The key to success is all in the name for NearShore Technology. The metro Atlanta-based software firm was just named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies for the third straight year, with a 92 percent growth rate since 2018.
Its secret? A large team that is overwhelmingly based outside the U.S. but still firmly planted in the Central time zone.
While many of its peers have chased margin by looking for low-cost resources in India, Eastern Europe and further afield, NearShore has stayed close to home, building up a team in Mexico that now helps it compete for deals not only on cost, but on competency and continuity.
It started with NearShore founder Gabriel Apodaca, who’d developed a passion for people south of the border while working there in a executive role. Now the company has 175 programmers and quality assurance leads spread across offices in Merida and Puebla, reporting back to some 25 project managers and executives mostly in Cobb County.
Back in 2015, when Mark Crandall, now NearShore’s president, worked as the chief information officer for a health care technology company in Orlando, Fla., he interacted with the NearShore team on a contract.
“I just absolutely fell in love as well with the people and their approach,” he said. Little did he know, he would join that same team five years later as president, seeing firsthand the family-focused culture that keeps employees engaged.
Mr. Crandall is surprised that Mexico has yet to be discovered as a mainstream tech outsourcing destination.
In recent years the country has focused heavily on growing capacity in the so-called STEM disciplines in its higher-education system, graduating more engineers than even larger countries across the hemisphere.
For NearShore, English proficiency has not been an issue, and the retention of long-term employees — many of them now going on five years with the company — has been the difference in creating long-term partnerships with clients versus just one-off development deals.
“The key to our building partnerships is having absolutely wonderful talent,” he said, and he knows from experience in his previous like as a buyer of tech services: “If I was buying from an offshore company in India or the Ukraine, the turnover killed me if it’s anything longer than six weeks.”
Atlanta, he said, fits nicely with the company’s approach, given the presence of “intelligent buyers of technology” across a city that boasts the third largest concentration of Fortune 500s in the U.S.
That means few clients devolve into the “rate-card discussion” that could doom NearShore — there are always cheaper places around the world to get software development done.
But NearShore prides itself on its long-term focus. It gets a foot in the door by accepting maintenance work on companies’ legacy systems, which Mr. Crandall freeing up internal resources to work on upgrades and innovation.
Then, after proving itself, the company becomes the “first call” when clients in fintech, medical technology and other sectors seek a full-on digital transformation or cloud migration, Mr. Crandall said.
All along the way, the Mexican team is integral to the process, working closely with project leads in the Southeast U.S. and sometimes interacting directly with the client.
With the pandemic in place, on-site work is no longer possible, and NearShore has been able to prove that it’s not necessarily required when there are no visa hassles or time delays, Mr. Crandall said.
With the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement entering into force July 1 at a time of uncertainty around data localization and privacy rules around the world, NearShore can offer yet another level of assurance to clients.
The NAFTA successor trade deal includes explicit provisions on digital trade that preclude tariffs on digital products, remove impediments to cybersecurity collaboration and
“It used to be extremely restrictive where data could be stored and processed. Some of those data localization measures have evolved to allow an enhancement of the protection while making it easier to do business across borders,” he said.
Mexico remains a well-kept secret in the IT outsourcing industry, to Mr. Crandall’s continued amazement. Given the challenge of finding talent in the United States, it’s inevitable that companies will continue to supplement their operations with foreign resources.
“I try to enlighten folks: The scarcity of the resource is what really drives us to be able to provide value,” he said. “In Mexico, there are three times the number of STEM grads per capita compared to the U.S. It is truly a supply-and-demand problem we are solving.”
As competition for Mexican labor heats up, Mr. Crandall believes that NearShore’s dedication to its people will help it rise to the top of high-caliber graduates’ lists.
“It really is to our benefit to make it as appealing to our NearShore family members as possible to continue growing with us,” he said. “The lifeblood of the company is the talent.”
[pullquote]The lifeblood of the company is the talent.[/pullquote]
NearShore may soon be part of educating the world about Mexico’s charms. Earlier this year, Chief Operating Officer Yancy Riddle, an advisor to Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering, led a group of students to participate in an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum in the city of Monterrey, Mexico. COVID-permitting, the company hopes to make this an annual event.
“That was such a great experience because the Georgia Tech participants got to experience the culture in Mexico and understand what we talk about every day with them when we talk about providing services,” Mr. Crandall said.
NearShore also hopes to build out an immersive innovation hub in Atlanta, another ambition temporarily delayed by the pandemic. The company had been eyeing the Coda building in Midtown’s Tech Square, but it’s now reopened the search for a place to host clients and bring together top thinkers, Mr. Crandall said.
“We want to introduce how digital transformation is done.”