This is the second post in my coverage of Nearsoft, the Mexican nearshore outsourcing company out of San Jose, CA and Hermosillo, Mexico. This is my interview with Nearsoft’s executives, Matt Pérez and Roberto Martinez, COO and CEO respectively.
LatinIT Marketing: Tell me, how did you get started in nearshore outsourcing?
Matt Pérez: I’ve done product development all my life. Ive been involved with six start-ups, and co-founded 3, including Nearsoft. I worked for 9 years at Sun Microsystems, during the early years, starting out in hardware and then moving to Software. When I left I was senior director of the Solaris Group. I first got involved with outsourcing in 1989 around the time of the San Francisco earthquake. I first worked with the Indian offshore IT services company Wipro but had a bad experience. Offshore outsourcing has gotten worse over the last 7-10 years, with bad experiences based on cultural differencs, time-zone differences, and turnover. Turnover is brutal.
I said to myself “if I could only do this in Mexico I’d do it in a heartbeat.” I found an IT outsourcing company from Costa Rica and worked with them for a bit, and noticed that Costa Rica really knows how to market itself.
I eventually got involved with TechBA (a program created by the Mexican government and operated by the U.S. – Mexico Foundation for Science to help Mexican software and IT services companies penetrate the U.S. and European markets). I initially worked with them as a consultant, helping them to put together effective presentations and websites. Later I started working with three TechBA incubated companies in San Jose, California as a broker, a middleman, trying to help establish an identify for “nearshoring.”
LatinITMarketing: Why nearshoring?
Matt Pérez: I started noticing a difference, an advantage in nearshoring: they (nearhore companies) were more responsive, due to proximity of culture and physical proximity. The nearshore personnel were more interactive, more thoughtful, more consultative. They were more apt to say “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, let’s try this…”
I found that the smallest of the three companies I was working with showed more consistency and reliability, and so I started working with them exclusively. I eventually merged my company with the smaller of the three Mexico-based companies, based out of Hermosillo, Sonora. We became one company at the beginning of 2007, called Nearsoft, Inc. Nearsoft Mexico became the subsidiary. We started off with 8-9 people and now we have 50. I partnered with Roberto Martinez, Nearsoft’s CEO, who is based out of Hermosillo, and we’ve been together ever since.
LatinIT Marketing: How did you come up with your company’s branding and online marketing strategy?
Matt Pérez: Branding is not just a design or a logo, it is who you are. When you land on a web page, you need to ask the customer “what can I do for you?” You don’t want to waste their time. You want to tell them right away what we do, so you can decide what to do quickly. If you notice on our website, there’s lots of white space. We let you (the visitor) have time to absorb what you’ve read. We’re very lightweight. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do take serving you seriously. We live and die by it.
LatinITMarketing: Did you hire an interactive agency to develop your website?
Matt Pérez: I did the whole thing by myself. You have to remember, I’m a product development guy. Regarding the videos, I just used Flash. I then converted it to a standard video format. Then when I saw that iPhone was the up and coming thing I put the video on Vimeo where you can easily view it on iPhone. We’re starting to get into developing iPhone apps now actually. We customized the website to be viewed on different devices. We created different CSSs and we can detect whether you’re reading it on a browser, iPhone, Blackberry, Android on the fly.
LatinITMarketing: How did you decide on Joomla for your CMS?
Matt Pérez: The move to Joomla was a recent decision. We hired a guy who was good at it. We really like it because it lets everybody else update the site easily. We we had used it earlier to build our customer Tierranatal.com’s website. We contemplated using WordPress vs. Joomla, but Joomla has a whole lot of plug-ins available including plug-ins for blogs, version control, etc. We converted our whole site over within a couple of days. It’s a huge win for us. I did the original site by hand all in HTML.
LatinITMarketinjg: What have been the results of your online strategy?
Matt Pérez: To be perfectly honest, I don’t know in terms of hard numbers. I do have anecdotal evidence that our online presence helps us build trust even before we have the first conversation with prospects. As you can see in one of the quotes, one of my clients says that she “made the call” after watching the videos. Another one said “as I watched the short video, I got the feeling that this was a company that I can work with and have fun at the same time.”
I really believe that it works because it is consistent with the whole of the brand: we’re all about servicing you and not to bombard you with meaningless facts about how wonderful we are.
LatinITMarketing: What words of wisdom do you have for other nearshore outsourcing companies?
Matt Pérez: You need to understand what it costs to get into the market, and decide if you are willing to do that. A lot of people from outside the United States think sales will just happen magically, that’s it’s just a relationship sale. They don’t think about the fact that here in the U.S. it costs much more to sell. I’ve seen a lot of companies get overwhelmed by the challenges. This is true not just with people from Mexico or even Latin America. I’ve seen the same problem with companies from France and Vietnam. The US market is a big, wealthy market, but people from outside the US don’t always understand at a gut level the kind of investment that’s required to enter it. Don’t do it part-time. You’ve got to actually be here (physically).
You’ve got to focus. In Mexico, and in most of Latin America, the markets are so small that IT and product development companies have to diversify. They can offer you product development, IT services, hardware, and they can even shine your shoes! In the U.S. you’ve got to be very focused or you won’t succeed.
You’ve got to hire people who know English. It is essential that your development folks know English.
In a follow-up email correspondence with Roberto Martinez, Nearsoft’s CEO based out of Hermosillo, Mexico, he reiterated this last point:
Roberto Martinez: Software developers require a clear understanding of their client’s goals, their perspective, their problems. It is very important to communicate back and forth with the client to come up with the solutions.
Going deeper, the community of developers is an engine for innovation. Mexico is clear that the IT economy is something we should be involved with and is betting on a bright future there, with programs like Mexico First, Prosoft, Mexico IT, but it should never forget about the English language. We should be masters of it. With English skills we should be able to add more value to the service we provide as a country, but also to start being part of the inner mind of our neighbor. Understanding how this market works and how new niches are created is essential.
LatinITMarketing: Roberto and Matt, thank you for your cooperation. You guys are blazing a nearshore trail for more companies from The Americas to make an impact on the global product development and IT outsourcing market!