Is it possible to automate lending for equipment and automotive financing? In this edition of the UpTech Report, we meet with founder & CEO of Inovatec Systems, Vladimir Kovacevic, to learn how his loan origination technology company is helping lenders simplify lending processes.
To start, Kovacevic discusses his early days growing up in Serbia and how it set him on a unique entrepreneurial path. He talks about doing business in the United States and Canada, pursuing the American Dream, and starting his FinTech loan management software company — Inovatec.
Inovatec is a loan origination and loan management software provider that helps organizations speed up the lending process and automate their lending business. With Inovatec’s software, lenders can automatically manage credit applications, lending decisions, documentation, onboarding, and reporting requirements all in one centralized hub. Through this technology, lenders can streamline their operations, lower expenses, maintain compliance, and book more deals.
More information: https://www.inovatec.com/
Vladimir Kovacevic is founder and managing partner of Inovatec Systems, a global provider of loan origination solutions for a wide range of lenders, including banks, credit unions, automobile and power sports financing providers, and other institutions. Under his stewardship, Inovatec has earned a reputation for successfully leveraging advanced technologies to help customers book loans faster and more efficiently than other providers in the market.show more
Kovacevic founded Inovatec in 2006 after spending several years working as an engineer at Eastman Kodak, and was responsible for managing the network infrastructure at the company’s Medford, Oregon facility. While at Kodak, he utilized advanced development and project management skills that he subsequently brought to Inovatec, forming the foundation of the company’s technical capabilities and service-oriented approach.
Kovacevic resides with his family in the Vancouver, BC area.show less
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Vladimir Kovacevic 0:00
Lending is manufacturing, you’re just manufacturing loans. You’re not manufacturing, a physical product, but your inputs and your data that you’re ingesting to be able to give along. It’s no different than raw materials you use to make a product.
Alexander Ferguson 0:21
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our applied tech series UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at teraleap.io. Today, I’m excited to be joined by my guest, Vladimir Kovacevic, who’s based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He’s the founder and CEO at Inovatec Systems. Welcome, Vlad good to have you on.
Vladimir Kovacevic 0:42
Thanks, Alex, good to be here.
Alexander Ferguson 0:43
Now, in Inovatec systems is a loan management and a loan origination software for the automotive industry. Can you just lay up the problem, though, that you originally saw and set out to solve?
Vladimir Kovacevic 0:57
Yeah, you know, it’s one of those industries that’s very niche, and very specific, not something that most people even think about, it just kind of happens behind the scenes. But the reality is, is that we all need cars and vehicles, and it’s something that we go through multiple times in our lives. And we all expect the process to be simple and easy. And so for things to be simple and easy. You need to have good technology behind the scenes. And that’s the problem we ran into. When we first started in Nova tech is we realized just through and I’ll probably get into that in more detail later. But we realized that a lot of blenders are using very manual processes, not very scalable, and not very organized management of data. And we all know today how important data is and how big of a role it can play in in business process automation. So essentially, what we saw was a process that was done manually that could be automated and done through a better data and process management.
Alexander Ferguson 1:57
So I agree, this is not a topic or industry people think about like, oh, wow, that’s, I think about that every day. That’s so fascinating. But it’s one that’s needed. And we’ll we’ll come back to the technology and the usage of it. But you also the fascinating history and story. And that’s why I’d like to hear you you didn’t start in Canada kid. Let’s go back and like, where did you begin? Where you grew up? And how did you get to where you are today.
Vladimir Kovacevic 2:20
So I grew up in Serbia, and it was one of those, you know, just timing would have it such that when I was just in my early teens, the former Yugoslavia fell apart. And, you know, there was a lot of conflict and uncertainty. And so growing out through the 90s in the Balkans, like it was, you know, to say the least chaotic. So it creates a bit of a unique experiences that you go through. And then you know, these experiences kind of shaped who we are and how we think about things and how we see problems and how we solve those problems. So in 99, I had a chance to move over to us, my wife, at the time girlfriend, but you know, future wife was already in us and she got a scholarship to play basketball in the States. So that’s kind of how she got out. And then she helped me figure out.
Alexander Ferguson 3:11
Exactly, so I’m curious, did your your girlfriend at the time now wife? Did she say, Well, I’m going to America, I’ll see you later? Or was it was our plans to come back? Or were your plans always to get over here,
Vladimir Kovacevic 3:22
you know, we we always talked about finding a way to kind of get there together. But it’s, you know, it’s not something that’s easy to execute, especially, you know, when you’re 17 and have no money. There’s challenges that, you know, very, very, you know, difficult to overcome. But ultimately, we found a way, you know, she figured out how she can get the scholarship and how we can get all of the schooling that I’ve done in Serbia, including the University, you know, go through process of, you know, translating all that getting credit for it, so that we can actually continue to school and and get the scholarship based on that. So So it worked out well. And, you know, we found ourselves in early 2000 in Louisiana. And so, you know, went to school there for two years at McNeese State and Lake Charles. And then you know, Daniella, my wife. In the meantime, we got married and everything and she she got a job at Kodak in in Oregon. And it’s a very, very unique environment. It’s a it’s a heavy manufacturing environment, like super automated and this is really relevant for the whole story because, you know, we got a chance to work at a place which was probably world class best in everything in terms of technology, data management, data automation process automation, like super, super efficient. And it was really like a 24/7 nonstop production with high value product over it’s X ray imaging its medical imaging film, not your traditional camera film because Kodak also made X ray film and in such that product As you know, the quality is overseen by FDA, because it’s a medical device technically. So you can imagine the amount of scrutiny that goes into defect management control of inputs and outputs, like, like, it’s just, it’s on a whole nother level in terms of many industries. And so, you know, we lived in Oregon before, I think 2006
Alexander Ferguson 5:21
And your wife, your wife got a job there first.
Vladimir Kovacevic 5:25
Yes, I was hoping you’re not gonna catch on. But yes, you also have a job there first and then on the job
Alexander Ferguson 5:32
she gets she gets you into the US. And then she gets a great job in full and good team combo that you guys move forward in your life together, it’s
Vladimir Kovacevic 5:40
a bit of a repeating reoccurring theme, you know.
Alexander Ferguson 5:44
But together, you both then move to Oregon, and then you’re working at Kodak that for you said, like, about five years or five years. Okay, gotcha.
Vladimir Kovacevic 5:53
And, and then, you know, we, we really wanted to stay in the States. But it was very difficult from just the process wise to get the permanent residency and everything, you know, there is a path, you can do it. But it’s very unpredictable in terms of how long it’s going to take what the outcome is going to be. A lot of things can change. So we ended up kind of trying to stabilize the situation and figure out what we can do. And we realized that, you know, Canada has a program that we can apply for. And so we did and got the residency and moved to Vancouver in 2006.
Alexander Ferguson 6:23
A little bit more North.
Vladimir Kovacevic 6:27
North, and here we are in Vancouver. And so it was a, it was a really interesting time because we had a chance to have to regroup and rethink what do we want to do you know, you’re in a new country, you have an opportunity to kind of rethink, what do we want to do for work. And one of the things that we said was, you know, let’s not jump into anything too quickly, let’s maybe do some consulting, let’s start with kind of understanding what the industries are here, it’s a big city, there’s a lot of opportunities, let’s meet some people and find how our skill set can be used either to find a really great full time job or, you know, grow the consulting business and do more, because we were very confident sort of based on our experience, and what we’ve gone through at Kodak that we had a very good sense of how business processes can be automated and to what level you can automate them. Because you know, what, what we we worked on at Kodak was really on a high level. And so, you know, trans would have it that one of our first consulting clients who needed our help with data management was an auto finance lender, you know, these people were essentially giving out loans. And what became obvious to both of us very, very quickly, is that lending is manufacturing, you’re just manufacturing loans, you’re not manufacturing, a physical product, but your inputs and your data that you’re ingesting to be able to give a loan, it’s no different than raw materials you use to make a product. And if you start to think of it from that perspective, that it’s really just raw materials in, you know, process it, do something with it, and output is alone, and alone have a certain quality and, you know, a certain, you know, you have to make sure you’re compliant, you’re doing all the things, right, you’re ticking all the boxes along the way, and you’re producing a product effectively long as a product that then performs for the next 345 years, however long that time period is. And once you start to think of it like that, like your view of the business really changes dramatically, because it’s no longer an art, it becomes more of a science and how you can mechanize every step of the way, you know, from start to finish, and ultimately becomes an exercise of how much more data can we get up front? How can we process it better? How can we process it more automatically. So there were eliminating decision points and manual intervention to the point where you know, a lot of our clients out there can do a full end to end process fully automatically.
Alexander Ferguson 8:53
So understanding that these this pathway that you took coming coming to the US you go to then college university, as you know, 9001 2003 get go to Kodak, you’re working there for three five years employee and then you move to Canada and decide to become consultants. So go from your first job and then consultants to then starting your own business. Was that just like seem natural to you? Was there was it? Did you have any fear? Or was it Oh, yeah, no, we got this.
Vladimir Kovacevic 9:24
You know what I mean? I never thought of it from a perspective of fear. To me, it always felt that the worst case scenario consulting doesn’t work out, we’ll get a full time job somewhere. Like if we were, you know, young and had a lot of these inexperienced, good education. It seemed like it would be maybe we didn’t know where we were going a full time job. But it didn’t seem that we would have a hard time getting a full time job. So it kind of felt that there was something to fall back on to. And you know, like most entrepreneurs when you’re first starting a we got to be very good at sort of bootstrapping and making sure we don’t overextend. So you’re kind of, you know, generating some revenue. But and I think this is the key. And this is where probably that that path diverge is easily is if you start to use that extra revenue you’re generating to better your lifestyle, then the business will never grow. Instead, what we’ve done is we’ve taken all the extra revenue, put it back into business to add the first employee, and the second and the third and start to sort of grow a bit of a team, because you know, what ended up happening is that consulting was very short lived, because people who we were trying to consult, they will tell us, okay, that all sounds great, but we don’t know how to execute on that. So we’re like, Okay, well, they’re sort of pushing you in a direction. Okay, well, my will will sort of transform from consulting to professional services. So not only will we tell you how you should fix this problem, we will actually help you fix the problem. And and I think, honestly, it’s just one of those things that evolves one step at a time. And, yeah, there was a point in time, probably when you get to have like, 2530 employees, you’re like, well, there really is no fallback from this.
Alexander Ferguson 11:02
A lot of people relying on you that point. Yeah. So that that transition from consulting to professional services, then to software, what was the timeline look like? 2006, you officially start consulting? Is that right? And then what what did that look like from you know, we
Vladimir Kovacevic 11:19
never thought of it from we knew from day one that we wanted to have a product. Like, I think that’s important, we realized immediately that you know, because our initial reaction to these companies was wanting to just buy a better product that will do this thing. And they’re like, well, there isn’t anything to buy. And so we’re like, okay, I guess what this is leading to is us making a product, but you know, we had enough understanding of the nature of what it takes to build a product, to know that you can just jump in and just build the product. And they want, what we decided to do instead was focused on this one company that was really growing at a time and they went, you know, they had like a, in those five years, they had about a 10x growth. And we help them along the way. And all of the problems that they had to face, we got to solve from a technology perspective, you know, one problem at a time. And so rather than building one giant system we sold, we sort of built for them individual applications, and, you know, point solutions that dealt with one individual thing at a time, but it exposed us to, you know, all aspects of the business, from credit review to income verification, funding processes, accounting, customer service collections, like literally the whole spectrum without ever having to build one big system. And it turns out, you know, when you when you when you when you really added up, it took five years to go through the learning of what it means to run that business and operator, you know, you’re coming back to that, you know, 10,000 hours rule. And I, we were in thinking about it, and I actually read the book way later, and then I’m gonna look back, I’m like, Yeah, that’s what it took 10,000 hours to become an expert.
Alexander Ferguson 12:59
And looking back, it makes so much sense, of course, that that’s gonna what,
Vladimir Kovacevic 13:02
and so and so it ended up being there. In 2011, we launched our first product, so five years after. And, you know, obviously, there’s, there’s a lot to be learned after that. But yeah, the
Alexander Ferguson 13:17
concept of building it over five years customer funded, so like, they were just paying to build each piece you weren’t have, you didn’t take any capital cost to build any of it,
Vladimir Kovacevic 13:27
we that’s exactly what we did. And we knew that we wouldn’t be able to take those pieces and never stitched into a product, we really, you know, when we launched the product, we rewrote it all from the beginning. But with the with the knowledge and insights that we gathered over the last five years, now that you have that knowledge and you understand the end to end problem. And the solutions that you need to make like it was much much easier than to create a product and do it in like six months. Because you already know all the solutions. You’re just repackaging and and putting it all together as a cohesive, single product that does it all right.
Alexander Ferguson 14:02
This, this journey sounds very progressive, like it just continued to grow and grow. And it just made so much sense. Were there any times where you were like, wait, what’s going on? What are we doing are like to hit a roadblock? Or was it truly just just perfectly?
Vladimir Kovacevic 14:18
No, like, I mean, you’re always running into these various feelings that you need to break through. And sometimes if the crisis of just the scale and size, sometimes it’s the external things that you have to deal with. There’s all kinds of I think problems we had to overcome over the years. And and you know, what, honestly, still have, because we’ve grown up to I think we’re not quite 200 People today, but like, 175 or so. And so, you know, as you grow the business, it’s just different problems at a different scale. But I would say that if I look back, it’s probably like, you know, two years of sort of nice linear growth, like you said, and then you hit a bit of a plateau and then if you can fix that problem and overcome what sort of stopping you, then you get another couple of years have left. And it’s kind of like a step growth is what I would say.
Alexander Ferguson 15:05
It’s like, congratulations, you meant to the next level, here’s new problems.
Vladimir Kovacevic 15:09
It’s like a video game. Yeah.
Alexander Ferguson 15:11
You made that level four, keep going. Do you think your experience and history from from coming from Serbia influence the way you have developed and grown your business and looked at at life and work? Yeah, 100%
Vladimir Kovacevic 15:27
Because, you know, one thing that, and I think anybody who grows up in an environment where you’re dealing with sort of very what I would call very serious and, and, and, you know, life altering problems and risks, it changes your perspective on what a crisis is, and what’s important. So, you know, when you’re worried about, you know, the, you know, there was a period of time in Belgrade in 99, when they were bombing the city, and you’re not thinking about like, your, your concern is, you know, am I gonna wake up tomorrow? It’s not like, it’s very, very serious. Although, to be fair, you know, that bombing was very targeted at military things, like there was really no civilian loss or anything, not at least in a in a massive scale. But But, but you’re still afraid, like, you’re still worried about things like that you never know. Right? And, and, ultimately, going through that experience, it really forces you to see problems in a different light, and you realize that all these business problems, like whatever, like it’s just a problem, like, it’s not life or death. Sure, we’ll deal with it, something broke, we’ll fix it, you know, we’ve run across a problem that difficult to solve, like, it becomes almost like, well, you know, these are fun problems. These are, these are, these are good problems that are leading to us getting better, it’s not existential problems.
Alexander Ferguson 16:46
That’s a powerful perspective, fun problems, that this problem is not going to kill me, it’s just gonna make us better if we overcome it.
Vladimir Kovacevic 16:53
Exactly. But I think it’s really 100% True. Because if you think about it, if you have that mentality, then I think that you turn sort of that stress into positive stress where, hey, look, we’re really we’re growing as a team, we’re finding ways to operate better. And you know, when the customer is asking for something, or we, you know, mess something up, that’s just a learning moment to Okay, let’s be better and not do this again.
Alexander Ferguson 17:17
Has this influenced the culture of the overall team as well?
Vladimir Kovacevic 17:21
Yeah, 100%. I mean, when you look at some of our core values, and how we hire people, and what we do, it really is like, I think the best compliment I ever got was from one of the team members that started with us this year in February. And he said, after about two or three months on the job, and I knew him from before from the industry, he, like, you know, how’s it going, like, what’s your feedback and all that he’s like, you know, what? I feel like, I’ve joined NASA, and unlike NASA, like, how did you like it? What do you mean, NASA? Like, where’d you get that from? He’s like, no, no, what I mean, is, it’s a bunch of smart people who all want to do the right thing. And they’re all focused on on, you know, finding a solution to all these problems, nobody’s getting stressed out, or, you know, not in a negative way, where it’s kind of becoming a problem and holding us back, everybody’s stressed out in a positive way where everybody’s aware, we’re solving some difficult problems. But as a result, we’re creating something that is meaningfully better, and the results and huge benefits to our customers. So he’s like, this is really, really cool, because it’s very focused, it’s very organized, and team kind of works as a whole. So I think I mean, you know, it’s one of those things culture in the company, I think, is very much influenced by sort of where the founders are coming from, and what kind of how you establish yourself, especially in the early days. And I think that’s what carried through throughout the years. And one of our biggest, I’d say, focuses these days is to make sure we don’t lose that as we grow. Because, you know, you’re talking about different kinds of problems. You know, when you’re when your team of 20. It’s easy to manage that when you’re a team of 200. It’s a little harder to manage that. And it’s really important. So it’s a different kind of a problem and a challenge.
Alexander Ferguson 18:58
You want to stay the NASA of automotive loan origination. That’s right. I shouldn’t should i i love it, though. I love it. So for this space for automotive loan origination software, or rather, actually the financial service industry, it really is heating up in many different ways. But how do you see the competition in the space? Is it getting competitive?
Vladimir Kovacevic 19:21
Well, I mean, everything is getting competitive. I mean, the way I say it, I mean, this might surprise you, but I really think of our competition and then who’s pushing us to do better is always say to my developers, that you know, Apple and Google have ruined it for us because they made everything so easy. And and and that’s the expectation now like you know, that same user that’s using our system is also using, I don’t know, an iPhone or Android phone, and everything is just so easy. You just tap here tap there, you know, everything you need to know in two seconds and your life is it guides you tells you what to do. Like it’s just super simple. And then you transition from that to a business system. And if that doesn’t look and feel, I mean, probably can never look and feel quite as seamless. But if it’s not kind of close to that, it jumps out at you like, you’re like, Well, what am I doing? Like, this looks terrible. Like, it’s all it’s clunky I hate it like, immediately your job satisfaction drops. So you know what I mean? Like, that’s what we use to push us forward, not necessarily the competition in a traditional sense, but really trying to think of it from a perspective of what does that user experience in their day? Across all of the different things that they do? And how can we make sure that what we do is consistent with that and makes them feel like, yeah, this makes sense. I get it. It’s intuitive. It feels good. Yes, I know that it’s more complex, you know, but it’s reasonable.
Alexander Ferguson 20:45
I’ve been seeing that across the board and other interviews that we’ve done, I’m sure those who have listening to our series have heard that as well. Consumers have that expectation. And it now carries over to the b2b software space that you’re going to suffer now, for your, for your team members. What’s that environment like to constantly experiment and provide a space where they feel like they can try new things? Is it? Is it a company lead? Is it individual? And how have you formed that that structure for improvement?
Vladimir Kovacevic 21:12
It’s, you know, it’s really, I would say there’s there’s three streams of work that we constantly follow and talk about. One is sort of the customer led initiatives, because there are initiatives that our customers are asking for pushing us for. Some of them are unique to specific groups of customers, some are uniquely individual customers, but there’s that sort of customer driven improvement. And and we have a dedicated amount of capacity focused on that. And, you know, I can probably speak about this for three hours, but there’s complexity to it, I’m just over simplifying it a little bit. Then there is strategic work, which deals with, you know, what are some of the things that we think we’re being innovative, and we’re learning from other industries, other examples that we can bring into our industry and make our product unique and stand up, right. And that’s another set of capacity. And then unfortunately, there’s a set of capacity allocated to fixing issues and problems and bugs, because you know, our system nature, our system is such that it sits almost at a like a central connecting point where we process data from many, many other systems, and being able to make it all work cohesively. And in such a way that to a credit analyst who logs into our loan origination system, for example, that it all feels right, we’re talking behind the scenes to like 30, different data providers and processing information. And, you know, one change here can affect something else over there. And you know, they’re not phoning somebody else, they’re phoning us saying, hey, this doesn’t work. And you know, we got to fix it and make it all work. So, and it’s a very, very complex product. So you naturally have all the things you can improve and do better. So really, if you think of it from improvement, customer, lead and strategic, those would be the three streams of work. And then I would say us, as a company, as a whole are kind of aware of that. And different people contribute in different, you know, areas, but it’s a, it’s not an individual led effort. It’s very, very much planned and calculated, you know, what do we prioritize? What do we work on first, and keep all the all of the three streams moving, because you know, you can really not do the fixes and improvements, you can’t ignore the customer side? And if you’re ignoring strategic, which I suppose you could do you really then falling behind, as you know, you’re not innovating anymore. Does that make sense? Or is that what you’re asking?
Alexander Ferguson 23:32
It does is part of this, like how you look at your constant evolution and progress. And you’ve kind of nicely broke it down into three sections? I’m curious, what are your How do you define your metrics of success?
Vladimir Kovacevic 23:45
There’s a lot of different ways to look at it. We actually had a really interesting discussion the other day, and we haven’t implemented this yet. So this is more future looking. But, you know, we were looking at a solution that somebody proposed. And and it became obvious that it was just internal discussion that that solution would require, like, I don’t know, four clicks to do something where you really could have done it with two, maybe even a single click with a little bit of, you know, fancy UI and a bit of assumptions being made on what the intent of the user is. And, and and we spent a good portion of the time talking about why does that matter? Like, why does it matter that it’s three clicks versus one click? And then we kind of did the math and broke it down into well, how many records do we how many transactions we processed per month? How many users are there? What does it mean to have one extra click or two extra clicks and when you when you scale it up to the size that we’re operating at? It is a massive impact, like it’s just ginormous, what one extra click means in terms of people’s effort and work. And so, you know, we’re really what we’re talking about now, and this is really fresh in my mind because it was just a few days ago, we’re talking about we really shouldn’t be on a click number of clicks reduction measured, you know, like how can we reduce the number of clicks and simplify the process and even start to measure that actively to be able to say, hey, look, on average, this is what it’s taking to do the work. And then how can we make with every new release? Have we reduced that? Have we made it better? And how much? And what can what contributed to that? Or the other way? If we made it worse? What did we do? How can we fix that and eliminate it? And so on and so forth? So I think ultimately, that’s the measure of success. How much of that business process are we automating? Really, and, and, and to continue to push in that direction. And as long as we do that, I think our customers are going to be very, very happy. Because ultimately, you know, one of their biggest costs is obviously, how many people they need to do the work. And you know, it’s not about reducing our always talk, people always ask me, oh, zero, eliminating jobs and stuff is like, No, we’re allowing you to do 10 times more work with the same amount of people.
Alexander Ferguson 25:50
It’s a technology makes things can make things more efficient, and helps people become to be able to do more. I love the simplicity, though. And the focus on that that’s a good metric. Your let’s just talk for a second about your industry, your your target customers, you’re focused on you say automotive industry, are we talking like dealers? Is it those who are giving the money the loans themselves? I mentioned? Yeah,
Vladimir Kovacevic 26:16
I mean, it’s, it’s an interesting industry, but I would say typically, our customers would be is anybody who’s giving along. So it can be private finance company, it can be credit union, a regional bank, National Bank, it can even be a large dealer group, you know, sometimes large dealer groups will have an in house finance portfolio. So essentially, if you’re giving a loan, then you will be our customer.
Alexander Ferguson 26:40
And it’s the first long while you’ve been focused on Canada specifically, is that correct? And in that ecosystem, but you’re looking or are expanding, and beyond?
Vladimir Kovacevic 26:51
Yeah, we’re starting to do a lot of business in the US. I mean, we’ve been doing business in the US since probably 2013 or so. But in a, I would say more, one of our other products, not necessarily loan origination. But we have started to expand in the US on the loan, origination side and loan management side. And we’re seeing a tremendous amount of growth from that, and really good, like our product is resonating well with the lenders, because ultimately, when you compare Canada and US from that perspective, it’s exactly the same process. Like there’s nothing different. We looked at doing some business in Europe, but and there are certain countries where the product does fit. But we found Europe to be very fragmented and very different from country to country, to the point where the amount of effort you need to do to make it work in a country. If there’s other markets that you can address that are bigger, and you’ll get a bigger return for the same amount of effort.
Alexander Ferguson 27:47
Are you happy that you decided to run your own business, maybe because
Vladimir Kovacevic 27:50
of the way we got into it, it just felt so natural and organic, that it never felt like we really had a tough decision to make, it just sort of evolved in that way. I’d say that where where we may be, what I’m happy about is that we were not afraid of the challenge. And we were willing to be like, Okay, we need to hire some people find it, let’s hire some people, we’ll figure it out. Like, you know, we don’t really know what we’re doing. But we’re confident enough that we’ll figure it out. And, and I think that that’s what I’m really happy about, because it has created an environment over the last 15 years where you’re constantly challenged. But but there is a way to kind of step up and make it work. It really, I would almost compare it to sports, you know, like you’re getting better and better at a certain sport, then you’re getting challenged, then you’re growing, and you’re kind of improving your skills, and you’re kind of stepping up stepping up to the next level. And it feels very satisfying overall, right?
Alexander Ferguson 28:47
You and your wife, your family, you could say any unique perspectives on running a business together with your spouse, pros, cons, difficulties, lessons learned,
Vladimir Kovacevic 29:01
you know, I mean, we talk about that a lot. And we get that question a lot. I always say, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Because I think it would be very, it’d be much harder in some ways. Because think about what you have to go through and how many compromises and sacrifices you have to make along the way. The fact that we’re in it together makes it so much easier, because if I need to be in well, this is literally happened. We were on vacation in Greece, and I get a phone call and I have to go to be in Toronto the next day. And and and, you know, if we’re not in it together, then it’s a much harder discussion. If we’re in it together. She’s like, Yeah, I’ve got to go. So I get on here. So it just makes it a lot easier from that perspective that she understands and I understand what machine needs to do certain things or when I need to do certain things. Why am I you know, away for the weekend or why am I staying late? Like it just you makes the dynamic work a little bit better. I think you have kind of like a built in support mechanism and system at home, right?
Alexander Ferguson 30:07
For some folks, it, it makes them stronger, I feel like others can drive them apart. But apparently that didn’t happen to you, that you were able to find the right balance.
Vladimir Kovacevic 30:18
And you know what, that’s really what it is, it is about the balance, because there are times also where, you know, it gets challenging in a sense that, you know, it’s hard to separate business from personal because, you know, we’d be, you know, discussing something about work on Saturday at 9pm. Because, you know, we went out for dinner, supposed to be a nice, relaxing thing. And next thing, you know, half an hour into dinner, we’re, you know, talking about the work and the business, and it turns into like a work meeting. And then you know, I get upset, I’m like, Look, I don’t want to like, you know, I don’t want to talk about work. And she’s like, No, but this is important. You never have time for me like, okay, so fine. Let’s do it now. So it can get challenging, too. But But I think it is about the balance.
Alexander Ferguson 30:56
Between personal dinner, I’m sorry, we’ll pull out the business credit card, it was a business. But it’s a quite a balance. I appreciate that, that you recognize that I guess you start to carve out proper timing for it.
Vladimir Kovacevic 31:09
I do. I would say that we try to find that balance. But it’s, you know, it’s nowhere near 5050. I think it’s more like, you know, 7525 or 75 is work.
Alexander Ferguson 31:21
But you both are on the same page. It sounds like on your work ethic, and push and drive for the business move forward.
Vladimir Kovacevic 31:28
Well, she’s the one that taught me Java code, I can mock me to you. So you know,
Alexander Ferguson 31:33
you’re, you’re along for the ride. You’re like, Alright, hey, let’s let’s do this. Now, it’s a team effort, I can tell that there’s is that built in the ability to be able to move forward? Do you guys have kids as well? Or is it just
Vladimir Kovacevic 31:44
No, we have two daughters. We have kids very, very young. We have kids pretty much when soon as we moved to Oregon. So they’re, they’re, you know, almost fully grownups now. Like my older daughter is that second year at university and the younger one is grade 11. Soon to go to university too. So yeah, it’s been kind of a family journey. Like I’ll tell you one funny thing that literally just happened two weeks ago, we were talking about something and my younger daughter who is 16. She was talking about the weekend. And you could tell the way she was saying thing that she was implying that the weekend was Sunday. Like that’s the nonworking day. And I’m like, No, Saturdays are not working days either. So no, they’re not. Like, yes, they are. Saturday is a day off. Like really? So like we’ve kind of inadvertently, I think, messed up the kids as well. Because literally, she believed all the way now that that Saturday is a working day, and you’re just doing work in normal things and stuff, because that’s what we’ve done a lot. And yes, you’re out and about a bit more, but you’re still kind of working and being busy. So it carries into family. I think it’s a good thing. Not a bad thing. But I don’t know, maybe not.
Alexander Ferguson 32:56
If anything that the work ethic, you’ve just naturally given that to your children that they they assume Yeah, six day work week. That’s just how you doing?
Vladimir Kovacevic 33:04
Well think about how before you can do
Alexander Ferguson 33:06
it, there’s the answer that do you think this business will be a family business, as well, like? Well, they want to join you in this. So they’d be all I
Vladimir Kovacevic 33:14
don’t see that? No, I don’t think so they have their own interest and their own journeys. And I wouldn’t want that. I think that it’s best for them to find their own way, honestly. Would we ever give them a job if they wanted to? Sure. But I kind of don’t really, I think it’s that’s a, it’s a different kind of challenge. I think they’re better off carving their own path, honestly.
Alexander Ferguson 33:41
For you, as a leader of this organization in the past, if you think back to your past, previous constructive feedback that you’ve received, anything that you can share, because we’re always trying to improve ourselves, but what’s what’s a nugget that someone shared with you?
Vladimir Kovacevic 33:57
Oh, that’s a very difficult question. Because there’s a lot of that I was really lucky. And we both of us were really lucky that we found some great mentors along the way. Like the original team from, you know, I told you about the finance company that was our first customer. And we’ve helped them achieve a 10x growth. The, the entire leadership team from that company, at least three of the founders, four of the founders actually ended up joining our company as board members and shareholders in 2012. And all four of them have been great mentors, especially specifically two of them who were very involved operationally. And and there’s just a without them, I don’t think that will be here. Because there was you know, there was somebody there who could go and talk to and and who’s been there, done that solve those problems, and sort of gave you a really good you know, advice but very direct and very real, you know, telling you when No, this is you it’s not somebody else versus no, it’s somebody else, this is how you fix it and Can I think of something specific? Oh, God, like there’s, there’s so much to think about a story, I always think in stories. Well, you know, I’ll give you one, this is this is a kind of a fun story. We were doing business with a very large international company in the US. And we went there together. And I brought in, you know, it was not just me, it was me and a bunch of other team members. And the whole trip was actually led by one of our main shareholders, because it was a bigger business venture overlapping with some of the other things they were doing. And there’s like, five of us meeting this company, and they have like, literally 50 people in a room and the room is just ginormous, to see that many people. And so you immediately feel, you know, overwhelmed, and there’s this whole thing. And the way that he handled that meeting and how he sort of positioned us, we, we were literally acting as if we are bigger than them, even though this is a massive company, and he totally was willing to back out of a deal walk away and not accept any terms that were not reasonable. Like, you know, we were not trying to push our agenda, but we didn’t want to be kind of, you know, brushed off and pushed over because it would put us in a very difficult position. And we got to the point, they were so heated, that they have to separate us and ask us to leave the room, and, you know, go to a different room, so they can have a you know, their own meeting. And I come out of the room. And I’m like, Man, this is going terrible. Like, and he looks at me like, What do you think about that? He’s, he’s completely, you know, controlling the environment and situation and kind of doing it on purpose to to draw a line in the sand that there are things we’re not willing to accept, like, I don’t care how big you are, who you are, we know what we’re doing. There’s a reason why we’re doing it this way. We believe in what we do, and we’re willing to stand by it. And that means we can do business together, well, then that’s what it means. And it really taught me an important lesson in terms of, you know, sticking to what you know, and what you believe is true, and what you build your company around, because once you start to compromise around those key things and keep pillars, it leads to nothing good, because, yes, you’ve taken on this massive contract, but in the process, you’re weakening the company, not strengthening it. And and and if they are the right partner, they will recognize that our position is reasonable. And we get to do business on terms that are good for everybody. And that was a really, really big learning moment.
Alexander Ferguson 37:28
I was That’s powerful. What year did that happen?
Vladimir Kovacevic 37:31
This was 2012. So,
Alexander Ferguson 37:36
so many, many more opportunities, since then, I’m sure to find that let’s
Vladimir Kovacevic 37:41
do to really, to drive that kind of culture into business that everybody feels empowered that yes, you know, maybe we’re not the largest software company in the world. And definitely, we’re not. But but, you know, we know why we’re doing certain things a certain way. And we’re not going to compromise. And if you think about it, what that led to, in many ways kind of indirectly is that our product today is a single code base product across all of our customers, all geographies, doesn’t matter. If you’re a you know, a small private finance company, or a large international bank that has 100,000 employees, you’re using the same exact product, there is no customization of the product. And, and there is a way to achieve that if you’re sticking to your guns, because you can imagine when you go meet with a company, that’s this massive bank, they’re like, oh, you should do this. And that and it’s easy to kind of be like, Okay, we’ll make it happen. It’s really hard to say no, I don’t think we’re going to do that.
Alexander Ferguson 38:37
That that is that is very difficult, especially for SaaS companies that are going after enterprise clients, the natural tendency is well, okay, we’ll customize it for you. But you didn’t
Vladimir Kovacevic 38:49
know, absolutely never, we do not customize for anybody that there is no, like, we make that very clear in the beginning. This is our product, this is what it does, there is ways we can do what you want to do. But what we will do is, for example, let’s say they’ve discovered something that we didn’t think of, we’re like, okay, great, what you’re describing is a single use case, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna take that away, figure out what is an entire class have similar use cases. And then we’ll create a configuration in our system that’s generic that allows you to configure it to solve what you need to solve, but it doesn’t kind of doesn’t put our product in a way that it’s solving one specific thing. And then guess what, down the road, somebody else will have a similar problem. And they can reuse the same configuration to solve in a slightly different way. And what it does is it solves their problem, but it also makes our product better and stronger. Yes, it does cost more maybe and it does take a bit more time and effort. So that’s where you get the pushback, you know, but but we stick to our guns and we don’t let that happen. And it really pays off massively long term.
Alexander Ferguson 39:52
Wow. Does that mean it does it does? What are you most excited about? Looking ahead? From here?
Vladimir Kovacevic 40:01
Well, you know, I think I’m speaking probably both for Danielle and me, you know, my wife. I think it’s one of those journeys where your priorities change and the way you look at the business changes and and really, I would say for the next few years, what we’re really excited about is seeing how many leaders are stepping up inside of the business and how much accountability and responsibility they’re taking on. So that it’s not just us. And and that’s a really, really cool feeling when when you see the team sort of work as a team and not depend on me or Daniela to give direction and and kind of how much people are growing and how much momentum that creates and how much we can deliver as an organization really just eliminating those bottlenecks and empowering the team to to, you know, to do what’s the right thing to do, obviously, within the sort of that culture and then the approach that we believe is the right way. I don’t know, to me, that’s the most exciting to see how much can we accomplish, like, you know, imagine, you know, in the early days, it was just me and Daniella. But now if you have 2030 people in the company that are of the same mindset and driving the same, and have the same dedication and willingness to do the work that needs to be done, how much can we accomplish? Like how, how much of the market can we actually take and how much can we improve the process for for everybody along the way? So that’s really the exciting part. I don’t know where where that leads and how big it gets. But the unknown is kind of the fun part.
Alexander Ferguson 41:33
What a journey that you’ve been on and already continue to go forward. For those that want to learn more about, you know, Inovatec, you can head over to Inovatech.com That’s INOVATEC. INOVATECH.com. Thank you Vlad for spending this time sharing this journey that you’ve been on. And some of the stories I mentioned a whole lot more. But it’s been a pleasure. Thank you all for joining us, and we’ll see you on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live work and do business? Go to UpTech report.com and let us know