Peter Horsten, VP Software Development Europe of Aspire Systems, came to Poland for the first time in 1995. He fell in love with the country, and after many years decided to open a company here. He talks about the history of Goyello and its merger with Aspire Systems with Piotr Nowosielski and Adam Łopusiewicz from Just Join IT.
When was the first time you thought about creating Goyello and moving to Gdańsk?
I went on a student trip to Gdańsk, and I was amazed by Poland. After university I got a job to assess what types of IT services were popular in Poland. In the Netherlands, we outsourced to India, but at that time we knew that it wasn’t for everyone. I felt that Eastern Central Europe could be an interesting alternative.
A few months later a friend, who was considering investing in Poland, reached out to me. We quickly concluded that outsourcing IT projects to Polish companies would be a good solution.
After some time, we had our first potential customers. When they heard about the planned move, they suggested that we build an onsite team in Poland. I liked the concept, so in 2006, we created Goyello.
How fast was your development in the first years?
We employed 25 people in the second year of the company’s existence. As for the team, we grew at an average rate of 20-35% per year. We increased our revenues and grew each year despite the economic crisis.
What was your role and tasks at Goyello at that time?
I did everything except sales, because that’s what my business partner was doing. I was the so-called ‘Solutions Guy’. When we found a potential customer, I immediately got on a plane to the Netherlands to determine his needs and persuade him to co-operate. I also recruited people.
Wasn’t this exhausting?
I had so much adrenaline that I wasn’t tired. But most of my workday was just a pleasure. Of course, we had moments of doubt or dissatisfied customers. These were less pleasant moments, but they are necessary to become stronger and learn. As long as I saw the development of the team, it gave me a lot of energy.
What were the biggest challenges at that time?
At some point, you must trust others to do the job just as well, maybe even better than you. That wasn’t always easy. Quite early, I had to start to rely on several people and trust that the code we were delivering was good. That level of trust is built step by step, task by task, project by project.
When was the first time you thought that Goyello had become a ‘big’ company?
People often ask me about this. I’ve heard: “Wow, Peter, you’ve got 100 employees, it’s amazing!” But most people don’t know how we came to this number. For me, the growth was organic and natural. At one point, when we had twenty developers, HR became a very important element of the company. I was not able to assess the work of the team by myself. Now, we employ 120 people.
What makes people stay at Goyello?
I guess we attract helpful, considerate people, who loves sharing knowledge. They trust each other and ask questions willingly. We are friends, we go out together, we play board games. That’s what attract people to us.
How did you shape the work culture in your company?
Probably you won’t believe it, but I didn’t try to shape or plan it. It just happened. The company’s culture is based on the values of the people creating it. When I was looking for the first employees, I was subconsciously looking for people with a similar way of thinking.
Why did you decide to sell the company to Aspire?
After 10 years, my business partner and I began to wonder what to do next. He was looking for a way to leave and sell his shares. I still wanted to grow my business and attract more European clients.
Running the company alone didn’t seem like the best solution, so I looked for a potential business partner. The entire process took about two years. Finding a partner who shares the same values wasn’t easy. Finally we came across an Indian company that had been looking for investment opportunities, preferably in Poland. That was Aspire.
Why did Aspire buy the company instead of opening a branch?
If you come from India, China or even the USA, you can’t just say, ‘we will do business as we used to, and we will definitely achieve success’. It doesn’t work that way. You must be present locally, understand in what ways you are different and how you can benefit from these differences. I wanted us to be partners. The Aspire Management Board shares similar values and has faced similar challenges.
What changes have Goyello employees experienced since the merger with Aspire?
Our basic values haven’t change. People may think that since the name and colours of the company have changed, everything will be different. But the company’s culture is the team, and that is still here. Aspire Systems Poland should be similar to Goyello in the core of its business culture. We will still have great people. We will do cool things together, not only at work. This doesn’t mean, however, that nothing will change.
We’ll have different types of projects, more clients from the financial industry, and software engineering will become our main goal. We have created a new team strictly for clients in the finance industry. Being a global company, we can also scale projects better.
What is the future of the company?
The future should result in the same healthy growth we have had so far. But now we will be closer to European customers. Aspire needed a local presence, marketing and IT department. And the merger with Aspire will certainly help in attracting the best talent.
The interview was first published on the Just Join IT Blog.