It all started with one question: “Would it be possible to work in a bleeding-edge software company and still enjoy a good work-life balance?”. We are now celebrating 10 years of Mobile Jazz. To get to this point we had to rethink and invent a completely different vision and build an excellent team of engineers and designers who were open enough to embrace an entirely new mindset and culture.
Today we are sharing some of the highlights, the ups and downs, we have experienced during the last 10 years of Mobile Jazz. Lots of great memories, but also a retrospective on the challenges we faced. How we reinvented ourselves multiple times as a company to stay at the forefront of technology and innovation.
It all started in 2011, when Jordi and Stefan met while collaborating on a freelance project. They both enjoyed programming, but didn’t like the stressful and at the same time inefficient work environment big corporations offered. Which was often tied to strict schedules, long working days and unnecessary bureaucracy. Not even mentioning the political power games played in such environments.
In late 2011, they decided to take the plunge and kick off their own software business with two main goals in mind: providing excellent software services while still maintaining an enjoyable work-life balance. This was the beginning of a journey towards becoming one of the first companies in the mobile software development industry. And perhaps, one of the first remote companies worldwide.
Mobile Jazz was officially up & running with its home base in Barcelona. However, Stefan was working from his camper van while traveling the world, finally enjoying a balanced lifestyle.
The demand for mobile application development had skyrocketed since the launch of Apple and Android app stores in 2008. It was the new trend and everyone wanted to be a part of it! But it was also pretty unique and unknown territory. We had to hire more engineers and by the end of the year, we already had 5 team members!
By 2013, things were escalating quickly – in a good way! All of a sudden mobile development was the next big thing. We started hosting meetups in our Barcelona office about software development which turned out to be a huge success. Without noticing, Mobile Jazz became a reference in Europe for mobile technologies, and more and more companies came knocking on our door!
Our team grew to 10 people in no time, and we were able to offer in-house design and web development. But we never wanted to grow like the companies we refused to work for in the past, instead we wanted to invest in our team’s happiness. That’s when we came up with the idea of spending a weekend in Tarragona with all our team members to simply relax, and have a good time together. A key pillar of Mobile Jazz’s team culture was born: the MJ Summer Camp.
Our clients were happy and therefore, continuously spreading the word about how great it was working with the folks at Mobile Jazz. This led to more companies asking for our services, including big names such as Skyscanner, the City of Barcelona, and Airbus. We continued expanding our services and set up dedicated backend and web engineering teams allowing us to create more complex solutions and covering a wider range of technologies.
This demand made us grow into a team of 20 like-minded people, shifting from mobile app development to a full-scale digital product agency.
The good taste we kept from our second Summer Camp made us think about taking it one step further: why not work one month from Thailand?
The first MJ Workation was born. Most of the team traveled to Koh Samui and spent a whole month working and enjoying the beautiful tropical scenery and yummy Thai food. In 2014, working as an engineer or designer while living such a lifestyle was an absolute dream.
With a great team and over 50 projects completed, business was going extremely well. We were hired for various big and exciting projects, such as maintaining the whole web infrastructure of the Medtronic diabetes EMEA division, or partnering with Worldreader to implement their whole mobile application ecosystem for fighting illiteracy in developing countries – a collaboration that still exists up to this day!
Back then, remote work was still pretty rare and most companies were stuck in the 9 to 5 office life. We attracted a lot of interest from companies about what we did and more importantly how we did it. “Optimizing for Happiness” is what we called it and we presented our philosophy with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs in Tarifa.
While immersed in exciting projects, we pushed our team culture boundaries by organizing several events. Snow lovers gathered to hit the Austrian Alps for the first of many times to come.
Thanks to the remote-friendly environment we had built, one of our team members was able to pursue a dream: Travel around the entire world for a year! The rest of the team couldn’t resist the FOMO for long, so of course, we hosted 3 workations in 2016.
From spending a couple of months at the beautiful coast of Cape Town, followed by a month on the vibrant island of Bali, and finally ending in the Caribbean island of Martinique for another month. Life was good!
A German film crew came to our offices to film a short documentary about our company lifestyle! It was aired in ProSieben’s Galileo show a few months later.
As technology enthusiasts, we’ve always provided space to our team members to build and run experiments in-house. At the time, our team was struggling to remotely access and debug mobile apps. They were missing the ability to read logs from these devices. Our engineers got to work and created a tool capable of doing just that, which would help us in numerous projects going forward. Later on, we realized that many companies could benefit from it, and our first successful spin-off company was born: Bugfender.
Over the years we built various products and helped many companies from different industries to prepare their business for a digital world. But we never thought we would partner with Procept (an Australian hardware company) and the Australian Air Force to create Nifti, a system capable of performing flight aerodynamic tests in real-time at insane speeds of almost 3,000 km/h. Our office whiteboards were filled with complex mathematical equations and formulas, and our mathematicians in the team were having a blast creating such complex technologies from scratch.
All while visiting the vineyards of Priorat, hiking the impressive Italian Alps and rafting through the Noguera Pallaresa river in Catalonia!
“What can we do with all the experience gained over all those years working on over 80 projects?”
When this question came up in 2018, we knew there was only one answer: Share it with the rest of the world!
We started offering workshops where designers and engineers from our team joined our clients in a vibrant space to share our insights and define the perfect roadmap for new projects. And to recharge the batteries during such creative sessions, we all enjoyed a nice meal together, which often turned into long nights of drinks and great discussions. Our clients loved it. And so did we!
In an attempt to improve as a company, we put the company on hold for an entire week and flew every single team member to the island of Gran Canaria for a week of workshops, brainstorming sessions, and redefining the structure of the company for the years to come. We called it the MJ Remote Week.
Quite a few of our team members are avid surfers and after hearing that Portugal had excellent waves to surf, the decision was made. We got on a flight to Lisbon for a week of surfing and, of course, also getting some work done. The “snow surfers” were also eager to go back to the Austrian Alps to enjoy its never-ending slopes and this time the socialPALS team, one of the companies we invested in, joined us for an extended week!
Being a bigger, more diverse team came with its own set of new challenges. How could we unify the way we write code, the way we organize projects, the way we connect different software modules? We created Harmony (Open Source) and took advantage of our second Remote Week to develop the framework in which, as of today, we have invested more than 6,000 hours. Harmony enables us to build better software in a shorter amount of time, and significantly reduce the cost for our clients.
As technology evolves, our projects become more ambitious and challenging. It is no longer about building simple mobile applications or websites. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, data science; Many new technologies are emerging and offering new possibilities.
Soon after the year started, COVID-19 caught all of us by surprise. All of a sudden the world wasn’t like we used to know it anymore. Fortunately, we were already a fully remote company. While many other businesses were struggling to work from home, luckily for us COVID didn’t have a major impact on our day-to-day business.
To our surprise, Luminostics, a Californian-based company, was looking for a digital partner to push their innovative COVID-19 rapid antigen test device, and of course, we couldn’t decline such an opportunity. It was an honor to apply all of our knowledge to fight the pandemic.
While the whole team wanted to spend time together and continue running our events, we had to prioritize the team’s safety and decided to temporarily suspend all events. We missed those messages from someone sharing a picture from a remote island or simply gathering to enjoy a nice Christmas dinner together. But the pandemic didn’t stop us: we came up with new creative ideas to keep the team’s mood up.
2021 & Beyond
It’s been an amazing journey of 10 years. Visiting outstanding countries and locations while enjoying a great work-life balance with a wonderful team, thriving clients and exciting projects. But this was just the beginning. Digital Technology is here to stay and it’s transforming all industries, offering possibilities we could have never imagined.
New challenges are on the horizon. Climate change being one of the key concerns for the next decades. Technology, and especially smart software, will play an even more important role in providing solutions for a better tomorrow.
We want to especially thank every one of our clients and team members – who hopefully had a nice stroll down memory lane – because all this wouldn’t have been possible without them. But also to our founders Stefan and Jordi for thinking outside the box and creating the company we all enjoy working at every day.
If you want to know more, you can read our Co-Founder Jordi’s perspective on the past ten years of Mobile Jazz, check out our Company Handbook where we unveil all our secrets about our company philosophy, and follow us on Instagram, where we share new adventures and insights every week.
Thanks for reading and we would appreciate hearing back from you!