Interview with Emil Sarnogoev, CEO


This is the interview our CEO Emil Sarnogoev gave to GoodFirms about the way we work and the types of projects we execute for customers.

Please introduce your company and give a brief about your role within the company?

Initially, we were a consumer startup and were trying to build a network of niche websites but in the process, we discovered that somebody cared about our product much more than the target audience — businesses and other startups! We realized that we could make a much more significant difference if we did it together. Since then, we have built hundreds of business products for customers from various fields.

What are your company’s business model–in house team or third party vendors/ outsourcing?

We have our own, powerful in-house team. Apart from developers, we also have UI and graphic designers who complement our skillset. This allows us to take customers starting from a sketch (or just an idea!) to complete products. Whenever we tell customers that we can do something, it means we have competent specialists on the team, able to make it happen.

When it comes to building a working product, a customer can rely on us being the single-stop partner for everything related to specification, design, implementation, quality assurance, and subsequent support and maintenance. The customer does not have to arrange a complex process of co-operating with other vendors. Another benefit is, even if only one of our developers is hired for the project, that comes with complete project management, reporting, and essential quality assurance included. Usually, these costs are hidden and are not reflected in the lower face-value hour rate. We believe in a transparent conversation with a customer from the start.

Our customers have been tackling diverse challenges in mobile, big data, payments, video, and niche marketplace areas. Organically we have been taking on a lot of small to the middle to big community/marketplace projects. Typically, only larger customers have an ongoing demand for development services, and we’ve been enjoying a high rate of retaining business in that segment.

Mention the objectives or the parameters critical in determining the time frame of developing a mobile app.

It’s typically how well the customer understands their field to anticipate hidden challenges beyond tech and guides us to create an effective product without having to make dramatic changes to the product after receiving market data. Another crucial thing is the level of detail put into specification and UI sketches. We have been trained to understand these factors and their possible impact, even when we accept a completely new customer from an unknown area of business, haha.

How much effort in terms of time goes into developing the front end and back end of a mobile app?

70% or more goes into the frontend because it requires working out and iterating a lot of details. A big part of that iteration is ideally informed by user behavior and other market data. The backend is relatively straightforward. When sufficiently abstracted, it only requires proper test coverage.

What are the key parameters to be considered before selecting the right platform for a mobile application?

  1. Developer experience with recognized technology. As a rule, it’s the main factor impacting quality, time, and cost of development;
  2. Unique product requirements in terms of UI;
  3. Unique business needs.

At this point, you have to have both iOS and Android, which we do all the time. If you don’t want to develop both native apps at once, you may opt for Progressive Web Apps (PWA) technology implemented with the Ionic framework. It’s one of our core competencies, including Audio/Video via WebRTC. A big benefit of PWA is launching an idea 2-3 times faster (saving budget) to guide further development by user reaction.

Android or iOS, Native or Hybrid — which platform is best to use to build your app? What are your recommendations?

If a project doesn’t require heavy interaction with the device (most don’t), we advise to start — and possibly stick — with Hybrid. You simply can not ignore the time and budget savings, which is critical for time-to-market in lean startups. If the app assumes dynamic graphics and/or extended hardware functions, building native iOS and Android apps is the only way to go. In that case, these apps will probably end up being significantly different.

What are the key factors that you consider before deciding the cost of a mobile application?

  1. Customer’s experience in their respective area of business;
  2. Level of detail in the UI prototypes/sketches;
  3. Available timeframe. It costs more to rush.

What kind of payment structure do you follow to bill your clients? Is it Pay per Feature, Fixed Cost, Pay per Milestone (could be in phases, months, versions, etc.)

We have two approaches:

  1. Pay-per-Milestone: Each iteration gets specified, evaluated in hours (and cost), and agreed with the customer. After implementation, it gets tested, deployed, and verified with the customer. Ready to plan out the next iteration! This approach is right for companies that require to document all work being done;
  2. Full-time: The customer pays upfront for specific resources (usually a team assembled for the project) hired for a month. This is a speedier yet costlier way to develop, requires constant (often real-time) communication, and course-correction on the go. Preferred by customers who’s a priority is time and being as close to us as sitting next to each other.

Do you take in projects which meet your essential budget requirement? If yes, what is the minimum requirement? If no, on what minimum budget you have worked for?

Yes, in certain cases, we can take on projects starting from USD 10,000. There’s always an upfront amount of communication and specification required for any project.

What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2020?

With some variations depending on the size, complexity, and involved technologies, our flat rate is $50/hr for the team lead developer + $40/hr for additional developers. All project communication and reporting are included with the team lead.

Which business model do you suggest to your clients, enabling them to generate revenue from mobile applications? Why?

This much depends on the type and niche of the business. For consumer apps, a great approach is usually the In-app-purchase model. Users can use limited functionality free but pay for specific mission-critical functions. This model has become very popular and effective, as top-grossing apps in the Apple App Store demonstrate.

Kindly share your feedback on how GoodFirms has been doing so far in increasing your visibility among potential clients.

GoodFirms is a quality resource for those seeking reliable partners in mobile/web development. Skalfa is happy to be recommended among the most prolific companies in the space.