Cactus Soft Georgia celebrates its first year since its opening. For this reason, the main news platform for the business and marketing sector in Georgia, Marketer.ge, interviews Bram Van Nieuwerburgh CEO of CactusSoft.
The interview first appeared at Marketer.ge on June 8, 2023.
CactusSoft — a software development company that successfully operates in Georgia Celebrates its “1 Year Anniversary“
CactusSoft is a software development company, which has been operating for more than 15 years and over this time, it has vast expertise in developing web and mobile applications. In this company, employees advise Western European firms on mobile and web development and have already completed projects in fields such as real estate, education, healthcare, IoT, and Fintech.
CactusSoft operates in Belgium, Spain and Georgia after the company opened a branch here one year ago. To discuss this one year in detail, with its successes and advantages, we spoke to its founder and CEO, Bram Van Nieuwerburgh.
M: Bram, first of all, tell us about your company — what is its main field of activity, and what service do you offer customers?
We make software – we are software programmers and deliver software for customers that is tailor-made and delivered in the form of different services. First of all, we have customers who have a lot of work ahead, a lot of roadmap for their products, digital projects, etc. We offer the right skilled people to help them build their software. We call that a dedicated team, so they create the software for the customer. Aside from that, we also conduct projects. That means we deliver projects from A to Z. These are projects where a customer comes with us with requirements, and we convert them into a working computer program.
And aside from that, we also maintain and support the running applications. So they can call us if an application goes down, and we solve the issue.
M: Actually, there are many companies with the same activity, and what is the main thing that differentiates you from competing companies?
Towards the customer, two elements matter most to us. You could say, okay, you are better in price or quality, etc. I believe we are not the cheapest in the market, and maybe even better developers exist in the world, but we are probably the best in speed. That means a customer has a request, and we are very quick in making that work and putting it into action. If that means we need to recruit, we are very quick in recruitment, but mostly we assign people from the current team. So from the day people ask us specific questions to make it work, we record fast. That’s one thing.
Apart from speed, we can convince customers to work with us as we are close to the customer. I am also based in Western Europe, my colleagues are there, and we discuss directly with the customer, face-to-face.
Wrapping it up it is the speed of closing a deal, making it work, and then being very close to the customer, bringing good quality for a reasonable cost.
But also important is we don’t only have unique selling propositions or things that make us stand out from the crowd towards the customers, but also towards the employees. And that’s also important because happy employees make happy customers. So we offer something that many other competitors don’t. We offer fully remote working and provide work for Western European customers in English. So for many people, this is an opportunity to improve their English and work for very high-end customers in a different part of the world where they would have difficulty accessing themselves directly.
M: Let’s consider each of them. What do you do with these categories: Digital Transformation, Development, Team Extension, Custom Software Development and Space Solutions?
Well, digital transformation is an extensive topic. You can call almost everything a digital transformation. So there are certain aspects where we add a lot of value. For example, sometimes a customer comes to us and asks: “I would like to do this, or I would like to convert my business from a traditional business to a digital business”. That is a digital transformation. We think, along with the customer, we have a lot of experience in digital product thinking and designing. That means we can guide them in converting their business from traditional to digital. And we have done that several times already in real estate where customers had very traditional firms, and we converted them to digital-first companies. And that’s a whole roadmap of applications, but also process changes. So that’s how we tackle the digital transformation.
Part of our development team works as a dedicated team for specific customers, mainly SaaS companies. So they are digital product companies. They make the software themselves, and we help them build it. That means we bring the right quality and technology to that customer. Sometimes the customer lacks experience and expertise in certain aspects of mobile app development, front-end or back-end development, or a specific technology. And then, we assign a specialist, mostly for a longer time. In some cases, it can be for years. We had a very successful unicorn scale-up in Belgium, where we served them for six years to build the core functionalities of their product.
So although being an outsource consulting company, we developed the core functionalities of that company’s product.
And there are some other categories – let me talk about space solutions because that’s a new business unit within our company. We aim to make the bridge between space technology and software, so we make software to be used in space. What is space? Space is sometimes called “New Space” and involves many things happening on satellites. There are, I think, 100 times more satellites in the orbits above in the sky than a couple of years ago. And it means that this comes along with a lot of technological challenges. And these challenges are more and more software-driven. It can be about the communication to these satellites but also be linked to Earth observation. Many of these satellites, namely small satellites, small SATs or CubeSats, are equipped with cameras. But of course, with the revolution in artificial intelligence, we can now interpret these images and say, okay, flooding is happening in Georgia. We can see it, and we can detect it quickly. We can see the depth of the water. We can see how fast it is coming and what the impact will be. You could translate that to which buildings are destroyed and even inform the insurance company of the loss of certain assets and mortgages that might be in play.
Space is about communication. It’s about earth observation. But it’s also about pure R&D. There are a lot of R&D activities in space. Companies are experimenting with whether it makes sense to, for example, make bread more efficiently in space compared to on Earth. Part of it is linked to a different environment without gravity, and there’s always electricity in space because you have solar panels pointing at the sun. There’s no contamination in space. Production processes might also benefit from space solutions. And we are the software provider for this kind of initiative.
M: As I saw, your projects cover different industries… Why do you do this? Why do you think this diversity is needed?
That’s a good question. I don’t focus so much on industries because you don’t have a lot of advantages to focus on one industry. But nevertheless, it makes sense to be good in specific industries and leave aside some other industries. For example, we don’t do banking because it’s too complex. There’s a lot of regulation, and you must be a specialist to succeed. But, on the other hand, we have some verticals where we have particular specialists’ know-how after having conducted many projects. One is Healthtech, and another is Proptech.
We have been doing a lot of mobility projects for the last six years where, for example, IoT comes in place, parking management, that kind of thing. Also, smart tolling, for instance, charging people digitally using a highway, not going through the traditional way but tracking vehicles on the highway. So that requires some know-how. But a multi-industry focus makes sense because we share expertise amongst the verticals, and you can learn from each other. If we have people in the health industry, you can get some concepts and best practices from the mobility industry. And that’s why we don’t focus just on one.
M: What about Georgia? Why did you decide to open a branch here?
That was just a year ago. We took the decision quite quickly because of several things. First of all, there was a sense of urgency, as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict just started, and many people were moving. Many of our employees in Belarus wanted to look for another place to work. Georgia was well situated and attractive for many of them to come here. So we followed them in the first instance. But then, of course, just following doesn’t mean you open a branch. We opened a branch because we believe in the potential in the long run for the office in Georgia.
Why is that? Because, first of all, there’s a cultural fit. People understand Western European culture, where most of our customers are based. Also, there’s talent on the market, and enough qualified engineers, especially with the inflow of people from Belarus and Ukraine coming to Georgia as well. So I think it’s excellent for Georgia and the Georgian economy. The country’s development speed is desirable too – that’s why we want to be part of it.
M: How would you rate this one-year positioning? How successful was the opening of the Georgian hub for the company?
Of course, every startup of a new division comes with its challenges. And looking back one year, one could have taken other decisions or done things differently. But overall, we’re satisfied we have a stable team. Of course, there’s still much to do in the following years. But we’re happy! We had hoped to have a smoother experience on the administration side of things. We needed help with the paperwork. It took some time and certainly more than we had hoped for. And then, of course, with the instability in the region, you had also people coming to Georgia but leaving again and coming back. So some uncertainty was always there. But looking back one year, it’s been very positive.
M: There is a long distance between Belgium, Spain and Georgia… Is this an obstacle to effectively managing the processes?
Certainly not! We are a fully remote company. Everybody works from home, but if they want, they can collaborate in specific co-working spaces. We interact via Google Meet, Teams, or any of these platforms.
Whether they are in a different part of the city of Tbilisi or in Poland or Spain, it doesn’t matter. Working likewise adds a lot of value because of the higher diversity. It’s bringing richness to thinking about processes and optimizing ways of working. And our procedures are multicultural, open-minded and therefore very, very suited for several locations. So distance doesn’t play a role.
M: Let’s talk about future plans… What is your goal in both the short and long term?
That’s an interesting question. As an entrepreneur, I always dream ahead. Three years, five years, ten years… Somebody taught me to always have the concept in mind of “planting a flag” like you define your goal. And for us, our goal is to be a team of 50 people here in Georgia – for now, we are 12. So we want to go to 50 people and form a very stable operation here.
In the longer term, I also believe in participating more in local and regional activities. That means not only serving customers in Western Europe but also looking at regional opportunities. When you attain a particular maturity, you can also do business locally and detect opportunities in your local market.
M: Can you symbolically tell what is the best word to describe CactusSoft?
There’s one word, and I mentioned it yesterday in the team event, which is called “GOESTING” in Dutch. And it means you’re excited to do things. Like you can’t wait to take the following steps, that is what I think describes us as a company and what we expect from the people. “Okay, let’s go for the next thing”. So we want people to be enthusiastic, which radiates to the whole team. I think it’s been there in Georgia and other hubs where people have shown this attitude. And we saw that people like to work here and see us as a family – and it’s essential. So enthusiasm, or better said, GOESTING, is the keyword for Cactussoft.