Aviobook builds software for the aviation industry with the help of CactuSoft

This tech company from Hasselt is growing with the help of developers in Spain: “Companies that still do not embrace remote working will not be able to attract talent here either.”

The aviation industry recovered rapidly after COVID-19. To keep pace with this strong growth, Hasselt-based tech company AvioBook, which builds software for airlines, had to quickly look for new developers. He did not find it in his own country but did find it at CactusSoft in Spain. Bloovi spoke with Jonas Lejeune, Chief Product Officer at AvioBook, and Alejandra Ruiz, marketing manager at CactusSoft, about the partnership. “Without our colleagues in Spain, we would never have been able to scale so quickly. Or would we have had to pay an almost unfeasible price for it.”

AvioBook builds software for the aviation industry. “With the technology, airlines can digitize their processes,” says Jonas Lejeune. “The crew and ground staff communicate with each other via one app, the pilots and other crew members always find all up-to-date information on their tablet. For example, AvioBook helps airlines to reduce the so-called turnaround time, the time that aircraft are on the ground between two flights.”

“During the corona crisis, the entire sector came to a virtual standstill. But once the worst was over, aviation bounced back surprisingly strongly. Airline personnel had become scarce during that period, so it was even more important for the airlines to operate efficiently. They had to make optimal use of both their available aircraft and their available personnel. We had to respond very quickly to the growing demand for digitization and efficiency.”

The problem was that AvioBook couldn’t keep up with that pace with local hires, explains Lejeune. “Everyone was fighting in the same little pond for developers. We could never get enough talent in our home market fast enough. To be able to scale, we had to broaden our view to other solutions.”

Like a colleague who works from home

Enter CactusSoft, which supplies developers to AvioBook from Spain. “We were impressed with the speed with which they were able to bring in quality developers,” says Lejeune. “The fact that those developers work from Spain has never deterred us.”

“We are an international company and we are used to working with people in Poland, France, the US or Singapore. In fact, we consider CactusSoft’s developers simply as colleagues who are working remotely from home. Whether they do that from Hasselt or from Barcelona, ​​it doesn’t really make any difference.”

Our collaboration transcends projects. They are also great developers. If they lived here, I wouldn’t hesitate to hire them


“Today, 5 CactusSoft developers work full-time for AvioBook. That is dynamic: we started with 4 and after a few temporary fluctuations we have grown to 5. That flexibility is an important asset for us. The model we use is also somewhat atypical.”

“Usually you use nearshoring, outsourcing work to a company in a nearby country. We do this for temporary projects, for example, to build a new application. Our collaboration transcends projects, the developers in Spain are really part of our team. They are also great developers. If they lived here, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to hire them.”


Training in Hasselt

Training the developers was the biggest challenge, according to Lejeune. “With the aviation industry, we focus on a niche with its own ins and outs. There are not thousands of developers who are familiar with the way airlines work and processes.”

“It takes a while to get to know and understand it. In addition, our iOS application for the iPad is a lot more complex than the average application. Usually, like Instagram or Shazam, they do one thing: show photos, recognize music, … Our application combines different functionalities, the architecture is quite complex under the hood.”

“It was a bit of a search in the beginning, it was difficult from a distance. That is why we have completely overhauled our training process. The CactusSoft developers will first come to Hasselt for two weeks. They are immersed in our team; we work intensively together for two weeks. They then go back to Spain with that backpack. That works great. We were able to integrate the last two additions to the team quickly and smoothly.”

Delivering quality and passion

The collaboration between AvioBook and CactusSoft is a two-way street, emphasizes Laffitte. “We are also in a war for talent here in Spain, we also must look hard for good developers. If we can then help them get started at an innovative company like AvioBook, that is a great asset.”

In Southern Europe, tech talent looks up to Northern European companies

They get the chance to get to know a new industry at a rapid pace. In Southern Europe, tech talent looks up to Northern European companies. We associate it with quality. Conversely, those Northern European companies could use some Southern passion. We are complementary.”

Diversity is valuable,” adds Lejeune. “Hasselt is a small city. You have one university here and there are not thousands of tech companies, so you often come across the same profiles. For example, one of the CactusSoft developers is an Argentinian who now lives and works in Barcelona ​​and previously developed applications for a bank in his home country. You will not meet someone like that in Hasselt.”

“But Spain and Belgium don’t differ that much. Okay, our colleagues in Spain have lunch much later and it was new to us that they have different working hours in summer than in winter. But that’s not culture shock. The most important thing is that we share the same values.”

Threshold fear is gone

How do you ensure that 5 developers who live and work 1,400 kilometres away still feel part of the team? “Of course, that starts with the two-week onboarding training in Hasselt. After that, we see each other virtually every day anyway. We work according to the principles of Scrum, a method for developing products in a flexible way.”

“We do this with a two-week cadence and a short video meeting to start each day. Slack is the communication channel throughout the day and if necessary, we just quickly schedule another video meeting. The team manager at AvioBook follows closely and if there are company updates and presentations, the CactusSoft developers follow along from Spain. Every year we organize two team buildings, and they are always there at one of those team buildings.”

The war for talent forces tech companies to look for new, creative solutions. Nearshoring is one of them. Since COVID-19, many companies have lost their fear of thresholds. Working from home is the most normal thing in the world and then it no longer matters where ‘home’ is exactly. Especially since in our world we mainly communicate in English anyway. The language threshold is only a very low threshold.”

Laffitte also sees that nearshoring is on the rise. “The corona crisis has caused a change of mentality in a year and a half that might otherwise take 6 or 7 years. Of course, there are still companies that don’t like teleworking. But you may wonder whether companies that still think this way about teleworking will succeed in attracting talent in their home market.”

The entire original article in Dutch was published on Bloovi.de on June 5, 2023.

Share this page
If there is a project needing help or even a skill set you are missing, contact us.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
To get new inspiring articles and news right in your inbox.