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Rubin Haxhiymeri

Product Delivery & Growth Lead


Why should you join a product-based software company?

Are you wondering whether a product-based company could be the right place for you? Read this article to find out all the benefits and things you should know before applying or switching jobs. 

As Cardo AI, we talk a lot and pride ourselves on being a product company. Or to put it into more exact terms, a Product-Led organization. But what does it all mean? And why, as a developer, should you care?

In this article, we are going to outline the main differences between a product-based company versus a service-based one. What does it mean to join one or the other as a software engineer?

Let’s start with the most important question of all: what is a product-based company?

“We are a product-based company, which means we are developing our own software products from scratch. From the ideation process until production. We have to make sure our products are scalable and that they are ready to fit use cases, so that always puts us up to the challenge of thinking about better architecture, better structure, and better ways to implement things.”

Klajdi, Tech Lead at Cardo AI

The basics: What is a product-based company?

Product based company vs Service based company - CARDO AI
Product-Based Companies vs. Service-Based Companies

Product-based companies develop their own products and sell them to different customers inside a specific market. The goal is to deliver a high-quality product that will solve critical problems for the customer. And that is not all. Product-led organizations continuously improve their solutions by adding new features and functionalities as the market evolves and users’ needs change. 

Looking at it from a more practical perspective

At Cardo AI, we have several fintech products addressing the needs of diverse areas of the financial market. It all started in 2018 when we started to research the market. We realized there was a clear need for a technological solution that could deliver speed and intelligence to private debt market actors. 

We then proceeded with creating a first MVP, testing the fit between the product and the market.

After adapting the original MVP based on feedback from potential clients, we developed the first version of the product. But that was not the end of it. We kept making changes, adding and removing features over the years. As new clients came in, we were forced to think of better ways to scale the software accordingly. Fast forward to 2022, and we are not only maintaining our products but keep improving them as the market evolves. 

On the other side, we have Service-Based companies. These work on specific projects that address a customer’s own needs and requirements. You build a unique solution entirely for that client and that use case. We can conclude that Service-based companies do not own what they produce, but rather sell the time and skills of their employees.

Developing your own product

So what’s the difference between developing your own product and delivering a customized service? 

As a product-based company, you are not thinking about collecting and fulfilling requirements. You don’t want to close a successful transaction as soon as possible and be done with it.

You need to think in detail about every step of the development journey. Specifically, you want to build competitive advantages for yourself in each of the stages. You have to ensure that your product will be ‘hired’ time and time again as a result of the excellent experience you provide.

In the following paragraphs, we are going to explore the specific characteristics that make Cardo AI a product-based company. 

Why should you join a product-based company?

Benefits of joining a product-based company as a developer
Benefits of joining a Product-Based Company

Complete ownership of the product lifecycle

What I love the most about working in a product-based company like Cardo AI is the opportunity to take ownership of the development and be a core part of what you are building. You are not just completing side tasks while working as an extension of the main team (or working on small projects that may be short in time and change projects too often). Overall, you have greater possibilities to grow and face interesting challenges along the way.

Aleksander, Team Lead at Cardo AI

Product-based companies are the owners of the entire product lifecycle. If you do not own the problem, then you have no incentive to hire/maintain staff to research solutions to that problem. That means that, as a software engineer, you come in contact with a less diverse and more limited range of professional profiles, which can decrease their opportunities for exploration/discussion.

In a product-based company, you have a high level of ownership and responsibility and are actively involved in all stages of development.

From a learning perspective, this has a significant impact on your growth: you are not restricted to a single project but have the chance to follow the whole development lifecycle from the beginning. In addition, you have space for contributing with your perspective and implementing your own ideas, independently from your seniority level, as the development is not limited by strict customer requests. 

“In Cardo AI you can actually contribute to shaping the product, not only from a coding perspective but also from a business point of view. Often, we set high-level targets and then we brainstorm among BAs and devs to define the best ways to reach them and solve the customers’ problems. “

Specialization and deep knowledge of a specific domain and tech stack

Service-based companies do not hold any product expertise/identity. Any month could look different from the other in terms of domain or technology. That could be detrimental to your desire as a problem solver to really understand the industry and the opportunities present inside the market. 

In a product-based company such as Cardo AI, we strive to excel in our domain by providing top-quality products to the market. This means you have the chance to gain deep knowledge about the industry and the business problems we solve with our technology. While you are more likely to specialize in a specific tech stack, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to explore and experiment. But more on that in the next section.

Continuous experimentation

Product-based companies have much more freedom to experiment, both in terms of determining the path the product portfolio takes as well as the opportunities to branch into other products or business ventures.

But what does it mean to experiment? At Cardo AI, we see it as moving forward based on validated content, rather than on simple assumptions. This is a direct result of being a product-based company, as we have broader and direct ownership of the problem exploration and framing activities.

Product design is a complex domain, and especially in the fintech space, it is perfectly primed for the application of agile ways of working. Specifically, it is a good environment for an iterative approach, which is used to validate assumptions and progress on evidence (think Scrum in this case).

Each iteration in an experiment with well-defined goals and objectives (Product Thinking) and each iteration on its own is a pool of valuable data to be utilized to determine which outcomes are the ones to focus on, which behaviors in the market are changing, and what interests the customer could pursue in the future.

Product thinking mindset (vs project thinking mindset)

Product-based companies adopt a product thinking mindset.

Product thinking is continuous. The product lifecycle does not finish when it is delivered. It has to carry on as the product will become an organism in the marketplace, that will need attention and will have to evolve with time.

How will the product affect its user base? This is the question we try to answer when adopting a Product-thinking mindset, as we focus on outcomes. Project thinking focuses instead on outputs: How many requests were fulfilled from the customer request sheet?

At Cardo AI, I really appreciate the opportunity and the challenge to build scalable solutions, which is not something you come across often in service-based companies. Typically, the scope of new projects is limited and scalability is often not a big concern as the projects do not have to deal with large numbers of users or big sets of data, at least in their initial phase. Only the projects that make it to later stages and really grow in terms of users/data face scalability issues. So, in order to have the possibility to work on scalable infrastructure, two conditions have to be met: 1. you work with a product beyond its initial phase and 2. the product actually grows either in terms of users or data. In CardoAI, both these conditions can be met.

Klajdi, Tech Lead at Cardo AI

Deeper Research and Analysis

As a product-led organization, we need to engage in deeper UX research and data analysis. The goal is to guide the cycles of experimentation building up to a competitive advantage.

Service-based companies do not hold the same level of ownership in their customer journey. They are fulfilling a customer request, and are likely more detached from the processes of problem framing and exploration.

This is a very important distinction: it influences the width of roles and profiles in the organization, as well as the learning curve available in each of them. And that is no small thing.

Real impact on products and customers

In a product-based company, you are developing a solution directly for your end users. You can clearly see the impact that your work is having on their operations and business. With service-based firms, you are working on projects commissioned by a client that you will hardly interact with.

At Cardo AI, direct and frequent interaction with the customer helps us validate deliveries across different stages. In this way, we are always updated on the challenges and opportunities they identify.

Constant feedback and client interaction are always encouraged in a company like Cardo AI. They help all our co-creators to directly visualize the destination of their contribution and the real-life impact it is making.

Opportunity to explore and branch into new ventures and products

As a product-based company, we are constantly monitoring the market and evaluating new opportunities. As mentioned earlier, while we focus on a specific domain, talents working inside Cardo AI can explore different technologies or products to further their career development.

Working in a product-based fintech

We have talked a lot about product-based companies. But what’s so special about fintech? Here are the main reasons why this is an exciting market for software engineers:

Constantly evolving technologies

As a fintech, we are always adopting the latest technologies to develop the best products in the market. For an overview of our tech stack, check out our technology page.

The chance to have a real impact on financial processes

At Cardo AI we develop technology that is bringing speed and transparency to the private debt market. If you want to know what kind of impact our products are having, check our products section.

Challenging environment

The fintech environment is challenging and stimulating. It is a new space that is developing right now, while other markets might already have well-established tech products. As a developer in this field, you will get to experiment a lot and be the first to build solutions to complex business problems. 

Working in CARDO AI

If you would love to work in a company where:

  • The ownership of the product life cycle is complete,
  • The opportunity to attain a deep knowledge of a certain technology stack is present
  • The opportunity to experiment with redirecting this knowledge to a new application or business venture is present
  • The chance to work in a fully transparent and iterative process is present
  • The opportunity to visualize the real-life impact of your contribution to customers is present

Maybe you should look at the open opportunities on our website 🙂