Crazy ideas are scary, but you should try them anyway! Because everything that seems impossible can become true if you give them time and dedication.”
Marcelo Lopez is CEO and co-founder of UruIT, a software development company that creates user-centered web & mobile applications. Marcelo holds a BS in Computer Science and a certification in Entrepreneurship from the Columbia Business School. During the last 10 years, he has worked in the software development industry from different perspectives. Today Marcelo’s main focus is to assist startups and established companies in the US by providing development solutions for their ongoing and new projects.
Where did the idea for UruIT come from?
Me and my friend Iang Yim founded UruIT in 2007. We met in 2004, while working for Tata Consultancy Service (TCS). One day we decided to create something great together! We wanted to work in a different way, less hierarchical and strict, like many multinationals are, and more flexible and people-oriented, putting our focus on clients and their needs. Differently from huge providers like TCS, we also wanted to focus on senior talent only.
As with any good startup story, UruIT started in Iang’s barbecue! But opposite from most startup stories, the company reached sustainable profitability from month #1. Our main secret was to hire top tech talent only, so we could offer a service of higher quality standards. Turned out that in a few months we were already providing services to Microsoft! From 2007 until today, we have been growing at a steady rate and never required external funding.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As CEO and co-founder, I try to stay updated about the things going on in every area. So, my focus can change a lot depending on the departments that need more help. Personally, Marketing and Sales are the areas that I like the most, and I also enjoy talking to clients and figuring out how we can help other companies.
To be more productive, I start everyday identifying the top 3-5 things that require my attention by going through my personal Trello and prioritizing. I try to work more on the company’s strategic topics, that today are connected with our growth in the US market and the development of a Marketing team for our spin-off company.
Besides, everyday I dedicate part of my time in the afternoon to take a look at the industry news, read about trends and learn something new.
How do you bring ideas to life?
To shape a new idea, I start with a planification phase, in which I like to create a document to brainstorm and see the big picture. It can be a simple Google Doc with bullets or even a more complex Business Canvas. In this phase I like to analyse our competitors to see what they are doing and how those things could be done better. I also like to brainstorm concepts: how we could offer something different and better, what is our value proposition, etc. Then, my next step is to find a team that has the skills, the eagerness to learn and the interest, to delegate the idea’s execution. In my opinion, delegating is fundamental! No need to say that I’m constantly there for the team, to follow up on their advances, to coach and help anyway I can.
In order to validate a new idea, I encourage my team to take a Lean approach: every idea is a hypothesis that we should validate as early as possible, and not spend a lot of time in the business plan. I know this from my own experience: UruIT’s first business plan is very different from today’s reality!
What’s one trend that excites you?
As I’m part of the software development industry, I’m very interested in reading about the latest technologies and how they are affecting traditional industries. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about blockchain, agtech, machine learning, among others. Moreover, I’m always interested in learning more about marketing strategies, growth hacking and the overall digital transformation we are living.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One of my favorite habits is to reserve blocks of time during the day to practice mindfulness. I try to combine intense working moments with relaxing pauses, I believe both of them are important to have a balanced and productive day. UruIT’s culture and the company’s physical space itself invite people to put mindfulness concepts into practice. We even have mindfulness sessions every week. Our idea is to offer time and space so people can have a great work-life balance. Everyone works hard, but they all deserve to rest and play a little table football every now and then. This is what allow us to reinvent ourselves constantly and have fresh ideas every time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Improve your confidence in yourself and in others. In yourself because it’s important to believe in your ideas and know that you have the capacity to achieve all of your goals. But also in others because you will only achieve those objectives if you surround yourself with people that can complement you, bring different points of view and even challenge you. Those are the people who you should trust to make you see things you haven’t seen before and to help you to go further from your comfort zone. Together, you can achieve great things.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Crazy ideas are scary, but you should try them anyway! Because everything that seems impossible can become true if you give them time and dedication. Personally, I encourage every UruITer to try new things without giving in to the fear of failing. The best way to learn and grow is to try new things and even if they don’t go as one expects, you will learn something anyway.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always assume that feedback is gold. We don’t have all the answers, so it’s important to listen to others. From their opinions, we can find brand new possibilities! It doesn’t matter if it’s a senior person with years of experience or a young professional who has just started in the career – I love to hear their ideas and find value on them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
In my opinion every entrepreneur should start cultivating from day 1 a work culture in which people believe in what they are doing and in their capacity to bring value to the project. In my experience, when people are motivated and believe in themselves and in their work, they achieve great things for themselves and for the company. My strategy is to focus on creating an enjoyable and inspiring environment, where people are glad and feel they have everything they need to be the best version of themselves. In order to achieve this goal, it’s important to keep reinvesting in the company to continue to grow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In 2010, we created a spinoff in UruIT. This new business unit was focused on a product, an application that incorporated gamification techniques with existing CRMs, allowing companies to boost sales. We thought we had the best idea in the world and dedicated significant resources to create this app. Once it was ready, we couldn’t understand why it wasn’t taking off the way we imagined it would.
Despite this, one feature of our app was connecting exceptionally well with its users. Soon enough, it hit us: the users were telling us what they truly wanted! And, it wasn’t the things we assumed they wanted. From this mistake, we learned that we should always start by understanding the market, and not just imagining what they may need. Go and ask users, instead of deciding for them. This is the attitude we learned from there and that we started to put into practice in all of our projects from that day on.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Something I’d like to see becoming true is a business directory where people looking for providers could find different kinds of companies and relevant information about them. I feel that the directories that exist today aren’t exploring the full potential of companies’ data. It would be great to have an unique website where you could find everything about a company: client’s reviews, employees’ reviews, work culture and methodologies highlights, etc. It would also be great if this directory could allow users to compare competitors and find out which ones are the best fit for their needs.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Recently I invested in a Product Owner training to improve my knowledge about managing Agile projects. It was a two-day training with a lot of practical activities that we organized for the company and it was a great experience! From this course I got motivated and bought the book “Reinventing Organizations”.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Slack is a software we rely upon a lot in UruIT. It’s a tool that allows every team member to stay connected and to communicate constantly. Our success foundation is a fluid, transparent communication. So frequent communication among our teams is very important. And it shouldn’t matter if team members are in the same room or in different countries: Slack facilitates our daily work by giving us the feeling we are side by side, creating great things and working in a fast-responsive environment.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success”. It brings a content combination of marketing concepts, agile-lean methodologies, analytics and user research practices, blend together for growing a digital company.
What is your favorite quote?
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. I love this quote because it tells us that everyone is responsible for generating his/her own luck by getting ready and being the best version of a person & professional they can be. In my experience, being an entrepreneur is basically looking after opportunities all the time and not waiting for them to come knock on the door.