Start Up Blog

The Moldova connection

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 21, 2013

In what seems like a century ago I built and launched one of the first peer to peer websites – rentoid.com

In order to build the site, I outsourced the coding on a site called oDesk. This site and others of its ilk are a great entrepreneurial equaliser – for they reduce the barriers to entry. Not just in terms of price for the services, but also by allowing non techies gain access to techie services. They also allow eco systems to flourish across international borders. But they have an added benefit… a real benefit which isn’t spoken about all that often.

They facilitate an important cultural exchange.

Meet Vasilii Racovitsa – Pictured below – sharing a meal with me in my home. Doesn’t seem like such a big deal…

Vasilii Racovitsa

… Until you know that I first met Vasilii via oDesk as a freelanc web developer back in 2007. And that Vasilii was born during the cold war in the old USSR in a province called Moldova. [Moldova is now an independent country] While the relationship with Vasilii started as a commercial one, it is much more than that now. In fact, it has been much more than that for many years… he is a dear friend and business confidant for whom I want family and financial success as much as I want it for myself. But I just met him in real life for the first time last week.

Besides the fact that he made my first web play rentoid.com come to life, he also taught me more about technology than anyone else.  The truth is that the lower labour rates in Eastern Europe allowed me to arbitrage my way into techie / startup land. But most people falsely believe that lower labour rates in developing economies are a one way street. The the people in developed economies are the only beneficiaries, and that we ‘take advantage’ of those in less developed markets. In truth we’ve both benefitted dramatically. Through my local connections Vasilii now generates more that 50% of his business from Melbourne, a mere 14,854km from Moldova. Which is why he is here. He is here on a large project totally independent of me. A project which dwarfs anything he ever did for me.  But it was facilitated through the network I was introduced him to. What’s more interesting is that his business employs more people in Moldova than rentoid ever did here in Melbourne. And his development team now work in every form of coding / language / mobile dev you can think of.

Since he’s been here, it is like hanging out with a long lost relative. He’s just like the guy I used to speak to every day on skype… Which is a great reminder that the on-line and real world should only ever be pre-ambles to each other – seamlessly interchangeable.

I’m  keen to introduce him to everyone in our local startup community who likes to meet amazing, smart, helpful people. In the time and multiple projects I’ve worked with him on, he has never once gone over budget and always delivered to spec. Put simply, he keeps his promises.

This week I’ve shipped him into the abode of big Scott Kilmartin, who he has also done some work for. But if you’re keen to offer:

“a bed for beta”

“divan for development”

“a cot for code”

“a hammock for HTML”

…or a simple welcome to someone from our global community, then just let me know.

While the tools this digital revolution have provided us are amazing, it’s the connection to our world that we should be truely thankful for.

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Web Success = Populate & Promote

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 12, 2010

I recently saw a job posted on a web developer recruiting website. It involved some people looking for coders to make a copy of my web business and livelihood www.rentoid.com. What was interesting was the lack decorum shown in the coder recruiting process where the person said – build me a replica of this website. Here’s a screen print of it below.

I was a bit annoyed at first. and sent out a tweet to assess the mood of my army of advisers on twitter. I tweeted the following:

Not sure what to think of this? http://bit.ly/cYR5FI A compliment or IP rip off with me and @rentoid as the victims? Help! Thoughts?

The responses were varied, but all were within the theme of this person clearly does not get what it takes. Here’s some verbatim of the tweet responses:

xshay don’t worry about it – we saw a guy offering to build redbubble for < $1000 once. A) not going to happen, B) not about the tech

shandsaker same thing happened to us. Just be confident that $750 and a 2 line project brief is $750 better spent on beer :-)

TimBull if they can only spend $750 to build it, quality won’t be there and they won’t stick it – betcha the coding was trivial part

BLKMGK01 Congrats man. Business must be huge if other people want to start ripping off ur ideas. U should apply to design the site! haha.

BrentHodgson Don’t let it worry you. You know that @Rentoid is more than the sum of its tech parts – & that it wasn’t a $750 job to create.

lukerides precisely…all about execution, so I would not worry…if they do a better job than you, they were always going to anyway!

I pretty much knew this before I tweeted the issue, but it did force me to think about web marketing success, and the success of rentoid to date and I came to the following conclusion. It’s not about the tech. In fact, the tech is pretty low down on the list of things needed for any website to succeed. And if i had to give my nemesis some advice on how to succeed in copying me it would be to do these two things:

Populate and Promote.

This is what needs to be done with any classified style website to succeed, and it takes a lot of time and investment. Investment in  financial and human capital. The problem with being 2nd, 3rd or later is that all the easy promotional opportunities like this are taken by the market innovator. And populating your website to make it meaningful takes a lot of boot leather, which is something many web entrepreneurs are afraid of.

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ABC 7.30 report – Virtual Offices

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 5, 2010

I was fortunate enough to feature in a story on the ABC 7.30 report this week. The topic was on virtual offices and digital offshoring. My business rentoid got a nice little plug which is a bonus on a non-commercial channel. The opportunity arose from this newspaper article I was in on the topic in the Sydney Morning Herald. Which goes to show media exposure also has a compounding effect for your startup as well.

Although the story and offshoring in general has it’s detractors (unions love the status quo, unless it involves profit increases they want a share in). I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve worked with talented people in developing markets.

  • My team get paid more than they’d get locally.
  • I’ve helped team members get more work, and mentored them in building their own businesses.
  • I like investing in developing markets because improves living standards.

It’s our job as entrepreneurs to create positive situations with tech innovations, and there’s no doubt in my mind having an overseas team does this, while building a business with beneficiaries locally (employees, revenue, community) as well.

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Outsourcing – little tips

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 15, 2009

As a follow up to my last post on The White Collar Reality here is a simple Slide Share presentation as a thought starter of why it matters, and what is happening. This is a snippet from the syllabus at Startup School.

Startup School

Top 10 reasons for outsourcing digital work

Here’s startup blogs top 10 reasons for outsourcing digital work offshore. Which we do for some work at rentoid with great success. I’m hoping the naysayers, will see by the end of this post as to why it is ethical as well.

  1. It’s an efficient resource allocation
  2. It increases the wealth of the service provider (the person overseas)
  3. It increases the wealth of the offshore country
  4. it facilitates cross cultural interchange and understanding
  5. Makes it possible for ‘non techies’ to start a ‘tech based’ business
  6. Can be the difference which makes a startup idea financially viable
  7. It stimulates greater innovation in the tech sector by creating a greater intellectual resource pool
  8. It invents ‘time’ so people can bootstrap a business while continuing other employment
  9. The outsourced work is not dangerous – we are not sending kids down a mine or employing child labour.
  10. Add your reason in the comments!

Get out there and outsource, make conections, make stuff happen and make new global friends to boot!

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