Business

Software development outsourcing to Cuba? Really?

Karsten Wysk
Founder Alldone.app
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When I started the Alldone development journey, i needed an outsourcing partner which I could afford without needing that sweet VC money.  eventually decided to go with a Cuban devshop. This article is an little report from that experience. TLDR spoiler: it was pretty awesome :)

To be honest: it was my first time in Cuba and I did not really know what to expect given Cuba is probably one of the only remaining “communist” countries in the world. Will I have Internet via roaming on my phone? How do I get from the airport to my Airbnb? Can I get money with my Credit Card at the ATMs? Are there actually good restaurants in town? Is it safe?

Luckily all of those worries turned out to be unfounded. Yes I could roam perfectly fine with my German t-mobile contract with reasonable speeds including sometimes even LTE (if you ask around internet via phone seems to be pretty new and only available since 1–2 years, LTE even only since a few months). Taxis are readily available just like in any other city (however they are 3–4 times more expensive for tourists than for locals — in the end tourists pay maybe even a little more than in Berlin.. at least i did ^^). Getting money out of an ATM is no problem and they do have quite a lot of good restaurants! Also: Cuba is pretty safe — in contrast to other (Latin) American countries you can safely walk around at night in (most of) the city with the usual precautions of not flashing around your new phone/watch/money.

Even better: my Airbnb (yes they do have Airbnb in Cuba!) turned out to be pretty amazing. This was my view from the balcony in the morning including my 5 CUC (= around 5 USD/EUR) breakfast which was handcrafted at my Airbnb just for me. Nice!

View from the balcony of my Airbnb in Havana, Cuba

After the great breakfast it was time to meet the team. We had agreed to meet at 8:30am in front of the Capitol building and so we did and walked like 5-10 minutes to the office where I could meet the team in person. I knew most guys already via video-conferencing but I was looking forward to actually meeting them to really get to know them (of course I did not work with them because that would not work with my tourist visa for Cuba. Talking about visum for Cuba — you can get it online easily as a German).

The Alldone.app team doing the standup

The team turned out to be highly motivated with great skills, an entrepreneurial mindset and a good atmosphere in the team. What I found really refreshing: they are not spoilt at all. While some European/US-based Engineers or Designers seemingly cannot work anymore without their free lunch, fancy organic juices and free massages here the focus is clearly on getting work done without those distractions. Reminded me of my old startup times in the cellar of the basement of my parents :)

What also reminded me of my old startup times: the office situation. They are currently renovating an old office building and the rooms which are ready are really built with nice attention to detail. The room where Alldone is being built is not 100% ready yet and probably wouldn't win ergonomics prizes from the European Union. You got to admire though that they managed to give the office good enough Internet by combining different lines & sources together via a custom built solution. Also they have Air Conditioning at a decent temperature… this is better than in most US offices (where it’s mostly too cold) or in Germany (where you don’t have AC). Still don’t expect a fancy building here — if you enter the building it more looks like this:

Entrance to the building where Alldone.app is being built!

So coming back to the original question: What are the pros & cons of outsourcing to Cuba?

Pros:

  • You get highly skilled people for very reasonable prices who use all the latest tools & approaches
  • Language is no problem: they all speak English well
  • When you want to visit the team personally you can combine it with a nice visit in Cuba :)

Cons:

  • Internet sometimes spotty .. can make video-conferencing a little hard
  • Longer travel time to get there, timezone is ok from Europe (-6 hours like New York)
  • No fancy building, no fancy catering, no fancy everything

Talking about fancy: If you really need fancy you can take short walk from the office and go enjoy a cocktail on the rooftop of the Gran Hotel Manzana — pretty nice!

The rooftop of the Gran Hotel Manzana in Havana

We will have to see how things develop in the next few weeks & months but overall after the visit I am very hopeful that we can build a very nice Alldone-app together with the team. I am super excited and looking forward! I will keep you updated & let’s get it all done :)

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Karsten Wysk