Our first experience at SapientPro. The Founders (Part 2)

17 Mar 2020
Kate, copywriter
Let's recall how it all began, shall we?
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How did it all start?

SapientPro is a place where there are no bosses and no strict hierarchy. However, there are people who started everything. We call them “the Founders”. Their first days in the company, are the first days of the company.

Ihor: In the beginning, there were only three of us: Max, Serj and me. Before making this leap in the IT business, we worked for the company from the Netherlands. It gave us a great tech experience. So, we thought that with our tech expertise it would be enough to write emails to 3-5 clients and make offers. We expected them to see how cool we were and imagined that they would agree to cooperate right away. Zero! It all turned out more difficult than we thought, and in almost half a year WE HAD ZERO CLIENTS (shapes his fingers in a circle, looks through it and laughs)

Serj: Then, we got our very first task – to create apps for Android and iOS. Elated is not the right word to describe what we felt because it was more than that. We were willing to take any tasks just to get all the necessary experience in working with clients. This little project really motivated us. On a global scale, it wasn’t a tough task. For us, it was huge! We took it so seriously as though our fate depended on it. Before that, I had doubts. Because I didn’t quite know how it all worked. And when I have doubts, I feel like something restrains me from acting right. However, when you build something as grand as SapientPro, you learn to fight these doubts. You see, it was the first time I felt so uncertain about something. I guess it happens when you take risks. The risk was worth it. 

Max: Yes, that’s why we thought about having a separate place to work. Our first office was a rented apartment. The three of us came there on the 15th of March. We opened the door and saw one single dining table in the middle. It was it. No furniture and bland pale walls. We thought: “Okay, it doesn’t matter. Let’s work”. We sat by this dining table and started looking for the clients. By the way, this day officially became our birthday – the 15th of March.

Who was your very first big client?

Serj: By the end of the summer, we finally started moving on. The very first client was SprinkleInc from Thailand. We customized CRM for them, and, well, it is our first loyal client. I remember Ihor’s call with CEOs of the company. He constantly repeated “Yes, clear” and “All will be fine”. I don’t know how many times he said that (laughs) We are still their leading tech partners. Max even visited Bangkok two months ago. SapientPro participated in the tender for this company. We are proud to say that we have won. Now we develop an app and the website for online water ordering. Then we had a company from Detroit, and it went on and on. 

What story lies behind your name and logo?

Max: We created our name in 20 minutes. Ihor chose the name “Sapient”. We all liked it. Then we just picked up the accessible domain. It turned out to be pro. I guess intuitively we understood that we are really sapient and quite pros! Some people told us the name was lame, and that it’s not catchy. Well, what can I say? You can see us now. 

Serj: As for the logo, it was a more daunting task. We were working with tons of designers. They sent us such trash! I mean, some sent the logos that were resembling Skype and Slack. They didn’t care enough to change it even slightly. I thought: “Okay, this is it; it’s the bad sign that it won’t work!” Then I called my friend from San Francisco. He is a designer in Silicon Valley. The guy gave us a reference to his colleague from Kyiv. He drew 20 different variants, and they were all cool. We voted and chose the one you can see now. 

What was the biggest obstacle you’ve encountered?

Serj: Oh, definitely Max. Max is the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered (laughs). Seriously, there were a lot of them. However, do you know any business where there wasn’t any? The obstacles do not matter on a large scale. In fact, now that you ask me about them, I cannot recall anything that we would recall as “our biggest failure”. There were problems but we solved them right away, took our lessons from the situation and then let it all go. 

Ihor: Yeah, I cannot recall any obstacles either. When you have a target, you don’t dramatize if some bad things emerge. For example, now we are finishing building the office basement. There should be a meeting room and lounge zone. I guess, most obstacles concerned this mundane building process, not our job, or clients, or devs. Here there are a lot of aspects to think about: bricks and wood and stuff. However, we do not centralize our mind on that. We think positively. 

What is your biggest win?

Ihor: Our people. In the beginning, we could only dream of such a team. Then, one by one, we invited our devs to the new-born family. Now, there are almost 40 of us, and we have no intention to stop enlarging. Think of it: our first corporate party was on the balcony of our apartment. Now, we have to rent a big hall. 

Serj: SapientPro finally found its home. It’s such an achievement to move to our own non-rented office. We worked in an apartment, then in an open-space room. Now, we finally belong somewhere. Max, Ihor and I wanted it to feel like a second home to our devs. Oh, and when I say “SapientPro” I don’t mean Ihor, Max and me only. It’s every person working there. We are nothing without our people.

What about the office? Why loft and why Star Wars?

Ihor: Why Loft? We made this decision because of the peculiarity of the building. It had all the circumstances to design a loft. First of all, it was completely made of bricks. Second of all, these bricks are not the usual ones. They are a rarity of the old Austrian origin (Chernivtsi was under the government of Austria from 1774 to at least 1919). This building is 130+ years old. There was an old map from the nineteenth century, and it was already there. So, who knows, maybe it’s even older. We couldn’t just ignore history and decided to pay tribute to it. Loft only accentuates the uniqueness of the building. 

As for the Star Wars concept, well, that’s actually quite funny. The thing is that it came to us by chance. There was one guy who asked us to send him our slogans. We didn’t have any yet. So we decided to send him quotes from Star Wars, you know, just for fun. Then, when we arranged the office, it was great but there was a concept lacking. We decided to choose Star Wars for this. That’s why there is a statue of Yoda, a picture of BB8, and even the planet on the wall of our kitchen.

Serj: By the way, we are thinking about changing the image in the kitchen each year. Perhaps, it will become our tradition.

How have you changed during these three years?

Ihor: Serj got older; I got younger (laughs)

Serj: Ha-ha, yeah, right. Well, first of all, we got a huge experience. I remember, when we just began, I didn’t know what I was doing. I never told this to anyone, even to Ihor and Max, but I felt embarrassed because I didn’t know the difference between the frontend and backend development. Now I do, of course. I recall it and wonder: how did I even enter IT without knowing these aspects? However, the more you work, the faster you fill the gaps. At first, we were adventurous, and each step was a risk-taking. Now we are confident and determined in what we do. Our ambitions keep growing, and we want to open an office in the Netherlands.

If you could turn back, would you change something?

Serj: If someone would allow me to change something in what we went through, I wouldn’t. I would go through all of it again. 

Ihor: Yes, me too. After we finished our office I said to Serj: “Can you imagine? It was such a venture. We could fail”. The thing is that we invested everything in this office. We raised money and funded the building process right away. However, I would do it again. 

Serj: Yes. I guess we achieved all of it with hard work but also luck. Still, what if luck is not an abstract coincidence the fate bestows upon you? What if it’s quality? I think all the actions, wins and fails altogether constitute lack. You know, it never comes to someone who does nothing. 

If you missed the first part of the story of SapientPro – click on the link.

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