the company, our main goal has always been to combine the right experience with the deep understanding of product development and its underlying technologies.
Elance, the platform which helped us grow, has thousands of skilled freelancers competing with each other in a race to win bids and attract customers. Promotion on Elance is a big challenge and demands a huge amount of time and effort.
We worked hard to build the perfect profile with interesting projects and great reviews. Our efforts resulted in our taking the top position on Elance in 2013. When this happened, a journalist interviewing Kholodov and Fesenko for a podcast, asked them how such a small company as ours managed to outrun huge app developers with hundreds of employees competing on the platform.
«We have a high customer return rate, which results in good positions for Elance,» said Kholodov. «Our strategy is different compared to most outsourcing companies. We don’t focus on the mass market and are closer to consulting. We pay huge attention to design and prototyping and strive to look perfect for our clients.»
The philosophy of perfection in every detail helps our company reach its goals. We prefer challenging and exciting projects that will make us better specialists to following the beaten track. Tech geeks, growth hackers and pixel perfectionists were the three words that characterized our team on the second version of our website.
One of our strategic decisions is to "be different" however Apple-like it may sound. What we have in mind when we say that is the clients and projects that we prefer to work with. The majority of our customers are startups. I would assume this is because our team has a real «startup spirit». Quality has a price and our rate is higher compared to average mobile app development rates in Ukraine, but the delivery is totally worth it.
One of our most loyal clients is Zillow, the USA-based leading real estate company. Zillow is expected to reach a $50 billion valuation, which will put the company in the ague of Yahoo, eBay, Group, and Expedia whose former CEO, Rich Barton, is one of Zillow’s co-founders. We’ve been developing Agentfolio and StreetEasy mobile apps for this real estate giant.
Agentfolio was a startup, whose co-founders discovered us on Elance. It was acquired by Zillow in 2012 after the product we helped to create became a major success. Since then we’ve been closely collaborating with Zillow.
This example perfectly illustrates our approach to work. First you judge «how nice» and then you judge «how wise». We care about making a great first impression, which leads to collaboration and ultimately quality products. This prompts our clients to have long relationships with our team.
Elance proved effective in making it possible for us to reach new horizons. Now we continue working on that platform while developing other client acquisition channels. One of them is our website, the current version of which was designed by our team members.
When we gained enough experience in building apps for our customers, the next reasonable step was to develop our own products, launch them on the market, and make them succeed. Partly because of Kholodov’s idea to try something new and even grow beyond outsourcing, and partly because it helps us gain the right expertise, our own apps became a new direction for Yalantis to evolve.
My Day Countdown app is a great example of our products. By trial and error we learned how to make the app live after it was created. To tell the truth, a mobile product is like a blind kitten. The app can be built perfectly well, but there is no guarantee it will survive on the market without your constant support. When we launched My Day, its retention rate was estimated to be only 1%. So we started looking for weak spots, which implied outlining KPIs and working on them. As a result, the retention rate grew to 40% and is getting higher month to month. My Day currently has 4M downloads and 500K active monthly users.
We had several other projects as well and they taught us some good lessons, which we love to share with our clients.
Seven years ago we chose to develop apps for the iPhone because of market demand. Now our choice is to focus on mobile because we became experts in the field. We tried developing apps for Windows phone for a short period of time and had a team of backend developers in house. However, our biggest passion has always been mobile — iOS and Android. The current demand for Android apps has come to almost equal the demand for iPhone and iPad apps.
Our approach to working with clients is complex and includes a range of services needed to build great mobile solutions. They are business analysis, design, development, testing, support, and management. Our strategic direction is to continue growing as a reliable consulting partner for our clients. We are not going to follow in the steps of the biggest outsourcing businesses and expand our team to hundreds of members. We believe we can keep being comparatively small and significantly more effective.
The Yalantis of today is a strong team of professionals with a high rating, loyal customers and the best products. Surely, this is not the end of the story. We have big ambitions and will definitely make them come true.