Please introduce your company and give a brief about your role within the company?
My name is Slava Ledenev. I am the co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at MLSDev. Mу main responsibility includes mapping out and implementing innovative strategies for the company's development... strategies that will help MLSDev stand out from its competitors and make the company the best in our niche.
MLSDev is a web and mobile app development agency based in Ukraine. The company was founded in 2009. Now MLSDev has more than 60 employees and four offices: Kyiv and Vinnytsia (Ukraine), Krakow (Poland), and Denver (USA).
MLSDev's mission is to unlock the potential of clients' businesses through the use of innovative technologies. We try to cover all clients' needs, analyze all their requirements and offer the best possible solutions to their ideas.
What was the idea behind starting this organization?
It all started in 2009 when my two partners, Ivan and Anton, and I wanted to explore the potential mobile apps. That's how MLSDev came into existence. At that time we became one of the first Ukrainian development companies building mobile apps. We were eager to create products for entrepreneurs who saw the potential in this technology and its global benefits.
Besides, it was the perfect time to enter the market that was only emerging in Ukraine and showed high growth rates. We managed to develop very fast especially when the competition was low.
What are your company’s business model–in house team or third party vendors/ outsourcing?
During these ten years of MLSDev existence, we have gone through a few experiments with the business model and conclude that only the in-house team can deliver the high quality we strive for. At the time being, 100% of our employees work in house.
How is your business model beneficial from a value addition perspective to the clients compared to other companies' models?
We often receive requests to build clones of Uber, Facebook, Tinder, etc. When we ask potential clients why they want to create a clone and what their business goals are, the instant answer is that they want to earn money. However, it's no secret that it is almost impossible to compete with such giants, especially in the US market.
In such cases, we ask them to quit such dreams at the very beginning of our communication and then do our best to show our clients a better way. This could be targeting other industries that face lots of problems and require an excellent app to solve them, or taking a particular niche — or even developing apps using innovative technologies like blockchain, machine learning, etc. Our goal is to lead clients to a more successful blue ocean strategy.
We are not interested in earning money from clones that will die in the face of fierce competition. Our goal is to help clients grow successful products that will become examples to follow. We are a company that doesn't ask what to do next and blindly follow all the instructions. We are proactive and always offer solutions to clients’ needs and requirements. This approach makes us stand out from the majority of companies that are looking for immediate income but don't think about further actions after the release.
What industries do you generally cater to?
We have good experience in creating social networks (e.g., Yummi, Artstation in close cooperation with Ballistiq), hospitality and food services (e.g., McDonald’s), e-commerce solutions (e.g., GoPuff), and on-demand delivery (Mela.biz). In 2019, we will continue developing projects for the industries we have expertise in. However, we would also like to focus more on the healthcare and fintech industries. They are among the ten most prospective sectors in terms of financial opportunities; however, many new technologies are not widely used in these industries, which could solve the problems these industries are currently facing now.
For example, healthcare experiences various issues with data collection, centralized storage, and security. Databases are not protected from data breaches and fraud, which could result in bad experiences for patients and doctors. Some solutions can solve these problems partially, but we would like to dig deeper into this matter to create revolutionary products that could deal with them altogether.
It will take some time and effort to solve all of the current issues about collecting, storing, and using data. So, our company is exploring available innovative solutions for the same. We are 100% sure that MLSDev will take an active part in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Are your customers repetitive? If yes, what ratio of clients has been repetitive to you?
Our main segments are the small business, midmarket, and startups that usually have one project to work on. It means that as a rule, they do not come back to us with new projects. However, our satisfied clients are always ready to recommend us to others, and we have many referral requests.
Due to structural and process changes, over the past few years, we have increased the number of satisfied clients from 57% to 82%. Plus, 15% of all our referral requests turn into closed deals.
Mention the objectives or the parameters critical in determining the time frame of developing a mobile app.
During the initial communication with the client, we ask many questions to gather both business and technical requirements. Based on this information we provide a rough timeline and budget for development.
Once we understand what should be implemented, we assemble a project team that validates and estimates all the tasks and plans project development thoroughly right from the start. As a result, we know how much time it will take for the team to build the product and how much it will cost.
How much effort in terms of time goes into developing the front end and back end of a mobile app?
It is difficult to define timelines for the front end and back end separately as they depend on the product much.
Talking about product development in the existing circumstances, time is one of the critical factors that determine a product's success. If you are working on an idea for more than 5-6 months, and have come up with competitor analysis and a business plan for the same, there are cent percent chances that a new player has already entered your domain.
When we work with startups precarious in nature, we recommend having an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version that can be ready within three months after the development start.
If we talk about ongoing products where you don't need to validate ideas, it is not easy to define deadlines. They can be extended but not significantly. Based on our own experience, we think that the first working prototype should be ready in 4-6 months.
What are the key parameters to be considered before selecting the right platform for a mobile application?
The choice of the right platform for a mobile application depends on its target audience. It should be thoroughly analyzed. We need to know which devices they use, their age, social standing, income, etc. Based on these criteria we define the right platform.
To ensure high quality, we try not to spread ourselves too thin. Thus we help clients to choose only between iOS and Android.
Which platform do you suggest your clients, to begin with when they approach you with an idea (Android or iOS) and why?
We usually suggest not making irrational decisions and choosing a platform based on the analysis of the target audience. So, we consider various information about target users so as to make the right decision (see the previous answer).
For example, we have a marketplace that works with customers from the USA and producers from South Africa. At the stage of market analysis, it turns out that 62% of Americans use iOS devices while in South Africa 78.2% of citizens use Android phones. To reach more users, it will be logically to make the iOS app for customers and the Android app for producers.
This example describes roughly how we work with our clients to choose the right platform for their apps.
Android or iOS, Native or Hybrid — which platform is best to use to build your app? What are your recommendations?
We used to deal with hybrid app development many years ago, but the experience was not good. Our client's expectation for a high-quality app with a cross-platform approach was utterly impossible. Our hybrid projects faced issues with performance, animations, touches, swipes, and so on. Moreover, they had bugs that were hard to fix, specifically, when trying to adapt apps to different devices. Every release of a new version of iOS or Android made app support a challenging task.
We were limited by the cross-platform tools and could not fix all those issues properly. As a result, we quit hybrid app development for good.
It may seem that hybrid apps are cheaper to develop, but it is true only in the early stage. In the longer run, when it comes to full-scale product support, the difference in time and money levels off.
Now we offer only native app development services. We build mobile apps for iOS and Android. From the technical perspective, native apps win in everything as compared to hybrid apps. Native apps are characterized by flawless performance, great UX/UI design, good interaction with a device, better security, and reliability, ability to operate offline. Such an approach allows for the integration of sophisticated features, and developers always have access to up-to-date SDK and tools.
What are the key factors that you consider before deciding the cost of a mobile application?
Our pricing model is quite flexible and depends on many factors. The main factors include experience/level of developers and platform-specific technology used (iOS, Android, web). The number of developers involved depends on the work type and project complexity.
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 prefer the Time & Material model when we follow good-faith estimates and send invoices based on actual hours spent. However, we can negotiate alternative options, such as Fixed Cost, if the client has some specific needs.
Do you take in projects which meet your basic budget requirement? If yes, what is the minimum requirement? If no, on what minimum budget you have worked for?
On average, we recommend startups to allocate $30k-50k for the development of the first product version. If the client's budget is significantly smaller, we offer to create materials for raising funds (e.g., documentation, design prototype, pitch deck, UX/UI design or deliverables of the full Discovery stage). The initial steps are the most difficult for startups, so we try to be flexible and help our clients as much as we can.
Talking about ongoing projects, the first version of a product may require a bigger budget.
What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2018?
The price range varies a lot depending on the project.
In 2018, the price ranges were as follows:
● The budget for the Discovery stage varied from $3k to $20k.
● Development of the first version of an MVP cost from $20k to $70k.
● Budgets for ongoing projects were from $100k to $500k.
Which business model do you suggest to your clients enabling them to generate revenue from mobile applications? Why?
It depends. Generally speaking, monetizing an app is a matter of techniques and experiments. If the app has excellent value and solves important problems, not to mention if its bounce rate is low and users spend much time in it, then monetizing such apps is easy.
Considering the projects we work on, we have been implementing advertisement model, freemium + subscription-based model, etc.
Kindly share your feedback on how GoodFirms has been doing so far in increasing your visibility among potential clients.
From time to time we receive inquiries from potential customers who find us on GoodFirms. This number is not significant so far, but we hope that in 2019 our collaboration will bring better results. Anyway, GoodFirms is an excellent opportunity for additional company visibility.