I’m Konstantin Klyagin, the founder of two IT services agencies – Redwerk and QAwerk. I established Redwerk in 2005 with a team of three, relying only on my engineering expertise, sheer enthusiasm, and the power of social networking. Ten years later, I founded QAwerk as a spinout from Redwerk, clearly differentiating software development services from software testing.
This June, Redwerk celebrates its birthday – 17 years of steady growth, resilience during trying times, and over 250 successfully delivered projects. Read on to find out how we achieved business continuity and continue to thrive during times of uncertainty.
I’ve always dreamed of a company of my own. I started my tech journey quite early. At 17, I was already working as a software developer at a Ukrainian government institution. I tried out different roles throughout my career – from a C++ developer and team lead to a project manager and tech journalist.
Wherever I worked, be it a large multinational company in Romania or a startup in Germany, I paid attention to things I’d love to see at my own company. Work-life balance policies and fun team buildings – AWESOME; meetings for the sake of meetings and endless bureaucracy – not COOL at all.
In 2004, a client approached me with a project, and I knew it was my chance to start a company. And I immediately started putting a team together. Happened so that our first projects were e-government solutions for city councils in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Ever since e-government has been a primary vector of our business. As of most recent examples, we helped our client develop a welfare delivery SaaS used by human services agencies across ten states and counties in the USA.
What We Do
Redwerk is a software development agency helping startups and enterprises complete their digital transformation, future-proof their systems, and translate their expertise into software.
We specialize in building SaaS products from scratch. Over the years, we’ve penetrated new markets and industries. Our portfolio includes solutions for Media & Entertainment, E-Learning, E-Commerce, HR, and Green Tech businesses in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
As for QAwerk, we provide software testing services for web2 and web3 companies. In simple terms, we help businesses improve software quality, speed up rolling updates, and have peace of mind during releases.
Why We Do It
We believe every entrepreneur deserves a chance to take their innovative idea to market and positively impact human lives. At the same time, having an idea is not enough. You need a strong tech team to implement it.
We have decades-long expertise across industries and tech talents, and we want to put this combo to good use by becoming a strong tech partner for businesses lacking the tech know-how or resources.
Yes, our business model is not unique. There are thousands of IT service providers worldwide. However, our approach is different. We strive to build long-term relations with our clients, which keeps us motivated and genuinely interested in client wins. We don’t discriminate against small projects because we know with our help they can become the next big thing.
Look at Unfold: they came to us with a simple story-making app for Android that crashed and had other bugs. Unfold fully entrusted us with ongoing testing and QA. In about two years, they became a billion-user storytelling platform for brands, used by celebrities like Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian. Unfold is now part of Squarespace, and we continue making efforts to ensure its utmost quality and future growth.
My business wouldn’t survive without the right people beside me. We are now close to 80 ICT professionals on the team. I’ve learned to let people go when they feel they need a change and empower newcomers with the freedom to fine-tune workflows and introduce new but tried and true practices.
Nevertheless, we have teammates who’ve been with us for over ten and five years, which I’m genuinely proud of. I believe people stay because they feel safe. And they are heard and valued.
My team is my stronghold. They showed incredible team spirit during the pandemic. Even though we were familiar with remote work way before Covid, my teammates were committed to making full-time work from home a truly seamless experience – both for clients and each other.
Building a strong team with a healthy culture turned out to be a major prerequisite for business continuity. We are based in Ukraine, so now that our homeland is being terrorized by Russia and is in a state of a fully-fledged war, we got scattered across Ukraine and abroad.
I asked my teammates to get back to work as soon as they reached safety. I knew we wouldn’t be able to work full-time, and perhaps certain things took more time than usual. I made it clear that it was okay. I encouraged everyone to stay resilient for the sake of our future: by continuing to deliver projects, we contribute to the Ukrainian economy. Focusing on work was the necessary escape from the new reality for many.
Looking back at these three months of developing and testing products amidst war, I’m sure our fast response to the crisis helped us retain existing clients. More so, we mobilized so well that we exceeded our usual threshold for billable hours. Once again, it is the hard-working, assertive, and result-driven people that made this possible.
How We Scale
For Redwerk and QAwerk, I’ve never attracted any investments. I’m the type of person for whom it’s easier to own up to their mistakes and move on rather than blame an investor for a wrong decision they made.
We haven’t reached a headcount of one thousand employees, and we haven’t opened ten more offices, but we’ve scaled organically and continue thriving, even during these harsh times for Ukraine.
I do a couple of things to scale my business.
When a crisis strikes, most businesses start cutting costs and laying off employees as a precaution. I do quite the opposite: I double down on hiring to ensure some of these talents become part of my team.
It just works. I did it during the pandemic and stuck to the same strategy when the war started. Together with my HR folks, we hired 19 more people since the 24th of February. Now we are stronger than ever.
Who doesn’t want warm leads, right? From my experience, referrals are a potent tool for forging new partnerships. Of course, asking your existing client for a referral only works if you already have trustful relations with them. So first, work on that.
We’ve been fortunate to work with remarkably supportive and understanding clients who were there for us when we needed time to relocate and just comprehend everything that was going on. To date, 70% of our prospects come by word of mouth, so building that spotless brand image pays off in the long term.
Stepping into the Future
Technology develops at breakneck speed. We as a tech company need to keep up with the trends, adopt emerging technologies, and be at the forefront of innovation.
While we’ve accumulated a ton of experience with web2 solutions, we’re now fully immersed in web3.
Lately, our QAwerk team has been busy testing a web3 blended experience platform with customizable NFTs. In contrast, Redwerk sealed a new deal with a popular web3 solutions provider specializing in building DAOs, shoppertainment experiences, and tokenized communities. These partnerships mark a new chapter in our history.
My entrepreneurial journey has not always been easy. It’s quite a bumpy road where you need to react fast and be the first to seize the opportunity. I wasn’t always the first, but I learned to be flexible and adapt to the constantly changing conditions.