Home Blog Offshore Team TenderApp Owner Marcel Hazeleger Shares His Story of a Non-Technical Entrepreneur Who Has Multiplied Tech Product by Several Times

TenderApp Owner Marcel Hazeleger Shares His Story of a Non-Technical Entrepreneur Who Has Multiplied Tech Product by Several Times

Author Olena Herasymchuk
Posted Feb 19, 2019
Offshore Team

TenderApp is an intelligence platform in which all information from published tenders is collected and made available in a user-friendly way. With TenderApp, any non-governmental organization can receive all necessary guidance and help to win tenders. TenderApp is also used as a tool for keeping up with interesting tenders and managing tenders and bid teams.


marcel-tenderappRecently, we’ve talked with Marcel Hazeleger, TenderApp Co-Owner. Marcel shares his story of a non-technical entrepreneur who has grown the company by several times. He also tells why it’s so important to find people whom you can trust and showcases how Agile principles help organize an efficient team management. No wonder TenderApp remote team is going to become the most Agile development team in Daxx!

Q: Could you start by telling more about what TenderApp does and how the idea of TenderApp came about?  
Marcel: TenderApp appeared as a part of Q Core – another company we had started earlier. Q Core helps Dutch companies win governmental tenders, so at Q Core we gather information on all tenders and provide it to our clients. But around two years ago, when we had 200 clients and no system or database to manage the information collected, we decided to create TenderApp – the application that would solve this issue. The main idea was to replace the older application we had at Q Core, collect new information on +10k tenders a year, and increase the value we had provided before.   

Q: What are the competitive advantages of TenderApp?
Marcel: There are three main points:

  1. Content: we collect and process data from ten platforms in the Netherlands (it’s about 10k tenders) and add a lot of value to this information. We add agenda to every tender, we make a description, we tag every tender, inform/update our customers when there’s some new information. We make data workable for our clients.
  2. Software: we built software tools that work for our clients. We listen carefully to our clients and try to solve their problems.
  3. Knowledge: our team has lots of knowledge about tenders and bid management. We introduced the Bidcycle method and via our blog we help clients to be more and more successful in winning tenders.

I see software development as a journey because you start with the idea and as the process moves on, it becomes clearer and clearer. You simply start to realize that you’re moving and making changes.

Q: How many clients are already using TenderApp?
Marcel: We have more than 100 companies currently using TenderApp some are already client and some are in a trail period. Our big launch took place in January 2019. 

tenderapp team

Q: How big is the TenderApp team?
Marcel: There are nine people working in our Dutch office and four in the Daxx Kyiv office. Last month three new people started working in our Dutch office and now we’re considering adding one more developer. In Kyiv office, we have one project manager, two front-end developers, and one back-end developer, and currently we’re also considering adding one more back-end developer. So we can see how our company is growing bigger in a real-time mode.  

If you opt for remote cooperation, it’s better to distinguish the cultural differences at the early stage, just to keep this in mind when you shape your management strategy.


Q: What challenges did you face when starting TenderApp? What lessons have you learned as a non-technical co-founder that built a technical product?
Marcel: Altogether, it took a lot of learning, but still it was an interesting journey. I see software development as a journey because you start with the idea and as the process moves on, it becomes clearer and clearer. You simply start to realize that you’re moving and making changes. That’s actually the story of our application – it started as a simple tool with a total investment of 70k euros and now it’s grown by dozens of times. It became a new company.
The lessons I’ve learned:

  1. If you’re not technical, you should spend a lot of time on the preparation stage. You can invite technical people to talk about the idea and goal of your application. Find people whom you trust and who can think of solutions to help you out with the things you don’t know. Decision making is especially hard when you are non-technical. We had no technical knowledge, but we were lucky enough not to have technical challenges at all. 
  2. If you opt for remote cooperation, it’s better to distinguish the cultural differences at the early stage, just to keep this in mind when you shape your management strategy. For example, I’ve noticed that there’s a difference in how developers prioritize tasks in the Netherlands and in Ukraine. If I give a new task to a Dutch developer, they would most probably say: “I have to finish my previous task first and then I’ll get to this one”. By contrast, their Ukrainian colleagues would say: “ok, I’m getting to it right now”. And when you ask the latter whether the previous task is ready, they may well say that the new task is ready, while the previous one still needs to be finished.
  3. Once, we’ve visited a Daxx meeting in the Netherlands (where Daxx clients and potential clients were present). And it was funny to realize that all business owners who go for offshore development face similar challenges. And, as a result, all of us share very much alike insights.

While you’re building, you get some new insights and make some changes, which neither fits in project outsourcing nor works with a fixed price model.

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Q: What were the reasons to start looking for a nearshore development team? 
Marcel: Before we started working with Daxx, we had used the services of a Dutch company that had their team in India. We simply gave them the whole project and wanted to have it built for a fixed price. However, it didn’t work out. We were forced to stop the project because while you’re building, you get some new insights and make some changes, which neither fits in project outsourcing nor works with a fixed price model. That was the moment I said I wanted to do it with the team I could see and communicate with on a daily basis.

And that’s what I like about our dedicated development team. If we see that something is wrong or want to change the direction, we can do it easily and quickly. We don’t have to explain it, negotiate new prices, etc. If we decide to go “left” – we go “left”, it’s simple like that. I also like that our Daxx team is really dedicated to our project. They don’t have multiple projects in progress, so they don’t need to prioritize. It’s really valuable these days.

I also like that our Daxx team is really dedicated to our project. They don’t have multiple projects in progress, so they don’t need to prioritize. It’s really valuable these days.


Q: Did you know about all outsourcing models beforehand (project outsourcing, dedicated team, extended team, etc.) or did you have to learn about them during your journey?
Marcel: I had to learn throughout my journey. When we started this project, we were like rookies – we made rookie mistakes. I didn’t know how to start the cooperation with Ukrainian team and I had no idea about the tech talent in the Netherlands, so I never considered hiring technical people in the Netherlands. That’s why, it was obvious that I needed the help of a service provider. Igor (Daxx CTO) and Tetiana (HR specialist) proved to be a huge help to me in choosing the right people for my team.

tenderapp team daxx

Q: What is the developer recruitment process like at TenderApp? Who takes part in the interview? What qualities do you look for in an ideal candidate? 
Marcel: I don’t really look at the technical part, you know I’m non-technical. So, what I’m looking for are communication skills. It’s extremely important to ensure a potential candidate is able to communicate clearly in English. Concerning the technical part – it’s our project manager’s concern. He has a voice in searching for new candidates, testing them, and saying who could be a good fit for our team. 

The recruitment process is simple: in most cases, I tell the team that we need additional resources, then I approach Tetiana and say we can start looking for new candidates, and the moment she finds someone, we schedule an interview with one of our team members. If everything goes well, I have a talk with the product owner in the Netherlands, who works with the developers more than I do, and we make a final decision. 

We aim to visit our Kyiv team two times a year and our goal is to have some good time with the guys and hear their ideas.

Q: How is communication process with the remote team set up? How often do you think it’s necessary to visit the remote team?
Marcel: We have an Agile team at Daxx and try to focus more and more on this methodology. When I have an idea, I create a Jira user story where I describe the functionality and what exactly needs to be done. Then, it undergoes several changes and is reviewed by our technical guide. We also have regular meetings. The rest of communication is done via Slack during the day. 

I call guys multiple times a week to ask how they are doing and I believe that combining this with business communication is a good model to follow.


Q: How do you overcome the problem of not being collocated with your team?
Marcel: We aim to visit our Kyiv team two times a year. Last time it was in July. We didn’t meet our visit-plan for the previous year, but we’ll try to compensate for it this year. All we want is to have some good time with the guys and hear their ideas. For example, this week we are here and we are discussing our road map, where the application is going, is it stable at the moment, what are the improvements to be made, etc.

I mean we not only discuss the details, but also some broad issues. I believe that if you have a remote team and perceive them as a part of your local team, you can and need to call them on a daily basis to simply chat with them on whatever topics you want. I call guys multiple times a week to ask how they are doing and I believe that combining this with business communication is a good model to follow.

I’ve learned from Agile and Scrum that most of the problems occur because business owners try to steer the team or want to have excessive influence on the project that’s being built. Sometimes it’s better to take a step back and let the team do their own tasks.

Q: What are the benefits of using Agile methodology? What books about Agile would you recommend to start with?
Marcel: As a business owner, I don’t have time to get into every detail, our product owner and the Kyiv team should know about Agile a lot more than I do. But still, if you’re a business owner and want your team to work with Agile, you’ll have to know the basics of it. Here’s the list of books that will make a good start on Agile:

  1. “Scrum—A Pocket Guide” by Gunther Verheyen
  2. “Head First Agile. A Brain-Friendly Guide” by Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene
  3. “The Devops Handbook. How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations” by Gene Kim

One of the first things I’ve learned from Agile and Scrum was that most of the problems occur because business owners try to steer the team or want to have excessive influence on the project that’s being built. Sometimes it’s better to take a step back and let the team do their own tasks. Your main task as a business owner is to write down the requirements and the roadmap for a certain period – nothing more, nothing less.

Software development means that the guys need some time to be creative, so you have to build an environment where they can be creative and make sure they have enough time to think of good solutions. If you limit them in time, they’ll have to take a lot of shortcuts and most probably, you’ll reach the goal. However,  looking back, you’ll understand that you get poor code quality.  

If you’re a business owner and want your team to work with Agile, you’ll have to know the basics of it.

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Q: How did Daxx perform from the recruitment side? Were you satisfied with the speed and quality of recruitment?
Marcel: There were different periods. Two or three months ago we were kind of losing connection with Daxx, so we talked about it and tightened up the meetings. Now we have them every week or every two weeks. Together with Igor, we go over the Agile stuff, discuss our processes and software, take some time to review the technologies we use and decide whether they are still good or not. 

In short, I can receive guidance for the development process from Igor and it’s really important to have such a person when you’re not technical. Let me give you an example: if your admin site is built on AngularJS and a new version of it appears, you’ll certainly have to rewrite your site into the latest version. If nobody told me about it, at some point, my business would have become unattractive to developers, as it would be extremely hard to find software engineers who could work with the outdated technology. 

On the other hand, there are some organizational issues and Tetiana is always in between my business and the people in the team to solve them. When there’s a need to negotiate salaries or settle any other team-related question, she tells what the guys want and need, which helps us come to the best solution.

I can receive guidance for the development process from Igor and it’s really important to have such a person when you’re not technical.


Q: How do you like the development team’s performance? 
Marcel: The communication goes easy because guys speak English fluently, otherwise they wouldn’t be in our team. It was also very important for us to find people in Kyiv to ensure they can work as a team on a daily basis. That’s why we’ve decided to hire people who could work full-time at Daxx office in Kyiv.  

Daxx, as I see, is the company where people are hard workers who love their jobs. Apart from it, there’s no need to guess whether your remote team is happy – professional HR specialist keeps track on job-satisfaction of your team.

tenderapp and their daxx teamQ: How has team effectiveness grown from the moment you started with Daxx till now?
Marcel: It explodes in a positive meaning of the word. Now, we have a better understanding from the Dutch side of how offshore cooperation works, we understand how the processes are settled, how Agile makes it all easier, etc. And also we have people on our team who are willing to work hard and think of new solutions continuously.

For example, this morning we discussed implementing a new API from a third party company and went through all possible options. It was a very productive discussion because each team member uses their professional knowledge to come up with the best solution.  

Q: What is a unique value of Daxx as a service provider?
Marcel: Daxx, as I see, is the company where people are hard workers who love their jobs. Apart from it, there’s no need to guess whether your remote team is happy – professional HR specialist keeps track on job-satisfaction of your team. 
In my opinion, offshore cooperation isn’t only about cutting costs. It’s also about having good people on your project and making sure everybody is happy working on it, which is something hard to reach in the Netherlands. 

Q: What are the advantages of remote team building with Daxx?
Marcel: I don’t have experience with other remote teams because I haven’t cooperated with companies like Daxx before. But I know for sure that it’s important to cooperate with people who are easy to communicate with. We have now worked with Daxx for almost three years, so I know Jurgen, I know Bart, I know Alex, and for me, it’s easy to communicate with all people involved. So if you’re not technical – go to Daxx and make sure you have somebody who can help you structure your project. 

In my opinion, offshore cooperation isn’t only about cutting costs. It’s also about having good people on your project and making sure everybody is happy working on it, which is something hard to reach in the Netherlands.

Q: What practices would you recommend Daxx clients to follow to achieve the best results while working with a remote team? 
Marcel: If you compare TenderApp to other companies that cooperate with Daxx, you’ll see that most of them have technical experts in the Netherlands as well. And that’s the difference – we have no tech knowledge or tech people on the Dutch side. 
I’d recommend Daxx clients to take time before starting cooperation with an offshore software development team.

We didn’t do it – we simply started building our project because we had a clear picture of what we wanted. But eventually, we happened to start a whole new business, which appeared to be way bigger than we had ever expected. You need to be very careful – if you start a project too big and halfway you run out of money, the software won’t be working and consequently, you won’t get any results out of it. 

I’d recommend Daxx clients to take time before starting cooperation with an offshore software development team – you need to be very careful – if you start a project too big and halfway you run out of money, the software won’t be working and consequently, you won’t get any results out of it.


Q: Do you think there’s a need to prepare for offshore cooperation? What has this process looked like in your particular case? 
Marcel: We’ve decided to hire dedicated resources in the Netherlands to make the communication even more efficient. So when our remote developers have some questions, almost 24/7 there’s always someone to answer. The good thing about it is direct communication and the ongoing process. If you’re owning and running a business, your agendas are full and it may be hard to find time for developers. That’s why, we have a Product Owner who does a lot of preparation and makes sure everything is written correctly in Jira.

Another thing is—you need to be ready to discuss not only work-related topics during the daily stand-ups but also talk on everyday topics. In addition to this, we also do some field trips. Last time we were in Ukraine, we took our old team to Chernobyl. Anytime we have an opportunity – we go out with the whole team to have some great time. 

Key Takeaways:

  • If you’re not technical, you should spend a lot of time on the preparation stage – invite technical people to talk about the idea and goal of your application.
  • You need to be very careful when starting a project: if you start a project too big and halfway you run out of money, the software won’t be working and consequently, you won’t get any results out of it.  
  • If you opt for remote cooperation, it’s better to distinguish the cultural differences at the early stage, just to keep them in mind when you shape your management strategy. 
  • If you are a business owner and your agendas are full – hire a person who’ll do some planning, control proper Jira use, and answer questions of your remote developers whenever they need it. 
  • Aim to visit your remote team at least two times a year to have some good time together and discuss business issues. 
  • Perceive your remote team as a part of your local one – call them multiple times a week to ask how they are doing. 
  • If you’re a business owner and want your team to work with Agile, you’ll have to know the basics of it.
  • Don’t try to steer the team – sometimes it’s better to take a step back and let the team do their own tasks. 
  • Build an environment where developers can be creative and make sure they have enough time to think of good solutions. 
  • Remember, offshore cooperation isn’t only about cutting costs. It’s also about having good people on your project and making sure everybody is happy working on it.
name

Olena Herasymchuk

Digital Content Creator

Olena Herasymchuk is a tech-driven Digital Content Creator at Daxx. She is eager to discover latest trends of the IT world and share valuable insights with the readers of the Daxx blog.

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