How to Create Apps for Customers from All Over the World

SmartBox shares its experience

23 July 2020

How Ukrainian IT company can create the app for paying for the restaurant meals in Ukraine? How can it recruit international customers? What are the prospects for the COVID-19 world? Why a good IT person is more comfortable here, in Ukraine than in Silicon Valley? Pavlo Matvienko, SmartBox founder and MIM-Kyiv SE MBA student talked on IT business in Ukraine

Pay by Your Mobile

“When the first iPhone was released, I was jabbed. I was looking forward to developing some funny app and thus join the IT,” Pavlo Matvienko, the then project manager of the Bigmir company tells us. He shared his idea with Anton Malogolovtsev, his university friend. They even started brainstorming it but at that point, it was in vain. 

However, some friends asked them to develop a voting app. That was their “A-ha!” moment when they understood that they could join the IT by creating apps on request. Sushia national restaurant chain has become one of the first clients. They wanted the app which made ordering and payments possible. It was a new approach for the Ukrainian market at that time. “It may seem insane, but back in 2012 banks did not accept mobile payments. However, the Privat was digitalizing and even launched its first version of internet banking. We had found one of its managers, and we commissioned the payment library which we later included in our app. It was a breakthrough,” Pavlo continues. 

So far, the SmartBox customer base boasts tens of customers from different countries and hundreds of accomplished projects. 30 key developers work for the company full time and when needed some trusted freelancers are hired. 70% of the customers are from the US.

70% of customers are from the US, nearly 20% from Europe and the rest are from all over the globe. “The US market is the most sound financially and dynamic. Everything is wide-scale and in the process of digitalization. All businesses are seeking to contact final customers via IT services. Europe is moving in that direction as well, but it is slower,” Pavlo explains. UAE customers always require support in addition to software development. “They have deep pockets and a lot of good ideas but they do not quite understand how to implement those ideas. That’s why they are not only buying technologies but people able to roll those technologies out as well. If not supported, they cannot make it seamlessly,” Pavlo shares his experience.

References and Events

The SmartBox mostly acquires new customers through references. “On one hand, being trusted and valued is cool. On the other hand, having only one channel of customers’ acquisition may create many problems. It is difficult to plan, install business processes, and maintain sustainability. Everything is too much ad hoc,” Pavlo narrates.

Although once, the SmartBox had to redo the whole project after the other developers' team and do it pathetic fees it recruits a big client. “Our customer was t\from the UAE who commissioned the mobile app to the Indian team. Well, their reputation is far from sterling. That very project was particularly poor. It looked like junior school kid homework. We had been trying to fix it for three months then we understood that making it from the scratch was a better option. We did it that way but told our customer that we fixed it,” Pavlo is recollecting.

That’s why the SmartBox team is trying different ways of recruiting customers. Visiting industry events linked with IT is one of them.

If you are visiting an industry conference, e.g. healthcare, it hardly works. On the other hand, if the agenda has IT items, it is worth visiting because of networking. We usually ask our clients about the events and try to visit them because those are the places to hunt for clients,” Pavlo tells about the rationale behind it.

If you want to mingle with your peers, it’s better to visit international IT events, the last being the Web Summit in Lisbon. Customers cannot be found there according to Pavlo.


Recently, the SmartBox has been targeting healthcare. It is the hottest sector worldwide. Besides, keeping the focus makes things easier in many respects. Plus, Pavlo’s and his business partner’s educational background is in healthcare. “Customers are looking for the reputation and proved track record,” he explains.

The biggest medical project so far is for the US startup. The project was about a nation-wide comprehensive communication system for physicians and patients that included storage, messenger videoconferencing, patients’ records, and public reports section. The SmartBox did the whole product. So, owners decided to launch a pilot for laboratories that are currently in operation at several labs in the US. The project continues.

COVID-19 made healthcare especially hot.

“We all understand that COVID-19 is here for long. E.g. we were commissioned to develop the app to collect information about those job applicants who have already had COVID-19, of course on a voluntary basis. The app is instrumental in calculating the probability of the disease,” Pavlo shares his story.

Silicon Valley: to Go or Not to GO?

Pavlo was invited to take positions of the department directors for many Silicon Valley companies but he declined. The reason has been simple: good team and good customers’ base here, in Kyiv. Rather than becoming a hired hand, even the boss, Pavlo prefers to do it “his way”.

“Programmers are more comfortable here than there. The value for money is much better here, life is more comfortable as well. If going to the States, my income would be a little bit better than average. I couldn’t have afforded to live in San Francisco,” Pavlo confesses.

Why IT Entrepreneur Needs МВА

Pavlo Matvienko:

“I had to cope with a lot of operational troubleshooting. I attended conferences, watched videos of experts, and understood that they were advising correctly, but I lacked a systemic approach. So, I decided to obtain all skills and knowledge from the same source. If I can’t master something, I will at least know where to look for. MIM’s MBA seems to be a natural solution.

Now, when I am in my second year, I am more confident. I am introducing normal marketing, instill culture. If I miss something, like finance, it is my decision rather than going with the flow.”