After their application for digital rental inspections crashed, PB Plus had to look for new developers in a hurry. Arno Temmerman and Xavier Kluyskens found them through a Belgian partner with a development hub in Belarus. From Minsk, CactusSoft’s software developers built an iOS application and a web platform that are stable and allow customers to work much faster and more efficiently.
“You see more and more entrepreneurs like us who have an innovative idea and a digital solution in mind, but don’t have the technical skills to build them themselves. In Belgium, there are too few developers and the war for talent is causing scarcity and high prices. In Minsk, 20 percent of young people graduate in a technical field and the pool of talent is enormous. Thanks to the expertise of CactusSoft’s Belgian management, we were able to gain access to this talent very quickly.”
PB Plus specializes in rental inspections. At the beginning and end of a lease, when a tenant moves into a home and when he leaves it, the landlords (usually real estate agents acting as intermediaries) can complete the entire process on one iPad application. Taking photos, describing each part of the home, indicating damage, adding comments from tenants or landlords: everything is done on the spot via the app. Completing the process digitally is more efficient and up to five times faster than the classic way.
When that iPad app completely crashed after a year and a half, following an iOS update that Apple implemented, they were at PB Plus with their hands in their hair. “This iPad app is, in addition to the web platform where the location descriptions are kept, the beating heart of our company,” explains Arno Temmerman. “The lockdown was over, physical site visits were again possible, our company was gradually running at full speed. Suddenly, anyone who updated the app could no longer use it. Fortunately, we still had two iPads that had not been updated. The only two that the app still worked on. We drove around Flanders with those iPads for months, from location description to location description, in order not to abandon our customers.”
“The development company that built our app promised a solution,” Xavier Kluyskens continues. “But after three months of tinkering, it turned out that the solution was hanging together with snags. The app kept crashing and we still didn’t have a stable version. We felt more and more that they didn’t have the people and the skills to provide us with what we needed. You cannot build a company on broken promises. We then frantically started looking for another developer who could provide a stable app that could handle larger groups of users and larger volumes of data. ”
Belgian Link Inspires Confidence
That search brought PB Plus to CactusSoft. “Nearshoring was new to us, it was certainly not a solution we were consciously looking for,” says Arno Temmerman. “We happened to bump into testimonials from other customers on Bloovi and we were excited. We were a bit reluctant at first. But with Bram, the Belgian founder of CactusSoft, there was a connection from minute one. The strong Belgian link instilled our confidence. We initially worked together for 100 hours, a kind of trial period. But we decided very quickly to extend it and ended up working together intensively for 4-5 months.”
“After a few meetings it was clear that the best solution was to completely rebuild our web platform and the iOS app from scratch. Fully developed natively, with a stable foundation. That is crucial to us. When we gave demos of our previous application, it faltered once in two. That is a disaster for a start-up company. We wanted an application and a platform that we can rely on blindly. ”
2,000 Kilometers Away, But Still Close By
“We were able to follow the entire development process closely,” says Xavier Kluyskens. “CactusSoft works with sprints of two weeks. After those two weeks, they always showed us the result, we were able to propose adjustments, after which the developers got to work for another two weeks. We didn’t sign a blank check, we could keep a close eye on progress all the time. In fact, we never had the feeling that we were working with developers 2,000 kilometers away in Belarus. They seemed to be close by: we had a status meeting every day, they kept us constantly informed, even late Friday evening they were still working for us.”
“It was also important for us that a permanent, dedicated team developed our application and our web platform. We are technological laymen. We have a lot of experience in the real estate sector, but we know nothing about software development. We translated our needs to CactusSoft, conversely, the developers and the project manager explained clearly how the app and the platform work and how we can use them in practice in the field. They put themselves in our shoes. They kept the end-user in mind all the time.”
Full Partner for the Future
The most important advantage of nearshoring, according to Temmerman, is the ratio between price and quality. “In between lockdowns, we traveled to Minsk twice ourselves to get to know the team. 20 percent of the young people there graduate in a technical field. The pool of technological talent is enormous. So the opposite is the case here in Belgium. The war for talent drives up the price and causes a lot of turnover in companies that develop software. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves that companies make claims that they cannot live up to, that they do not have the skills to bring complex projects to a successful conclusion. In the end we paid less for more quality.”
Xavier Kluyskens believes that nearshoring will only gain in importance in the coming years.
“Digitization is creating a new type of entrepreneurs, such as Arno and me. We have a good idea to do business digitally, but we do not have the skills to implement the solution we have in mind entirely ourselves. We therefore need an external partner to develop our idea and shape it technologically. More and more entrepreneurs like us will stand up, while there are already too few developers here in Belgium.”
“We do everything at PB Plus with two partners: from sales and marketing to administration and accounting. Then it gives you peace of mind knowing that you can leave the technical aspect to a party you can count on and who thinks along with you. CactusSoft has grown somewhat over the past year into a fully-fledged third partner for the future of our company.”
If you have a tech idea or a digital challenge we can help you with, contact us at [email protected] or discover what nearshoring and CactusSoft can do for you.
The article first appeared at Bloovi.be on May 24, 2021. Read the Dutch version here.