From Houston to the world: how remote working is reshaping the tech environment
Marcelo Cordini, co-founder of December Labs, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast as he discusses how his company adapted to the evolving tech environment
- Honesty will remain the best policy. We strive to remain 100% honest with all of our clients, from start-ups who want to pitch an idea to investors to big corporations looking for a breath of fresh air for a specific project. At December Labs we implement the best transparency practices, as we provide clients with information on everything that has to do with their product, committing ourselves to the highest standards when it comes to clients’ needs.
- Remote working made distances even shorter. As a direct consequence of COVID-19, businesses in all industries adapted their models to some form of remote operations. Although this wasn’t any news to the software industry, it allowed for a levelling of all development companies, thus generating a competitive advantage to the nearshore and offshore alternatives, as they offered high quality services with competitive prices in comparison to those offered in the US, all while everybody was remote.
- Houston is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. When December Labs landed in Houston, there was an overall talent drought that didn’t match the constant entrepreneurial spirit the city exuded. Today, we filled that gap and fully established our operations, as well as conducted multiple business ventures with Houston-based start-ups and companies.
01:11 – What went into founding December Labs? What was the goal of creating this company?
Marcelo: We founded December Labs in 2014 as a way to leverage my partners’ and my work experience as freelancers for global companies and offer our combined capabilities as one service. The company was created at a very particular moment for the tech world, since app development was at its pinnacle. We started building mobile apps for startups in Silicon Valley and New York, and soon started to also incorporate Web Development and UX/UI Design as part of our services, with a team that has grown to 80+* developers and designers.
2:59 – What are the main needs of the companies you work with?
Marcelo: When companies that operate outside the tech ecosystem partner with us, they get the added value of working with someone who knows how to hire and train developers, as well as keeping them happy, creative and productive, which is essential for maintaining a great work environment.
5:09 – What would you say are the different types of options you show companies when they quote December Labs for their services?
Marcelo: Something we are trying to educate our clients on is UX/UI Design and Research, which means validating ideas and features before a single line of code is written. Another valuable thing we offer at December Labs is the possibility to scale the team of an existing project, so companies can focus on their business core.
7:34 – Do your clients mostly belong to the start-up space or corporate world?
Marcelo: We offer a wide range of services to companies at many different development levels. Some of the projects we embarked ourselves into are with start-ups who are looking for investors to then hire developers and designers, but our client base also includes big corporations who need a breath of fresh air for a specific project and don’t want to overload their on-site development team.
9:39 – How do people usually find your company?
Marcelo: One of the many ways people find out about our services is by recommendation of our previous clients. That is one of the many reasons why our mission is to be always 100% transparent with clients about who the developers working on their project are, as well as everything that has to do with their product, thus providing a service with a remarkable added value component.
12:45 – Do tense conversations happen regularly around the subject of defining if a project is worth carrying out or not?
Marcelo: It’s quite challenging to tell a client their idea will not be successful enough or that it needs to be completely altered to be transformed into a cohesive product. As we’ve gained experience in the field, we’ve learned how to effectively communicate with those clients while keeping our promises of being honest with what we can deliver and achieve as a service.
14:41 – Which are the main industries December Labs provides services to?
Marcelo: The great advantage that software development offers is that companies can work for a great diversity of industries, but the best business differentiator is to focus on certain niches, segments or industries. At December Labs, 70% of our clients belong to the healthcare, fitness and wellness industries.
16:32 – Have you worked on actual COVID-19 focus products or projects in this time? Is that actually something that you’ve already seen?
Marcelo: We haven’t directly worked with COVID-19 related projects, but some of our clients started offering new services and functionalities catered to the needs resulting from the pandemic. On the other hand, we joined “Canastas Uruguay”, a project aimed at providing food to the people in need in the context of the pandemic, and helped them build their website and platform to raise funds.
18:18 – Reflecting more on the pandemic’s effect on the workforce, do you think that your business model is becoming more attractive for organisations in different industries?
Marcelo: With COVID-19 and everyone working remotely, companies in diverse industries had to adapt their business model to what we normally do in the software sector. Thanks to the widespread use of the Internet and all the tools and apps available, startups wanting to run their businesses from the comfort of their home can easily do so.
21:43 – Is going remote an opportunity for companies like yours? Do you feel like December Labs can offer a distinguished comparative advantage in relation to your competitors?
Marcelo: Definitely! Despite its tragic consequences, market wise, the pandemic helped us on levelling with our US competitors, primarily because we offer the same high-quality service but with a nearshore approach at a competitive price. When everyone’s working remotely, nearshore/offshore alternatives become more attractive to clients.
23:12 – Do you find a lot of clients just from also being based in Houston and kind of in the same circles?
Marcelo: When I first came to Houston 3 years ago I witnessed a strong entrepreneurial culture that didn’t actually pair well with the developer and overall talent drought that start-ups were experiencing. Our mission was to fill that need, and today, I believe that this city is one of the best places to embark on new business ventures.
* As of May 2022, our headcount is at 120+