History of Hooloovoo
Hooloovoo was officially established in June 2016, but the story started a few years before.
At the end of 2014, after working for more than 2 years as an external contractor for company called iGame, Predrag, the owner of Hooloovoo, made a deal with iGame to create a development team of 5 developers in Belgrade. Everything started very well, great team, great motivation, great plans… but 6 months later iGame was sold to Kindred, one of the biggest names in iGaming industry in the World.
They immediately decided to shut down iGame platform that was developed by Predrag’s team and to migrate all iGame’s brands to Kindred platform. Future of Predrag’s team didn’t seem so bright. Migration takes time, so they have a year, maybe a year and a half and that is it.
On the other hand, we had a chance to prove ourselves and to make a deal work for Kindred directly, and if that happens – it is a jackpot. Being able to work for one of the biggest companies in iGaming business was amazing. So we went all in for making that happen. We increased the team to 9 developers. We knew that a small team of 5 people is not that interesting for Kindred, but a full size team that can own some domain – that is a different story.
We moved to a bigger office and invested a lot in it, sending a clear message to our developers that we strongly believe in the future of the company. We used every opportunity when we worked together with people from Kindred on migration project and a few other projects to show our skills. That all led to signing a contract with Kindred in June 2016. That was a big exception and experiment for Kindred as they never had that kind of cooperation before.
Before us, they had all the development in the house. We knew that contract would give us just a chance, nothing more, but we decided that we are getting the best out of any given chance.
We assumed that Kindred’s will to cooperate with us was not just for having a team in Serbia, but also to see the potential of hiring more people. We live in the world where it is hard to find a good developer everywhere, so companies are seeking opportunities to everyone for finding the right people.
We wanted to be in a position to be able to grow as much as possible when and if Kindred asked us to hire more people. That meant that we needed to become well known and preferred employers very soon. Immediately after signing the contract, we set the name of the company “Hooloovoo”. Our first public appearance was at Voxxed Days Belgrade (the conferences in called HeapCon now) in September 2016.
We went all-in again, but this time in marketing. Since then we are focused on 2 directions. One is to absolutely provide amazing results in software development without any compromise so we can grow our cooperation with Kindred, and the second is to become an employer of choice for developers in Serbia so we can hire great developers at needed pace.
This campaign was a tipping point for us; we became well known after this campaign. Everything started in June 2017 in a flight from Belgrade to Stockholm. Predrag was reading an inflight magazine; there was an ad with a funny old guy at the disco – so he got an idea. We are looking for senior developers, and what exactly does “senior” mean? It means old, senior is old, old is Matori in Serbian slang, let’s create a campaign where we will be searching for “Matori” developer.
We launched the campaign in late 2017 and ran it throughout 2018. It was a great success. The Campaign was awarded as the best digital campaign in Serbia in 2018.
Although the campaign was funny, the message was very serious: that we had extremely challenging projects with some amazing fact 1.2 million active customers, 1 billion of data in Big Data platform… and that we were very focused on the happiness of our developers with some great benefits. That put us in the position where we wanted to be – an attractive IT employer.
Life after “Matori developer”
After the period of growing and maturing of the company. We are not a kid anymore, we are a serious player in Serbian IT market, but fast growth comes with lots of challenges. We’ve built a specific culture in the company and here some big question that follows: How to maintain and improve the culture with so many new people coming to the company? How to keep high retention rate we have established? How to make new people feel welcome and accepted, how to keep our old developers happy and satisfied while the company goes through a lot of changes?
The key focus for us at the moment is retention. Hiring, although still complicated as it is for every IT company, is at its needed level; people see us as a preferred employer and are willing to join us. The key to future success is to keep retention at the highest possible level. Within this year we did lots of internal activities. We have 4 people in HR plus one external consultant; we also have a Line Lead whose focus is mostly on people, but from a different perspective then HR. In total there are 6 people focused on almost 40 developers that we have at the moment. That is, most probably, the highest rate in the industry and well worth investment.
We created lots of internal processes to empower developers to do their jobs in the best possible way while maintaining the feeling that the company cares about them. Onboarding is one of the crucial processes when there are so many new faces in the company. It is the key to enable newcomers to understand Hooloovoo, understand the culture and to feel free to start improving the Hooloovoo. We are a company that constantly changes and it is of a great importance that every employee contributes to the change. In order to do so, he needs to feel free to suggest and make changes. Open and honest communication, unfortunately, is not something that is a common practice in many companies – and for us, it is the key for everything. Therefore, we need to put an effort so that new employees understand that and feel free to communicate in this way.