Interview with Philipp Kandal, future speaker at How to Web & mentor at Startup Spotlight

Expansion – that is a stage in any business life cycle that everyone wants to reach the fastest. But as Philipp would tell you, burning through development stages won’t get you the best results. Philipp Kandal is co-founder and CTO of skobbler, one of Europe’s leading mobile and app development companies focusing on location based services. Philipp is in charge of expanding the mobile development teams, managing product launches and pushing the international expansion in the US market.

You should know that Skobbler is a constantly expanding consumer app company, with over 4 million users, having won various prizes, such as the Navteq LBS challenge 2009 as the most innovative European LBS start-up. The company’s headquarter is in Berlin, but has the most part of the team is in Cluj (more than 70 people). Philipp is also in charge of the Romanian development team, the German product management and is also a board member at skobbler.

We wanted to get the inside scoop on what it takes to find talented developers in Eastern Europe and what are the key tactics to use when assessing complex market environments. Philipp was kind enough to give us some very useful answers. Check them out:

1. How did you come to the decision to set up a subsidiary in Romania and what kind of talent did you find here?
The most important reason to go to Romania was the amazing talent being available here – especially in the area of software development and other ‘hard’ sciences. I am still impressed by the ~70 people team I have the opportunity to work with every day in Cluj. They are the best team I have ever worked with. If I would have one wish free, I only would wish that people here will become more self–confident, many people think they are inferior to engineers etc. in Silicon Valley, but from having spent a lot of time in both places I can definitely say that this is not true in any way. Apart from the professional side, I also consider Romania now like a second home to me and as a foreigner it seams it’s sometimes easier to see the nice sides of the country then for many locals.

2. What key elements of the products you created helped you build a trusting relationship with your user base?
We have now 4 million users on our own products and the key thing is that we integrate our users into our development process as partners. We have a group of Beta-Testers (~50 people) who get early access to everything we build and together with them we define the road-map for our products. We also do the same with key partners that license our technology (e.g. Mercedes) and generally have a very open policy in building amazing products together. You can see this in our products that we integrate a feature which we call idea-log where users can up- or down-vote ideas for the next version. Our top requested feature at this time has 5000+ votes (and it will be finished in the next few months).

3. How do you start assessing complex market environments and technical contexts when adding a new feature to your product?
As described before we mostly try to talk with our users and that helps a long way, combined with cost estimations and revenue potential for a certain feature. On the process we follow, we have a group internally that meets every week in order to determine which features get put on our road-map and which not. This group is cross department and consists of developers, product guys, designers and Quality Assurance, and usually together we rather quickly can define what we want want to become as a company in the future.

If you want to hear Philipp’s talk at How to Web, don’t forget to get your ticket, and if you’re part of a startup, you can also get the chance to meet with him at Startup Spotlight!

You might also like to read our interview with Adii Pienar, Founder of WooThemes.

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