20 years ago, when there still was no iPhone and Facebook, a group of software engineers started a new IT company in Kaunas, Lithuania – NFQ. Today we are a German-Lithuanian software developer, having offices in Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Vietnam, and Singapore and 300+ launched digital solutions for our global partners worldwide. An occasion to celebrate and reflect on how our crazy journey went.
From technology developers to investors
From the very start, NFQ sought to be not just a software services firm, but a company that creates ideas and solutions, with full mastery of its partners’ technologies. This ambition of the Lithuanians meant that already in their first decade of work, NFQ’s teams were fully responsible for developing market-leading start-ups’ technologies and high-potential products from day one.
Among NFQ’s biggest early success stories were the German flight search engine swoodoo, which was eventually acquired by U.S. giant KAYAK, and OXID eShop, one of the most popular e-commerce platforms on the German market at the time. In its second decade, NFQ’s people built and continue now developing such businesses and products as HomeToGo, which was recently listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, leading German furniture retailer home24, logistics innovators Alaiko and Atlantic Express, and dozens of others. NFQ also invests in some of the businesses it develops, becoming shareholders and/or co-founders.
According to Paulius Insoda, the CEO of NFQ, focusing on products with big growth potential is also attractive for employees, since projects like that are more interesting, offering more creative freedom and sense of ownership. At the same time, NFQ’s established track record building high-potential businesses opens opportunities for it to constantly work with new products whose owners seek fast business development, technology leadership, enthusiasm and experience.
“There’s still a perception that start-ups are small teams of young people in co-working centers. Here, though, we’re talking about well-established and highly experienced entrepreneurs, initial investments in the tens of millions, and correspondingly large ambitions for speed and growth. Big global corporations are also increasingly feeling a need for speed and fresh ideas – they too are looking for ways to transform their businesses and innovate, and facing challenges with internal processes and innovation, they turn to us for help as well,” Mr. Insoda notes.
This phenomenon is well illustrated by NFQ’s strategic partnership, announced last year, with German IT solutions giant valantic. That company’s client base includes global names like Siemens, Telefonica and Coop, who see valantic as an external source of innovation, ideas, speed and growth in e-commerce, business management systems, new products, process automation and other areas. In December last year in Lithuania, NFQ opened the valantic LT technology and innovation competence center to help the world's largest businesses grow faster in e-commerce and other areas.
“This partnership of ours is a great example of how the start-up way of working has become universal today. Competition means companies can no longer afford to spend years innovating within their historically established internal cultures and processes. True breakthroughs require speed, out-of-the-box thinking and broad experience. We in turn additionally provide our partners with directions, strategies, tactics and processes. And, of course, the technologies we are so proud of,” NFQ’s CEO says.
Last year NFQ also opened its first office in Poland, in Krakow, and Paulius Insoda notes the company is seeking opportunities to open another business unit in another foreign country too.
“As soon as we started work in Poland, we were immediately sure we had made a good choice. The country has a great ecosystem mix of local and third-country talent and charming cultural proximity to both Lithuania and Western Europe. So we foresee rapid growth in Krakow this year and hope in the course of the year to announce another NFQ office abroad. Our criteria are clear: ecosystem experience, size, enthusiasm and cultural proximity,” says Mr. Insoda.
Besides its recent focus on international start-ups, NFQ is seen as an e-commerce pioneer in Lithuania. The company also conducts digitalization projects for Lithuanian and foreign partners in the travel, aviation, logistics, mobility, retail and other industries. In 2012, NFQ launched the NFQ Academy, a unique project for young IT talents and professionals looking to retrain. It was the first such initiative in Lithuania to nurture external talent within a company. To date, over 650 developers have graduated from this semester-long, intensive, hands-on training program, and have gone on to successful careers at NFQ and other Lithuanian and foreign companies.
The wider NFQ group of companies, which unites more than 800 professionals, also includes a digital marketing agency in Bavaria, Germany, offices in Vietnam and Singapore, and an investment arm, NFQ Capital.