Tim Stumbles & Eddy Malik are co-founders at Office Timeline, a US-based bootstrap startup that entered a strategic partnership with RomSoft in 2012 to develop their product. During one of their regular visits to Iasi when we reconnect, share our visions, sketch our future, and between long meetings and late hours, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask them a few questions about this partnership and how things look from their perspective.
Please tell us a bit about how it all started: Why a strategic partnership with an overseas company, like RomSoft? What brought the need?
I love to tell this story because our partnership with RomSoft is simply good luck, very, very good luck! We had prototyped the product but knew it needed professional development to get it stable and ready for release to market. Having worked virtually on international teams for the previous 10 years we were not shy about building an off-shore partnership. Also, as self-funded start-up we needed access to the most talented developers but at slightly better economics than we could find in the US market. I actually looked in a couple of different places but what was completely unique about RomSoft was their appetite to share the risk in the venture. At that time we were investing from our personal savings and RomSoft was really flexible with a proposal that allowed us to start slow and grow without having to make a big commitment we could not afford.
What does it actually mean to have a “strategic partnership”? Please give us some details from the concept standpoint.
This topic excites me because in my former career I worked around strategic partnerships often, however I didn’t really appreciate what the word meant. Now I see a true strategic partnership is when each party is driving for a ‘win-win’ outcome like we are with RomSoft. A true ‘win-win’ can’t be achieved unless each party is genuinely working for the other party’s interests as well their own. To succeed, strategic partnerships need to be egoless. There is no-way this can happen without a high degree of trust, mutual respect. We are so fortunate to have found that with RomSoft and it is the reason we are successful and the reason we will continue to build our business around this partnership.
What do you think are the main benefits of this kind of partnership? Are there any downfalls?
We simply could not have accomplished what we have without this partnership. And I don’t mean this just from a product development point of view, I mean it as I think of all the things required to incubate, launch and grow a business. The intangible benefits we have received from this partnership have been critical to our success. There are challenges and risks but the partnership is working so well that we have built our long terms plans around it.
During the last years, the team grew in size, proficiency, but also in skill diversity (by including testing, marketing, design, and even support components). It’s like a tri-dimensional growth. Can you talk a little bit about the team development strategy?
This was interesting for us because we only ever intended to build a development team at RomSoft, but later we decided to bring in non-development roles. The reason our strategy shifted was because we found the talent at RomSoft exceptional, and we also found them extremely easy to work with. When it came time to consider roles beyond developers, the value of having them centralized made a lot of sense. We added and continue to add non-development roles to the team. We knew RomSoft developers were world class, but what has been an unexpected surprise for us is the high level of talent we have found for non-development roles.
What are the main challenges that come with the growth?
There are no shortages of challenges in starting and growing a software business. When you self-fund a business like we are doing, the number one challenge is speed to market for new innovations. Since we can only grow based on the performance of the business it often means there is a lag in time from the moment we need new people to the moment we are actually able to hire them.
What are the major themes for future development?
Our top-most priority is to please our customers with insanely good software and outstanding service. We don’t always get there but we continue to learn and improve with that purpose in mind. Beyond that goal there are obvious management themes that I think about, such as continuing to optimize all of our teams, staying lean and nimble and developing new innovations that delight our customers.
Any other thoughts that you want to share?
Yeah, I love the team. We work together every day and each time I travel to Romania, it is like connecting with old friends. Maybe it is the laid back, non-hierarchical organization that makes is so fun; or because it is exciting to build something new and watch it growth in the market. Also, the business is reported transparently each month and everyone on the team is empowered to make good business decisions. This kind of flat, empowered structure is perfect for us and something I really enjoy.
Thank you very much Tim, Eddy. Your visits always inspire a new vibe to the entire team and give us confidence that we’re part of something special, that not so many tech specialists in Iasi are lucky to experience.