Andy Hill went on vacation in Cuba in 2018, and while the beaches were great, he’s not one to lounge. Instead, Hill went around saying “¡Hola!” and–with the help of a friend who actually speaks Spanish–peppering locals with questions about business opportunities. He is, after all, a guy who has founded 12 companies since his college days. (He also runs those startups while holding down a day job as chief revenue officer for City Furniture, a nearly $1 billion company near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.) All of which explains why, after he kept hearing “software engineering” in Cuba, Hill launched a firm to staff U.S. companies with Latin American software engineers. He named it Siono, riffing on a recurring–and somewhat rhetorical–question from that trip: “Want another beer? ¿Sí, o no?” The refrain has become central to the company’s growth culture, with Hill and team continually asking, “Are we the best partner they’ve ever had? ¿Sí, o no?” With $5.5 million in revenue in 2021, the Delray Beach, Florida, company appears to have its answer. –As told to Steven I. Weiss
Others have hobbies like skiing; I start companies. I devote 50 hours a week to my full-time job, but I have breakfasts, I have dinners, I have weekends, and that’s when I grow my company–that’s my hobby. I build companies because I just can’t not. I know there are better ways to make money, have a stronger work-life balance, or leave a more lasting impact. But for me, I love bringing things into the world and empowering my team to grow. That’s what drives me.
My second startup ended poorly. When I was 23, I left a job to launch a social-good startup that got through a seed round and a Series A round, but then the Series B fell through; August 2015 was the worst month in my life, when I had to tell 30 of my closest friends and family that we’ve got a three-month burn rate and we don’t have any more cash coming in.
Fast-forward to 2018: After my trip to Cuba, I started looking into it, and I realized that all of Latin America had incredible software engineering schools. You have quality software engineers in the Eastern Time Zone, speaking English, doing the work at a fraction of the cost you’d have in the U.S. My friends and I started to realize, candidly, that we had found gold–at below market value. We could identify the talent, handle the first parts of the interview process, and get them placed as outsourced talent at U.S. companies. We started reaching out to friends and family in business in the U.S. and found enough demand to start the company a month later.
I was in lean startup mode to find our first customers. There’s no magic formula. It’s the same drill for any entrepreneur–personal reach-outs. About half weren’t interested. We learned our pitch with our early customers, and discovered that our secret sauce was around the compatibility and the culture fit that we could promise through our more human-focused hiring process. When we would get that right, the assessment and the retention factor were high. And that’s where we have focused.
One reason our business model works is because hiring sucks. It’s arduous, takes a lot of time, and most people cannot do it well. The average recruiter spends 20 seconds looking at a résumé, which is an accumulation of 20 years of someone’s life.
Hiring is especially bad for companies and candidates in tech recruiting. We fix all that with a better process that’s quicker and more focused on the human beings, and finding a fit based on who’s already on the team. With a typical software engineer hiring process, there isn’t a consideration of the skills and focus of the existing team, and candidates are put through long coding challenges that often don’t match the actual work they’d be doing on the job. If our candidate gets hired, customers pay the engineers through us, and we handle payroll and everything else for that offshore talent.
Now that we have 100 engineers, and remote work is so popular, we’re ready for what’s next. I’m transitioning us into a growth company. We have made massive investments, hired an executive team, and are expanding our services beyond just software engineering–adding offerings like graphic design and bookkeeping. We’re expanding from Latin America to 20 cities in 10 countries around the globe.
I’m also stepping back from day-to-day operations, to let our executive team really scale it up. I believe that I can keep founding and funding companies: find great people, and let the operating model scale the business profitably. I still have my full-time job, and I still love startup culture.
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