"Our first office was in a one-room apartment, where the company was born." COO Sombra told us the key points on the way to success.

Sombra started its journey with freelance platforms, where we worked mostly on small projects lasting a few days. In the beginning, the company agreed to any conditions to create a good reputation on the freelance platforms and gain trust among more customers in the future.

Kyiv IT Cluster talked with Serhii Myakshynov, co-founder and COO at Sombra, a resident of the cluster. The company is engaged in software development, product design creation, IT consulting, and the allocation of a team of developers for the project.

Serhii Myakshinov told us how he built the company. He shared his experience creating a great team from scratch and the approach he uses to establish relationships with clients.

How Sombra company was created

My journey to Sombra began in early 2014. I was lucky to join the team one month after the idea of its creation sprang into the mind of our CEO Viktor Chekh. I developed the business together with Viktor, and later we became four enthusiastic businessmen who believed in the success of our company. 

Even in the early stages, we did not invest our funds in the creation of the company, because we did not have any. We decided to start with small projects on freelance platforms and then organically grew into something bigger. In general, our first office was somewhere on the 8th or 9th floor of a multi-story building in Lviv. It was a one-room apartment, where the Sombra that our customers know was born. How many people do you think can be in such accommodation? At a certain point, there were already 9 of us on the staff, and it got challenging to move around. However, even when there were 10 of us, we still found solutions.

At that time, it was important for us to spend money very rationally to take our business to a new level. We saw a long-term perspective with building a large software development and consulting company working with relevant clients. As we can see now, our patience and hard work paid off and we started working with bigger clients and moved to bigger offices.

The secret of building a successful team 

When creating a good business, it is important to work with those people who we are comfortable with. We quickly realized that every company has its own values that unite colleagues in teams. This helps to form the right corporate culture.

This approach helps to conduct better interviews with candidates. We need to communicate our expectations to them, what the team looks like and what awaits them. Moreover, such formalization helps us to understand whether a person is suitable for our team.

When our team was still around 20 or 30 people, we got together as a whole company and discussed what values we want to see in the newcomers, and what values unite us all now. In the end, we came to such points as proactivity, happy customers, easy adaptation to changes, open and honest relationships, and self-development.

This part with values was important not only at the beginning of our journey – it still retains its relevance. This is what makes our company strong and what our customers appreciate about working with us.

We also have a system of bonuses. We use this product so that employees can exchange thanks with each other using the number of points. And the values are sewn into these thanks. I (or anyone else in the company) thank my colleague for their help, tag her, tag that value, and give the number of points. Colleagues then have the opportunity to accumulate these points and can purchase something in our Sombra shop. These are usually our branded products or visiting something interesting.

I believe that we have a well-formed friendly team both in the company in general and in the Kyiv office. It is noticeable, in particular, during our periodic team building. For example, recently we went to the ice rink. Sometimes there are quests, and almost every week we arrange meetings in the office with board games or go somewhere for beer or something similar in such an informal format.

Mutual trust with clients

Every year, Sombra conducts a survey of its customers for whom it creates solutions in such areas as financial technologies, healthcare, e-commerce, online learning, media, and many others. We are interested in the main point: how do they like to work with us and would they recommend us to their friends? In the questionnaire, we also ask what distinguishes our company from other providers who they worked or continue working with.

And this is what we managed to highlight in the reviews of our customers. First of all, they note customer orientation and cultural fit. Most of our customers are located in North America and Great Britain, and for them, customer orientation is the norm of their culture.

We carefully build this approach into our culture. This is what we have in training within the company, what managers convey to the teams, and what keeps customers with us for many years. They see that our employees do not just perform tasks, but really care about the success of projects.

How the company works during the war

The war definitely affected us and our customers. They began to look for alternative ways of doing their jobs. As for us, even in the first weeks of the full-scale invasion, we built very competent communication with them. At the end of 2021, when American newspapers were predicting war, we started to prepare our BCP (Business Continuity Plan) plan and regularly discussed it with our customers.

Obviously, not everything that was planned worked out. However, the way we prepared it and the way we communicated with customers showed them that we were ready to respond and prepared for a variety of scenarios. Accordingly, they thanked us for our openness, for the fact that we frankly said that, despite our reluctance to believe in bad forecasts, we are ready for any scenario. Therefore, clients did not refuse us.

Recent cases regarding power supply issues are certainly affecting us as well. However, here we also inform clients that the company creates complete autonomy in our offices. Remote workers also provide themselves with everything they need, and we help them with certain methods. We do our best so that no difficulties change the quality of our services for customers.

Sombra plans for 2023

From the very first days of the war, we began actively donating to the victory, directly to the military, relatives of our employees, or to reliable funds. Donations go both centrally, from the company itself, and personally from employees. We will continue to do this to bring our victory closer, at the level where we are the strongest and can help.

Our task remains to ensure business results for clients so that as much money as possible flows into Ukraine, and it stays here. Because the funds are needed primarily for the army, and also for the people who stayed and live in Ukraine. No prerequisites can be given to our customers to want to reduce the teams.

Events. Community. Kyiv ІТ Cluster

In our office in Kyiv, we plan to organize technical meetings. Our company is open to participation in various conferences and marathons. We have a strong technical community Sombra Around Tech and developed communities within the company in certain technological directions. We are always happy to share the experience we have.

In cooperation with Kyiv IT Cluster, we see a great opportunity to organize mutual online or offline events, meetups, or technical events. We can also be partners in technology communities and social responsibility. We see the great value of the cluster as a platform for networking with colleagues from other companies.

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