Who we are
“It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. To get somewhere, you must run at least twice as fast.”
This quote from Alice in Wonderland describes very well how tech companies in Silicon Valley and around the world evolve and find success. Great ideas require great execution, and great execution requires a strong team of brilliant people working together to reach the common goal.
We know this very well, because we have walked the walk. Since the early 2000s, our two founders have worked for tech startups, giant software companies, and consulting firms in the Bay Area and beyond, and eventually founded a few companies of our own as well. One of them, a B2B enterprise SaaS company, has become a major player in its industry. The biggest key to our success in both building the core product and scaling the technical implementations was the ability, and the processes we have created, to hire the right people quickly and effectively as part of our remote office in Ukraine, and integrate them into our team while retaining and growing our culture — all within the typical constraints of being a bootstrapped, and later venture-funded, startup. These people have been our biggest investment, our greatest value, and our main competitive advantage.
As we started helping friends (and friends-of-friends) in the software industry build up their own teams based on these learnings, the results were phenomenal, and in 2015, we have launched Agile Fuel as a very selective, high-touch, boutique service to bring this approach to others as well.
What we do
We recruit and support high-quality dedicated engineering teams that work out of our offices in Ukraine and are tailored specifically to each client’s technical requirements, culture, and communication needs. We take care of recruiting and everything else on the HR and administrative side of things (onboarding, computers, workspace setup, managed office space, utilities, IT support, benefits, legal, accounting, snacks, visa support, and all other overhead/G&A you can think of), so you can focus on direct engineering management and preserving your team culture -- all this at significant (up to 70%) cost savings compared to the US and Western Europe.
The entire process of finding, recruiting, and getting a new team member started usually takes about 2-4 weeks for most positions:
(1 day) You provide us a job description and a few words about your company, team, and product
(1-2 weeks) We perform the initial search, find the most promising candidates, and conduct technical and HR prescreenings
(1-2 days) We send you the CVs of candidates with the best fit and schedule your interviews with the candidates of your choice
(1-3 days) You run the candidates through your interview process, with additional tests if necessary
(1-2 weeks) If you decide to extend the offer, and the candidate accepts, we manage the rest of our hiring process, so your new team member is ready to hit the ground running on their very first day
We are mainly focused on Ukraine as the primary location for building your high-performing engineering teams because of the following:
Strength of education
Admirable strength of technical education, with a rare balance of theoretical fundamentals and applied skills
Exceptional problem-solving culture and pride in thinking outside the box to address complex challenges
Availability of talent
Considerable talent pool available across all common technical stacks
Great cost advantages
Significant cost advantages compared to the US and Western Europe
We are also in the process of scaling our approach and establishing offices in South America in the second half of 2019 – if this sounds interesting, let us know, and we’ll make sure to keep you posted.
Why we do it
There are plenty of amazing tech companies, ideas, and projects, constrained by a shortage of engineering talent, and the ruthless competition for such talent, in the US and Western Europe.
Our mission is to enable these great companies to expand and benefit from the global talent base at a reasonable cost -- all while retaining and nurturing their culture.
We see plenty of outsourcing companies and freelance engineers of various quality on the market (and yes, we get the same annoyingly unreadable unsolicited cold emails from dev shops every day!). Some are solid, and few are brilliant; however, as many of them tend to focus on transactional interactions, high project volumes, and fat margins, this approach oftentimes leads to misaligned incentives and suboptimal results (to put it mildly), which in the fast-moving startup world can mean catastrophic failure without a chance for a do-over.
We are very selective about who to accept as a client and provide high-touch, tailored service to every company we work with. We only take on clients in cases where we feel like we can make a difference, and we work together with our clients to build teams that are focused on people, culture, and expertise that is specifically required for every given company, project, and team member.
Average pay rates are 50-70% below the US and EU rates – all fully loaded, with no additional hidden fees.
We focus on finding the best, highly qualified people in your technical stack that genuinely care about working on your product, rather than following the typical “outsourcing” approach of leveraging a bench of the cheapest available jack-of-all-trades developers that churn through multiple projects at the same time.
Everyone’s recruited specifically for your team based on their expertise and passion for your product. We work together on integrating your engineers into your company culture in a way that keeps them excited and engaged.
We come from entrepreneurial background and understand the uncertainties and changing conditions of building and scaling a company. We don’t try to lock you into long-term contracts, supporting the ability to grow quickly or scale down if necessary.
As the team works directly with your technical management, and we don’t add artificial layers of project and product management (unless you request them), you can finally focus just on effectively building your product, while we take care of everything else.
CEO, Open Mineral
We are stack-agnostic, because we focus on finding the right people for your specific needs, however commonplace or esoteric they may be.
We currently have team members working with software, hardware, and beyond -- with areas of expertise including:
Devops and security
Digital and print media design
3D graphics and applications
Sensing and computer vision
Architecture and interior design
VR and AR
Research & Development
Digital and print media design
A few more things to keep in mind
We speak the same language
As we have built companies and helped build companies ourselves, we know how important it is to hire the right people for the right fit. We strive to be very selective and essentially wouldn’t send anyone for your review who we would not hire for our own internal projects. We don’t hide behind walls of red tape; we’re always available to talk about your current team and future needs, and happy to hop on a call or grab a coffee any time. While the founding team is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are also oftentimes in LA, Seattle, Portland, New York, Boston, Austin, Boulder, Salt Lake City, Chicago, London, and Barcelona, so if you’re around those parts, there’s a pretty good chance we can cross paths soon.
We work with teams of various sizes, so whether you’re starting from a single engineer and building up the team to as many as you need, or have a need to bring on a team of several people at the same time, we can make it happen.
The question about time difference and its impact on building effective team communications, understandably, comes up a lot. Ukraine is in the Eastern European time zone, which is 10 hours ahead of the West Coast, 7 hours ahead of the East Coast, and 2 hours ahead of the UK. Every client works out an optimal schedule and development processes with their team to maximize effective overlap of at least a few hours every day. While it is certainly possible for a team to overlap the West Coast schedule entirely, we don’t recommend it to avoid burnout, and every client that we have across the globe has deemed the time difference to be a non-issue after having worked with their remote team for just a few days.
Technical interview that fits your process
After our prescreening steps, we encourage you to run the candidates through necessary steps consistent with your usual interviewing process to ensure the best match from both the technical perspective and the culture fit. If you’d like to conduct real-time technical tests, or would like us to administer your standard tests and pass along the results, we can accommodate this as well.
Intellectual property, privacy, and confidentiality
This one goes without saying -- all of the team members are recruited specifically for your team and work full-time on your projects, the client IP or data are never shared outside of the immediate team, and our Master Services Agreement is very client-friendly, including all the important aspects of intellectual property rights. All work product is subject to the standard work-for-hire framework within the meaning of the US copyright law, and all rights, title, and interest are explicitly assigned to the client.
Travel and visas
To further build team cohesion, face-to-face time can be very useful. To this extent, whenever you’d like to bring people over for onboarding or training, or if you would like to visit the team for a few days or a couple weeks at a time, we are happy to help with arranging travel and accommodations, provide visa support for the team, and so on. For teams that are distributed between our offices within Ukraine, we also cover the costs of travel between offices when necessary.
Another key to maximizing the effectiveness and cohesion of the team is to make sure they are fully onboarded onto your communication tools and workflows, repositories, Slack channels, and so on. We don’t force one-size-fits-all tools for the team on our end.
Given all of the above, it is very important that your team members feel fully integrated into the larger global team and corporate culture, so we highly encourage, when possible, that you add them to your team page on your website, allow people to list your company on their LinkedIn, and so on. Effectively, they are an integral part of your team, and everything that helps further build that loyalty is very motivating for everyone involved.
Our primary offices for dedicated teams are located in Kharkiv and Kyiv, the two largest cities in Ukraine. We also have fast-growing satellite locations in Odessa, Dnipro, and Lviv, and for projects that are open to recruiting the best talent available, regardless of location, we can also hire individual engineers remotely across the entire country. We are also on track to further scale our unique model and establish offices in South America in the second half of 2019.
One of the big differences to keep in mind when hiring staff in Ukraine, compared to the long recruiting cycles common in the US and Western Europe is that the job market moves incredibly fast. If you interview a candidate and consider greenlighting the offer, please try to do it as soon as possible, within a few days. As candidates often interview at multiple places at the same time, we can lose them quickly if we don’t move ahead with an offer -- waiting for several weeks is a rare luxury.
Straightforward contract and payment terms
Agile Fuel LLC is headquartered in Mountain View, CA, and your Master Services Agreement will be in place with our company directly, just like it would be with any other US vendor -- you never have to figure out the arcane global tax, accounting, and compliance practices, since we take care of all of those on our end. Similarly, the services are billed once, at the end of the calendar month, with the invoice balance payable directly to our US bank account.
Unlike many of the giant outsourcing companies, we don’t have benchwarmers hanging around waiting for new projects to come by -- everyone is recruited specifically for your team, based on your specific requirements. This further helps avoid misaligned incentives, and we’ll never try to place a candidate just for the sake of placing a candidate.
Simple monthly pricing model
We have a very simple cost model, with the fully loaded monthly rates for each specific team member known to you upfront, prior to your very first interview with the candidate, and without any additional fees or unexpected costs. There are also no one-time setup, recruitment, or placement fees that are common in the industry. The only exceptions are when you need specific hardware with very high-performance specs, development boards, or specialized software licenses -- in these cases, you can provide those directly, or we can take care of the procurement process and bill you at cost at your next monthly invoice date.
Technical management on the client’s side
One thing that we insist on is that our clients always retain direct technical management of the project, or at the very least have a technical management contact available to the team. In our experience, such division of responsibilities leads to the most successful and sustained outcomes for our clients.
We are the HR for your remote engineering team
We are always with you throughout the entire process to help with any HR-related needs for recruiting, growing, and nurturing your team -- just let us know!