Spiral Scout is a leading software development agency that specializes in assembling professional product-oriented teams for companies in the U.S looking to grow their technical or design resources. Below is our recent interview with John Griffin, CEO and Co-Founder at Spiral Scout:
Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Spiral Scout?
A: Over the past nine years, we have worked with more than 120 companies across various domains on 265+ different projects, and we still feel like we are just getting started.
Our team is made up of passionate, innovative engineers and thinkers who all share a commitment to both building great software as well as forging strong partnerships with our clients. Through constant education and training, our team stays up to date on the most recent technologies and methodologies. Our own approach is based on open-source instruments, many of which we create ourselves and then contribute back into the community.
Q: John, can you tell us something more about your background? How did you start the company?
A: Right out of university, I moved to NYC and started working on Wall Street as a stock trader. I loved trading stocks as a kid but didn’t love the job or felt it was my calling. I always had the entrepreneurial itch, so in 2006 I transitioned to the startup world and moved to San Francisco where I launched an online stock photo company called Cutcaster. A couple of years in, I was contacted by our now CTO, JD, about some of the security vulnerabilities he had found while poking around our eCommerce site for fun (he worked for a stock photo competitor site at the time).
From there, we formed an unlikely partnership and friendship and decided soon after to start our own digital agency together with offices in San Francisco and Minsk, Belarus. As a technical whiz, JD brought the extensive software development expertise to the table, which I matched with my knack for managing clients and projects.
Q: Can you give us insights into your services?
A: Our primary service is building expert technical teams for companies that need to create any type of software that helps their businesses grow. Whether we are taking on an entire project for a client ourselves or helping companies scale their development by augmenting their existing team, we offer flexible 21st-century solutions to full-cycle software development and design projects.
We also provide end-to-end coverage meaning that we jump in at the earliest discovery phase of a product idea and guide it through wireframes, design mockups, front and backend development, database/server management, code deployment, all the way to QA and support/maintenance work.
For many clients, we have built software from the ground up, including web and mobile applications, web portals, digital asset management systems, and eLearning solutions. We have also stepped in to conduct sweeping code reviews and help refactor and modernize outdated legacy software written by other engineers. Ultimately, our services cover:
- Web development and design – our award-winning web design and software development focus first and foremost on user experience. We create compelling and reliable web applications that prioritize usability and functionality and are set up to scale as a business grows.
- Mobile development – ensuring a seamless user experience across various device types and sizes is a core component of our development process. Our team uses a variety of best-of-breed technologies to craft native iOS and Android apps, as well as progressive web apps and responsive websites.
- Enterprise Development – we help companies with cumbersome legacy code pinpoint problem areas and implement software solutions that significantly reduce operational and infrastructure costs. With our outstaffing model, companies can leverage our technical expertise and experience without having to deal with the hassle of hiring and paying all the additional benefits to full-time employees. We are eager to work with new solutions that are backed by plenty of strong research and which allow our clients to become more competitive.
- eCommerce development – as the eCommerce industry has grown, so has the number of eCommerce developers on our team. They excel at building online stores from scratch and customizing off-the-shelf merchant platforms, like Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce to meet our clients’ needs.
- Software testing and quality assurance – Spiral QA, the quality assurance division of Spiral Scout, is in the business of finding bugs and fixing them fast. They help companies create efficient and user-friendly software products with their alls-hands-on-deck approach to quality assurance, ensuring every software solution they test is thoroughly evaluated for its usability, functionality, security, compatibility, and performance.
- Support and maintenance – every product we work on is crafted with clear, concise code and paired with an appropriate level of documentation that allows the client and our team to take swift action when it comes to support and maintenance responsibilities. We also address existing breakpoints in the infrastructure to help reduce costs as well as provide failure recovery procedures.
- Internet marketing – a core part of our followthrough during and after a product’s completion is helping to execute strategic digital marketing campaigns, enhance our clients’ SEO, and boost email and social marketing initiatives.
Q: There are already a number of software development companies on the market, why do you think yours is superior?
A: We focus on three main areas at Spiral Scout: People, Product, Process. We know that behind every great software product is a talented, passionate team of people and a proven process that has been improved upon over the years.
People. When it comes to cultivating our team and company culture, we prioritize training and work/life balance. We regularly send team members to technology conferences around the world, as speakers and attendees, and we also organize internal meetups and clubs. To avoid overloading our engineers and prevent burnout, we operate on a reduced workweek year-round. Every Friday, half of the team gets the day off (paid), switching off with the other half of the team the following week. This mandated PTO policy (which is on top of existing vacation, holiday, and sick days off) has done wonders over the past 2+ years, including growing job satisfaction, reducing turnover, and improving productivity.
Product. Product is mission-critical for outstaffing companies like ours that build tech teams for other businesses. We not only base our technical work in popular, well-established languages and code libraries, but we also dedicate resources to building our own open-source software, essentially helping customer teams for free. A number of our MIT-licensed open-source software solutions we have spent years creating and supporting are available on Github. In addition to a PHP7 framework called Spiral Framework, our CTO and senior engineers have built a popular PHP application server written in Golang called RoadRunner, as well as Cycle, a PHP DataMapper ORM and data modeling engine which helps to develop complex SaaS software.
Process. While we tailor our process to each and every client, one foundational belief remains throughout – the belief that building strong relationships with our clients is as important as creating great software. We implement the Agile approach to development to ensure our teams can work in the most client-oriented way, prioritizing direct communication between developers and clients. Our other pillars of process are transparency, reliability, and taking ownership of every product we work on. This promise feels like a breath of fresh air for many of our clients navigating an industry where software developers often have a reputation for going dark and being unreliable or hard to understand.
We purposefully curate experts teams of developers, designers, project managers, and quality assurance professionals that can stand alone or serve as an extension of a company’s existing team. Thusly, it is less common for us to work a one-off project for a client and more common for us to maintain a working partnership for years and years as we support the software we already built for them as well as continue to craft new software solutions and offer testing, quality assurance, and digital marketing assistance.
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Q: What’s next for Spiral Scout? Do you have plans to grow, expand or diversify?
A: Growth has been a prevalent reality for us, especially in the past four years, as our team has expanded to 70+ developers, designers, software testers, and digital marketing specialists. This is up from 40 the year before so we are doubling each year. The goal for the end of 2020 is to be at 150 full-time engineers.
We are also investing more time and resources in supporting and building our software products that can be used on our clients’ specific projects as well as by other developers around the world. This move means establishing internal teams that work solely on our open-source offerings and products we intend to sell to other businesses, which is a big and exciting step for us.
In 2020, we plan to expand our global footprint further with another international office, this time in Latin America, that will offer “near-shore” services to complement our dedicated team members in the U.S. and Europe. This will solve one of the challenges we have with time zones being 8-10 hour difference between Eastern Europe and the west coast of the US.