In a series of interviews with Croatian development teams, we pencilled Cinnamon into our editorial calendar. Surely, if you have an idea and a sound market requirement for a great digital product, they will be one of your Croatian business addresses to visit.
Being industry agnostic, the team works on a wide spectrum of projects, from FinTech applications, retail tools, to those that will challenge your procrastination.
An awarded employer in a category of medium-sized companies, Cinnamon hosts an open college project and is sure to be a beautiful and creative future work environment for talent.
We spoke with Mladen Šimić, Cinnamon’s Managing Partner. Enjoy!
We like to reminisce with our interviewees about their beginnings. What could you say was so great about 2014 when you started, and what was the most challenging obstacle?
We were incredibly optimistic and we had no idea what lay ahead of us. And that’s exactly how you start a business in your 20s: you deal with each obstacle with endless enthusiasm and energy. Everything that was great in 2014 is still great: you can still succeed on your own merit. The most challenging obstacle? Same back then as now: the fight for talent.
You are ‘only’ 8 years ‘old’. What were your most significant milestones, and what are the most important lessons you have learned so far?
Last year we opened an office in Belgrade, Serbia. This year we’ve passed our 100th employee and this very week we’ve moved to the beautiful new office with a huge terrace and panoramic view of Zagreb. But for me personally, the most significant milestone is when you see that your employees are growing as people. They start out as juniors, but soon enough they move to senior positions, they become masters in their fields, they start families, buy flats, buy new cars and all in all are leading wonderful lives. I think this is what companies should be in today’s day and age: a place where ambitious people can grow.
All software, zero bullshit
If you could list 3 top predispositions for developing a good product, what would they be?
First, build something that the market needs and wants. Sounds simple enough, but this gets overlooked way too often.
Second, design products for your users first, and for your business goals second. Founders often have to balance their business goals and making money with their users’ needs. In the beginning, always focus on your users, you can chase your business goals later.
Third, build something fast. Go for Minimum Viable Product (MVP), build something that makes sense for your users and launch it. Get it in front of real people, see how it performs and improve it based on their feedback.
The pandemic skyrocketed digital transformation and digital product development, and people’s expectations changed overnight. Suddenly, everyone expects services and products to ‘work’ in a certain way. How do you choose your projects?
We’re industry agnostic, so we choose projects based on the client’s expectations and approach. Good products take commitment, focus and a great team. I.e. they take time and money to be done right. We choose to work only with clients who understand that, who can afford it and who have a courageous, but reasonable plan.
‘Software solutions to shout about’. Tell us about your current-favourite project.
It’s crazy how different the projects we’re working on are. For example, for the last couple of years, we’ve been working on one of the largest FinTech projects in the US, serving over 60 million users. We’ve also just launched a super interesting project for a Croatian client (which is very rare for us), where we’ll build a telemedicine and tele veterinarian app. On the other side of the spectrum, we’re working on one of the largest LGBT dating apps in the world.
Flutter Course and free and open Cinnamon College
Share with us more about the Flutter and why it is so important in your work?
Flutter is a technology that allows you to have one code base for both Android and iOS apps. This means cutting the development costs roughly in half. Of course, Flutter is not the first technology to make that promise, but it is the first one to truly deliver. Cinnamon has been at the forefront of Flutter development for a couple of years, we’ve recognised its value early on and now we’re here: the number 1 Flutter team in the region.
You also kicked off a free Flutter course within your College program; what are the requirements for candidates to be considered?
Cinnamon College is open for everyone to apply. We’ve sent test tasks to all the candidates and the ones with the best scores get a chance to participate. Purely merit-based.
What outcomes are you achieving through the Cinnamon College program?
It’s a win-win situation. We share our very practical know-how with ambitious young people. As soon as the course is done they can land a job here at Cinnamon or in other agencies. On the other hand, we establish ourselves as market leaders in Flutter development.
People & Culture
In 2020 you were in the Top 5 employers in a category of medium-sized companies, and your employee’s testimonials speak for themselves. Where was the space for improvement?
There’s always space for improvement, especially when it comes to employee satisfaction. Although our average salary is approx. 1.5x higher than the national average, we still plan to increase it significantly this year. Next, an organisation is usually a weak link in fast-growing companies. We’ve done a tonne over the last 2 years to make sure all aspects of work are well structured, but it’s still something that can and should be improved.
What was your top-performing segment in that employee survey?
Work atmosphere and interpersonal relationships. We have a beautiful work culture, where work gets done through cooperation and partnership. This translates into a company where you can simply do your work and go home if you want, but you can also make true friends.
That’s why one of the main criteria for our new office was a 200 square metres terrace where everyone can simply hang out after work and enjoy the sunset. It’s way easier to work toward a common goal when people get along and enjoy working with each other.