Codigi: How We Built a 30-strong Team and Achieved €2M in Sales Revenue

April 22, 2023
Codigi: How We Built a 30-strong Team and Achieved €2M in Sales Revenue

Karolis Daukša ir Vaidas Mileikis, „Codigi“ nuotr.

Before starting their own business, Vaidas Mileikis worked in IT, and Karolis Daukša – in the banking sector. Benefiting from their combined knowledge and skills, the newly-founded software development venture Codigi became profitable within 3 months, and is growing rapidly to this day.

Having started out in Finland, the co-founders of Codigi have successfully expanded their business into  Sweden and the US, and are now entering the Norwegian market. As many as 70% of their clients are in the finance and banking sectors. Codigi’s Lithuanian team is tackling corporate security and infrastructure, and implementing custom IT solutions. 

In its 2nd year, the company earned €1M in sales revenue, and then doubled it in the 3rd (2022). With 8 clients and >30 people on its team, Codigi managed to create €2M worth of value, and now aims to earn €3M this year. 

Vaidas and Karolis are convinced – the means for success today are better than ever, and all that one needs to succeed is a solid goal and motivation. What follows is our conversation with both co-founders of Codigi.

– How did you two meet? What motivated you to start a business?

Vaidas: We met because our kids were attending the same kindergarten, where they became friends. Then, after moving flats, we realised that we lived right next to each other in the same building, which led to us spending more time together. A year or so later, Karolis offered me an opportunity in IT. Drawing on my experience and contacts, I tried to figure out if it was actually viable. 

Karolis: I had a dream to create something of my own, which I attempted several times. Then, some acquaintances  from Sweden, in need of IT personnel, asked me for recommendations, and I immediately thought of Vaidas. We met at a pizza restaurant and hatched a solid plan that we decided to follow even when the Swedish clients went another way. Given my experience in banking, all it took me to get us some initial meetings and orders was a few messages.

– Where did you work before Codigi?

Karolis: I spent my entire childhood on the basketball court, so I thought I’d be studying a sports-related discipline. In the 11th grade, however, I realised that, at best, it would simply lead to me teaching PT at school. This radically changed my attitude. I decided to study economics. Then, in my sophomore year, I interned at Nordea for 6 months without pay, doing mostly routine work. I really wanted to work at a bank, so I spared no effort. Before the internship was over, I applied for a full-time position and got hired. Right from the get-go, I saw that sales managers were driving the best cars, which prompted me to pursue my career in that direction. Later, I worked as a sales manager at a different bank, and eventually oversaw a small team of my own. 

Vaidas: Since I was always interested in the hard sciences, I went to study physics at uni. During that period, I also started working as an IT project manager and spent many years dealing with IT products, despite not being a programmer myself. While changing jobs frequently isn’t an unambiguous positive, I did gain lots of experience and made numerous industry contacts. When I met Karolis, I was working for a tech company developing integrated transportation management solutions. There, I was responsible for a department involved in building a new software product. In other words, I used to buy the exact services that we’re now providing ourselves. 

– It seems like you both had promising and well-paid careers. How did you decide to drop all of that and go into business for yourselves?

Vaidas: In the 1st year, we kept our jobs as we continued to build the company. We hired experienced professionals that we knew personally, so we didn’t have to watch over them. It wasn’t like we carefully planned each and every step in advance or left our lives behind and dove in head first – all we had was a simple blueprint. Motivated to build our own business, we kept looking for opportunities – and then made good use of them. 

Karolis: My aim was two-fold: to start a business and to change my own understanding of that process. Some people find the stability offered by the banking sector, which is very hierarchical and rigid, quite attractive. I, on the other hand, wanted more. Vaidas: Financially speaking, launching Codigi was neither particularly difficult, nor risky. This is because the provision of services doesn’t require as much investment as, say, the development of a product. Within 3 months, the money we earned from our initial clients was exceeding operational expenses.

– Reading this, everyone’s going to want an IT company of their own!

Vaidas: Very good – let them do it. There’s plenty of untapped potential. We often talk to other market players – companies similar to ours – but there’s not a lot of competition here. The local market is dominated by incumbents, so most of us seek foreign clients. We can’t outbid them price-wise, as our team consists of highly qualified people. 

– What distinguishes you from other development companies? There may be lots of them around, but few can match your performance. 

Vaidas: Looking back, our journey seems to have been safe and easy – “just do it”. So where’s the magic? Probably in the details: attitude, communication, team, contacts, projects, and a bit of luck. For instance, we take great care to understand clients’ expectations and to deliver top-quality services. We also hire veteran specialists and pay them well – even when it ends up biting into our margins for a while. This has made us into the developers of tailored, complex solutions for businesses that we are today. 

Karolis: Given our belief in the importance of getting the details right, we consult each other even on routine tasks like writing emails and making presentations. Essentially, we focus on generating value, not invoices. While some clients simply aren’t ready for the quality we’re able to offer, those we collaborate with on stable, long-term projects value it very highly.

Within 3 months, the money we earned from our initial clients was exceeding operational expenses.

– Most of your clients are currently from Scandinavia. What are they like?

Karolis: It’s difficult to make them interested. They often ask for several meetings, require us to provide recommendations, and undergo security checks. If all goes well, however, those relationships are long-term. Conversely, American clients make partnership decisions within the first 15 min., but may also call at any time and say they will no longer be needing your services from tomorrow. Meanwhile, in Finland, getting a project off the ground takes about 6 months. If you do well, there’s no reason for them to replace you with a new partner to do the same work. 

Vaidas: It’s crucial to understand the Scandinavian culture and values. I used to have Swedish and Danish clients. They value personal connection, recommendations, and safety. If you rush things and go straight for the sale or haggling over price, you’ll end up misunderstood. 

– What’s unique about you is not just the client portfolio, but also your work culture and high average salary (€5,500). What principles underpin your approach to building teams? How many of you are there in total? 

Vaidas: About 30 all told. The forms of their employment differ, but we consider all of them to be our employees. When offering services to clients, we eliminate all mediation – they speak directly to our people, which process would be much less seamless if they were merely good engineers. In appraising this context, we realised the importance of 3 things: projects, culture, and money. For instance, when developing products, we’ve started to experiment within our teams. This allows people to realise their potential and test new technologies – if that succeeds, we might start developing products in parallel. In addition, we used to say no to short-term tasks as it seemed wasteful in terms of man-hours. Now we leave the decision up to them – if they want to earn some additional money, they can do those tasks outside of working hours. There’s no profit in that, but it might lead clients back to us later, with larger projects. 

Money is also important. If you want people to be motivated – pay them well. Salaries at Codigi exceed the market average, enabling us to hire top-level specialists with superb technical knowledge and soft skills. Being trusting, we allow them to work remotely, and offer flexible benefits. They have 5 plans to choose from, based on preference – from health insurance and retirement savings to home office set up budgets and movie tickets. 

– What talents are you lacking today, given your plan to expand your team by 60%?

 Vaidas: Recently, we’ve been looking for back-end (Java and .NET) programmers. This means the market is changing, because, for the longest time, it was front-end developers that were in short supply. We used to dream of a time when specialists would come to us, looking for work. It’s finally happening, albeit slowly. For our part, we always keep a list of people who might want to join us, given a specific project. This allows us to form teams and offer them up to clients within a week – a recruitment agency would take about a month. We’re not exactly gathering people like mushrooms after the rain, but we’re doing alright. And they do stay with us long term – in 3.5 years, only a few had left. 

– How do you judge an employee’s potential for trust-based relationships? 

Karolis: We take part in job interviews directly to this day and focus a lot on personal qualities. All our employees are experienced, both in terms of employment and age. 

Vaidas: We had a painful incident once, but our relationship with employees remained the same regardless. In my view, trust leads to personal commitment. Besides, it’s not like we leave everything up to inertia – we track performance and talk to our team and our clients. 

– You’re doing extremely well today, but how do you see Codigi’s future? 

Vaidas: Being players in the  Scandinavian market, we plan to establish branches in Finland and Norway to build our image as a local partner – providing services exclusively from Lithuania is becoming difficult at times. We’ll be hiring locally, at least in part, to reduce the anxiety felt by clients who still see Lithuania through an Eastern European lens. 

Karolis: I know of a certain person who, prior to coming to Vilnius, explored one of its least reputable neighbourhoods via Google Street View and thought the whole country was like that. The difference became apparent immediately upon landing in the VIlnius Airport. Through business, we actually become the ambassadors of Lithuania – and of the Lithuanian people.

Vaidas: We’re consciously seeking partnerships. It’s likely that we’ll also start collaborating with several Lithuanian companies to offer a wider spectrum of services, e.g., in the fields of security or machine learning. So, in essence, we aim to expand regionally and via providing extra services.

Today, the means and tools for success are like never before – all you need is a goal, motivation, and some courage. Lithuania will provide the rest.

– You work with Scandinavians, plan to have offices there – it would seem logical to also move abroad. Do you have any such plans? 

Karolis: Patriotism holds us back, I think. We’re also inspired by our biggest startup achievers – Tesonet, Kilo Health, and Vinted, all of whom are outspoken about their pride in being Lithuanian. 

Vaidas: We’re trying to expand our horizons, but perhaps we really do live in a bubble which, however, I see as extremely positive. I’m motivated by how much Lithuania has changed over the past 15 years. We’re getting lots of attention from various corners. Although markets now seem to be consolidating, at least in part, we’re still excited about building a progressive company based on values we believe in. We’d like to make it big, as it were, and grow by acquiring other companies. By building such a company, we’re also fostering an entire workforce and culture, and paying taxes specifically into the Lithuanian budget. 

– Would you advise those who are now in the position that you yourselves were in prior to Codigi, to start a business today? What should they focus on the most? 

Vaidas: If you’re truly motivated and have a dream, I would unequivocally encourage you to try. After we finally got off the ground and into the groove – the feeling was unbeatable. 

Karolis: Some things are just hard and require lots of time and energy. We strive to reply to our team’s inquiries and discuss things 24/7, while maintaining work-life balance – spending time on our families, off-hours activities, and exercise. At first, our jobs were mostly technical, and now they’re more strategic – even our role as founders and managers is changing. Truth be told, we don’t really want to take a back seat – it’s all so interesting, albeit demanding in terms of learning. We want to keep enjoying this process. 

– Could you share a bit about what it’s like to build a business as a co-founder duo? 

Karolis: I don’t really have any spicy stories to tell – we never fight. Given our personalities, we prefer to just talk. We also work in the same office and have extensive discussions before every decision. Vaidas works more with the team and tackles organisational issues, while I focus primarily on clients. It’s important to know how you’re creating value. 

Vaidas: Our values have been aligned from the start. We were driven by a great hunger and  passion, but also wanted to do things right. That, however, is not enough for us. We’re both working long and hard so that our future steps would be even bigger – and in the right direction. Lots of things have happened over the years, but nothing that we couldn’t settle in conversation or on the tennis court.

– What needs to happen for there to be more successful startups, unicorns, and happily employed IT talent in Lithuania? 

Vaidas: At the risk of sounding cliche, I’d say we need to revise our education system – it needs to inspire people to be ambitious from an early age. Not everyone needs to become a business owner, of course. But they should at least have the determination to pursue their passion. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing about my past even if I could. Building and managing a company is something I really love – but for some it’s probably quite boring. It’s easy to idealise the lives of startup founders, but this kind of work just isn’t suited for some people. You must search for what interests you, to try things, and gather experience – success will eventually come. 

Karolis: I would advise would-be entrepreneurs to build relationships, look for like-minded people, and participate in as many things as possible. Today, the means and tools for success are like never before – all you need is a goal, motivation, and some courage. Lithuania will provide the rest.


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