By GREGORY ZELLER //
Everybody needs a friend – especially early-stage entrepreneurs who know more about their specific field than they do about starting a business.
That’s the thinking behind Xogito, a Huntington-based “global citizen company” offering software services ranging from design and user strategy to content creation and Big Data analysis – everything the eager entrepreneur who doesn’t happen to be a software specialist needs to know.
Cofounding brothers Constantine and Aris Spathis put a lot of thought into that “need to know” mantra, literally. Xogito, pronounced “ko-jee-tow,” is a play on the oft-referenced Latin phrase cogito ergo sum – “I think, therefore I am” – but when they launched in 2009, “we Internet-ified it, with the X,” noted Constantine, the CEO.
Aris, the COO, has spent more than 15 years managing and implementing websites and enterprise-level software solutions for companies including The New York Times, About.com and iVillage.com. His work has included the design, development and testing of those various sites and programs, experiences that honed his unique talent for articulating ideas and creating tangible digital solutions.
Constantine, meanwhile, is a bona fide Internet pioneer who’s spent more than two decades melding technology, business and marketing platforms – including long stints as the chief technologist and/or operations officer at New York City-based tech firms Magnetic and CE Interactive (which he co-founded), giving him an opportunity to create search engines for The New York Times, newsgroup search service Deja.com and other major-league organizations. His digital exploits have also benefited IBM, Priceline.com, Dean Witter Reynolds, Yahoo and other Fortune 100-level clientele.
But the CEO is quick to point out that he worked with these clients in the infancy of the Internet, while the web and its users were still finding their digital sea legs. It’s an important distinction, according to Spathis, who notes despite his brushes with Deep Blue and his contributions to Yahoo’s very first Internet-based phone directories, “I’ve spent almost my entire career in the startup world.”
“I’ve mostly helped startup companies or helped entrepreneurs launch their vision,” he told Innovate LI. “Eventually, I thought there was an opportunity to help them realize their vision by leveraging best practices with offshore resources.”
Those “offshore resources” are the backbone of Xogito, which employs only five full-timers and operates out of an office in the LaunchPad Huntington co-working facility. The five, including the Spathis brothers, are “senior technical people who understand how to efficiently manage a team of offshore developers,” according to the CEO – which leads to the other half of the Xogito Group, Xogito EOOD, the parent’s Bulgaria-based subsidiary.
Launched separately in 2011, Xogito EOOD is where the magic really happens. The Bulgarian company employs roughly 90 professionals – programmers, mostly, with a sprinkling of human resources and product-management staffers – and creates what Spathis called “a best-of-both-worlds hybrid.”
“So you get a very senior technical resource person here who can help understand your vision, and you get the cost efficiencies of using offshore talent,” he said. “That’s the model of our company: You’re an entrepreneur with a vision, but you don’t have to be an expert in product development or business development.
“We’ll take care of that.”
The Bulgarian brigade is proficient with various cutting-edge software-development tools and techniques, including TDD (test-driven development), wherein the client’s needs are addressed directly and basic products are sent straight out for field testing; open-source models that eschew licensing and promote universal access to digital instruments; and Agile SWD – shorthand for “agile software development,” in which various partners team up to explore potential solutions more efficiently.
It all boils down to “creating product that gets to market as quickly as possible,” Spathis noted. The bells and whistles come later.
“What is the minimal product you need to introduce to the market to test your idea?” he said. “Once the product gets to market, then you can watch how customers interact with it, and evolve it from there.
“In our experience, once the idea gets to the customer base, the initial idea usually changes pretty radically, based on that feedback.”
According to Spathis, this is the sort of thinking entrepreneurs – particularly those operating in digital realms – need to adapt to keep up in today’s rapid-fire world. Gone are the days of million-dollar capitalizations and lengthy development phases before liftoff, he says: Today, the transition from drawing board to retail shelves, or digital shelves, happens in a blink.
And in that environment, Spathis adds, the more friends you have on the software side, the better.
“It’s getting easier and easier to launch a new business,” he noted. “An entrepreneur with a good idea can get to market with a much smaller investment.
“It’s really unprecedented, how quickly you can get to market,” Spathis said. “You no longer need to raise millions of dollars. You can get something out the door very quickly and get to revenue before you even raise a single dollar.”
But only if you’re expert at manipulating cutting-edge software solutions, or know someone who is. And that’s where Xogito’s “breadth of capabilities and our agility” pays off, according to the CEO – a lesson embraced already by a customer base that includes “some of the leading visionaries in technology.”
Confidentiality clauses present Spathis from naming names, but off the record, he references a roster filled with names you definitely know. And Xogito’s client base figures to swell, with the Huntington firm this month introducing new marketing services that leverage social media platforms and leading search engines “to help our customers use their marketing dollars most efficiently,” according to Spathis.
That’s simply a value-added service complementing Xogito’s bread-and-butter: the ability to bring the entrepreneur’s vision to life, quickly and efficiently, and then make it fly.
“We’re the ones that help you do that,” Spathis said. “We build it. We incorporate the best practices. And we leverage the right technologies.”