Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Why your software startup should be from the Caribbean

This is my opinion.

The software development landscape worldwide is segmented (into the following regions): 

  • Brazil, Russia, India 
  • China (BRIC) 
  • Australia
  • Pacific nations
  • Latin America
  • Caribbean 
Each of these groups has specific attributes about them that put them uniquely in each space. BRIC nations are involved in high tech aerospace, research and equipment manufacturing. For example Brazil is one of the major players in the industry in the executive jet manufacturing industry with a company called Embraer. Many universities (2,600+) and a need to solve their own problems internally has helped Brazil to grow, in some cases they receive technical specifications from companies in North America & Europe to develop advanced systems to advance those economies and as a spinoff, they have benefited from these investments. 

Australia and Pacific nations are involved in mainly advancing their economies because of their size so they have enough to self-sustain. Latin America is similar to some extent to Australia & Pacific nation as there is a reliance on North America & Europe to provide opportunities for innovation. Caribbean is mainly for tourism but nothing else, it is an untapped resource. 

Key factors in successful outsourcing operations: 

  1.  Technical Ability & Aptitude – Can they do what’s required now and do they have the ability to learn
  2. Cultural Alignment – Do they understand your company’s values and are able to adapt sufficiently
  3. Infrastructure – Sound technology (high speed internet and reliable) good roads, banks and security.
  4. Language - Are they able to communicate effectively with your clients and/or your team? 
  5. Time zone – Can the teams collaborate in real-time with your team (to resolve issues or plan)? 
  6. Travel Time – How difficult is it for your team to get to the team delivering the solution if the need arose?
  7. Cost – How much does it cost for an ideal developer to deliver the solutions?
  8. Human Resources – Are there enough trained or trainable graduates passing out of tertiary level institutions to support the growth of the industry?

Below is a matrix showcasing the strengths and weaknesses of the regions, with 5 being most ideal & 1 being least.

North America & the Caribbean developer need

  1. Culturally aligned with their locale – understand and able to add value, for example, advancing conversations with clients beyond just the here and now but where do you need to be.
  2. Knowledgeable & capable of applying  contemporary software development processes (such as Agile) – in order to help clients to understand & prioritize their needs
  3. Good communicators & possess collaborative skills – the ability to communicate with their internal teams, stakeholders and work together to effectively solve problems
  4. In access of broadband internet & ICT – robust infrastructure to ensure communication and connectivity to remote resources are not hindered by technology failures or interruptions
  5. Low costing & high value - what is the price/leverage equilibrium of these resources, can you move these resources to higher skilled work easily or will they forever be technical support specialists or programmers?
  6. Technologically rich in their skillset – understanding and executing utilizing various technology
  7. Able  to deliver on time and high quality – a culture of delivery excellence 
  8. Travel time - is it possible to get into the country easily? Will your staff be willing to get there in 1-4 hours or 10-20 hours. A critical factor for your highly technical managers, no one enjoys being away from their family for weeks at time but with the ability to quickly travel to your location and be back in a day is awesome.

Overall there are some real opportunities available in the Caribbean. Here are a few companies that have done it:

  • RealDecoy made that move a few years ago in Jamaica and by all accounts it was a successful move.
  • Medullan Inc also has software resources in Trinidad for a few years
There are also other companies that are utilizing software developers here albeit covertly.

Delton Phillips is the Director of Strategy & Innovation of Particular Presence, a technology company which specializes in starting up software teams and team management for businesses. You can reach him at delton[at]particularpresence.com

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