The founder of TSD Services, on how he built a successful software company in a small Bulgarian town
When Vagabond interviews a CEO or an owner of a successful Bulgarian or international company, we usually meet in a flashy office building in Sofia. The meeting with German Gachevski, founder and CEO of software company TSD Services, was more unorthodox. We had to drive to Troyan, a town at the foot of the Central Stara Planina mountain range.
Most people associate Troyan with its eponymous traditional pottery, delicious plum rakiya, and the stunning Troyan Monastery. Mr Gachevski is the man who showed that Troyan has more to offer. In 2006, the US-educated IT specialist returned from Paradise, a Texas town with about 300 residents. A year later, he opened an outsourcing company in his birthplace Troyan, which has about 30,000 inhabitants. He started small. Today, Troyan Software Development Services is the living proof that the garage success story is possible not only in the Silicon Valley or Sofia. The company for ITO and Relativity-based eDiscovery solutions now has offices in Sofia and Plovdiv and has clients on five continents.
TSD Services' management remains based in Troyan. Its premises are just like the ones of any successful IT company: bright, friendly, with amenities for relaxation and fun. They are quieter than usual, as some employees still work from home, but Mr Gachevski and his team greet us warmly. After all, this is an organic company where growth is natural, and its CEO is a man who can still be seen coding or training new employees himself.
How did you dive into the world of IT?
At high school I went on an exchange program in the small US town of Paradise, Texas where I stayed with the coolest and most supportive host family. After that I won a scholarship at the private Catholic University of Dallas and in 2005 I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Meanwhile, I had started working in the IT department of a major Dallas-based financial company focused on car loans.
What brought you back to Bulgaria and how did you start TSD Services?
This is a question I have been asked persistently for 13 years now. The short answer would be: because of patriotism and family. My wife, who was with me in the US at the time, and I decided that Troyan, our birthplace, would be a better place to create a family. The town is not big but has potential for growing a business and is a pleasant place to raise kids.
After my return, I continued working as a full-time programmer for the IT department of the Dallas finance company remotely. There was a risk, of course, but I was hopeful that you could succeed in Bulgaria if you worked hard enough. Moreover, IT is a field that provides plenty of opportunities for development that do not depend on your physical geographical location. As I was a good programmer and the time difference between Bulgaria and Dallas was a plus for me, creating an ITO company was the next logical step. The Dallas company became the first client of TSD Services. It is still our biggest client.
At the beginning, we were just two people – me and my first cousin who has no IT background but is very well-versed and communicative. As our Dallas partner was experiencing rapid growth, TSD Services expanded as well. In 2012, a good high-school friend of mine, who is now our EVP and COO, joined TSD as an investor which led to the opening of our Sofia office. In 2015, the TSD team reached 50 people. The following year we opened our third office, in Plovdiv.
How does TSD stand out from the rest of the crowd?
Unlike most Bulgarian IT companies, which are based in Sofia, TSD was founded in Troyan and continues to operate from here. We have also trained the IT and other specialists that we need from the very beginning. There is a shortage of trained IT people in the region, so we organically became a centre for training and modeling of people with zero or subzero previous experience in the field into IT specialists. Today we, at TSD, employ dozens of successful and proven professionals not only in our IT department, but in the other departments, too. TSD's pro-expert software engineers are concentrated in our Sofia and Plovdiv offices.
Generally, TSD has excellent employee retention levels. We believe that employees are the basis of company growth and we invest a lot in them.
Organic growth also makes us different. Through the years we grew naturally, in accordance with the needs created by our clients and our growing customer base that today spreads over five continents. At the moment, our team numbers about 60 professionals who work on projects in our two major business lines, outsourcing of IT services and development of Relativity-based eDiscovery products.
When I founded TSD, I was blessed with the opportunity to be at the right time at the right place. At the time, few Bulgarian companies operated in this field, and during the 2008-2010 crisis we expanded twofold. Fingers crossed that we will continue to develop in the same way in the foreseeable future.
What does the ITO sector look like at the moment and what is its future?
We are going through a period of dynamic development and changes. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, everyone, not only in our field, but also outside of it, was nervous about what would happen. No-one was prepared for a global lockdown. However, today I think that we have adapted in the best possible way to the new reality.
I am optimistic about the future of the ITO field as it is one of the businesses that could actually benefit from the current crisis. The pandemic has forced many businesses to digitize their processes and activities, and this is a golden opportunity for IT companies to help other business sectors to adapt to the digital world with the software solutions and technical support they need.
How did TSD adapt to the changed situation and how can it help its clients?
In March, we were quick to close all our premises and in a couple of hours we successfully transferred everyone to home office regime. The transition did not affect our productivity and the quality of our work. Today, we remain sticklers for following all the requirements for social distancing, disinfection, and discipline in our company office spaces. We offer flexibility and options for home office work to employees and provide them fully with the technology and support they need to do their job from a distance.
As for clients, at the moment we enjoy 100% client retention in our outsourcing business department. I hope the trend will continue in the future.
We are also happy that we retained all of our employees during the lockdown. In the past few months, we even expanded our team. I am also glad that in 2020 we successfully organized our most attended TSD internship program so far.
Our plan for securing uninterrupted business activities was a success. We are satisfied that we are able to provide high quality services to our clients and that we remain a trusted and reliable partner who outperforms even under radically changed circumstances.
What are the "hottest" offers by TSD?
Since 2013, besides outsourcing services, TSD has successfully developed its second business line. It includes custom development services and our own applications developed for users of the popular eDiscovery platform Relativity.
Currently we have three products on the Relativity platform. One of them, a software application for billing process automatization, is increasingly picking up speed. Its popularity has justified the years of hard work and resources we have invested in it.
We are also developing a full-scale software platform for business processes management, but I will share more details during our next meeting.
For what companies are your ITO and eDiscovery services?
TSD is a trusted partner to leading global financial and audit companies, banks, hosting providers, law firms, and large corporations in the eDiscovery industry. Currently, six of the top 100 US law firms are our clients, and we are in talks with another 20 names in this list. Three of the Big Four accountancy and audit companies in the world were or are currently using our products, outsourcing, or custom development services.