For startup founders in the West, skilled yet affordable coders are increasingly hard to find. The current median salary for US-based software developers is $110,000 per year, with some senior roles bringing in north of $300,000¹.
Because of rising prices, Latin American (LATAM) coders are popular hires for American tech companies. For one median-salary US-based developer, you could hire three south of the US² – all with comparable skills, good English, and working hours in the same timezone.
Founder Gino Ferrand created his startup TECLA to help US companies hire these talented developers in South and Central America. A Peruvian raised in the US, Gino returned to his home country in 2012 with $10,000 in his pocket to create a mobile app contracting company.
To serve large contracting gigs, he built a pipeline for hiring cheap regional developers that wowed his friends back in the US. They messaged him insistently, asking where they could find developers like those he used.
Gino realized he could make better money connecting LATAM coders to companies in the US and Canada that he could building mobile apps. Then just before Covid, he changed his business model to sourcing full-time remote employees instead of contractors.
Eight years after conception, Gino is back in the US running a 50-person remote team with a projected $2.4 million in revenue this year.
The American Dream, In Peru
Gino Ferrand is Peruvian by blood but American by upbringing (he considers himself a hybrid). His family moved to the US when he was a child and he attended school in the States.
When Gino graduated from the University of San Diego in 2012, he wanted to make a video game company but lacked money or support in the US. With $10,000 in his pocket, he decided to move to his country of birth, Peru, to connect with friends and relatives.
For the next two and a half years, Gino and a friend in the States ran TECLA Labs, a mobile development agency building Android and iOS apps for clients like Mercedes Benz and Roche. The business employed affordable Peruvian developers that helped keep costs low.
Soon, Gino’s friends started asking where he found these great developers – he received so many that he decided to turn sourcing developers into a side business.
“It fed off itself pretty fast,” he says. “Friends realized how fast we were building and able to hire. The other things we worked on never became the big success we planned and talent supply became the actual product.”
Gino and his friend published one mobile game at TECLA Labs that secured some revenue – but he could see their developer network gaining much more traction. Gino went solo from then on to see how far he could expand his network.
For the first three years of his new business, TECLA, Gino ran a LATAM-focused talent agency – a classic contracting model linking Latin American developers to coveted US job positions for a markup on their salaries.
The business was small and grew slowly, but Gino soon earned enough money to return to the US to be near his girlfriend. “As an entrepreneur, when you can pay your bills that’s validation,” he says. “I was worried I’d have to find a job to pay rent in the US, but it didn’t happen.”
As Latin America became an increasingly popular destination for hiring developers in the late 2010s, Gino decided the market was too crowded. In 2018, he risked cannibalizing his business by linking developers directly with companies in the US for a unit fee instead of a salary markup.
“I decided we’re going to do recruiting,” says Gino. “You pay us for the recruitment process and access to the marketplace and then that employee works directly with you. I invited a thousand people to start. I’d reach out to developers on LinkedIn and tell them I could find them work directly with a US company instead of through an agency.”
Gino’s bet was timely. For years, companies thought of global recruitment as outsourcing menial tasks. When the pandemic struck, all work became remote, and affordable talent abroad within the same time zone immediately intrigued Western companies.
Gino proved TECLA’s new model during the pandemic when it landed huge former clients like Mercedes and new tech companies like Dapper. “Post 2019, companies from the US and Canada came to us specifically for our cheaper business model. The affordability factor is huge. Paying $200,000 senior developer salaries is not affordable to startups anymore.”
Gino thinks Latin America is ideal for the new era of remote work. Unlike traditional outsourcing hotspots like India, most countries in the region remain in the same time zones as US companies.
“Outsourcing for years was always in India,” he says. “Ukraine became a huge IT outsourcing hub for US companies as well. Now Eastern Europe isn’t quite as popular because of conflicts like the war in Ukraine but the coders in Latin America are still largely untapped. When you hire developers in Latin America you can still maintain your company culture because they work in the same time zone and their English is very good.”
Gino says other outsourcing businesses are turning their sites to Latin America too. “Many companies started hiring globally and then decided to focus on Latin America. I think they must be following what their customers are asking for.”
I think we’re just scratching the surface of connecting workers with companies. As the market saturates, we have to start looking at deeper layers.
But despite the competition, Gino believes TECLA is the market leader as it’s plugged directly into the Latin American market. He wants to go deeper, not wider.
“We’ve asked ourselves, ‘Why don’t we expand? Why don’t we look at Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa?’ I want to focus more on Latin America. We were one of the first companies hiring here and we’re all Latin American. I think we’re just scratching the surface of connecting workers with companies. As the market saturates, we have to start looking at deeper layers,” he says.
How TECLA Pairs the Best LATAM Devs With Tech Companies
TECLA promises companies can interview world-class LATAM developers within just a few days.
According to Gino, companies were the harder half of the marketplace to source in the beginning. Tech recruitment ads are some of the most expensive on ad exchanges like Google because of increasing competition from talent agencies. Today, word of mouth drives most of TECLA’s growth followed by content marketing and SEO. “We’re number one or two for most Latin America keywords,” he adds.
Gino attracted many of the marketplace’s developers through cold messages and a referral program. The TECLA team also creates videos and webinars on employability and how to negotiate offers, creating a pipeline for new developers to join their service.
To vet developers, Gino has created a rigorous assessment process. Once deemed fit, TECLA starts recommending them to clients.
“We look at their track record and who referred them to us. We also look at where they’ve worked and see if those companies have thorough hiring processes. We assess their English and communication skills. We also look through their portfolios like GitHub accounts.”
As the market for LATAM coders saturates, Gino says TECLA increasingly focuses on finding the right coder for each job.
“We hook coders up with companies rather than the other way round. Since the market is getting so saturated, connecting a business to a great developer is not enough. Maybe someone is almost ready for a position but needs a few things to get there. We can provide the extra training they need.”
Is Reinvesting BS?
Two books Gino recommends all founders read are Profit First by Mike Michalowicz and Small by Design by David Feldman.
“Profit First was the best book I read about cutting unnecessary costs and making those hard decisions to be profitable instead of just growing,” says Gino. “Mike doesn’t even believe in reinvesting into a business. He thinks by reinvesting, you’re lying to yourself about profitability. You can run a million-dollar business and it can create a great lifestyle for everyone involved.”
Our business is not going to IPO and isn’t very investable, but it is still a great business.
Small by Design helped Gino stay focused on Bootstrapping while tempted by hypergrowth.
“In the beginning, I was always thinking about how to make this business appealing to VCs,” he says. “I almost got to the point where I sacrificed bootstrapping for scale. Our business is not going to IPO and isn’t very investable, but it is still a great business. Today, businesses don’t have all this VC cash anymore. We have to be profitable. We have to operate more like bootstrapped businesses.”
¹2022 Senior Software Engineer Salary in US (Updated Daily) | Built In
²Latin America: software developers involved in offshore development 2021 | Statista
³Latin American Developers 2.2X Their Income Via Global Remote Work (arc.dev)
⁴Software Developer Salary | US News Best Jobs
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