Andrej Kostresevic is the CEO of Nomads, a tribe of engineering talent known for building high-scale OTT video products (his mom says “they build Netflixes for media companies”) for high-visibility clients. Their clients include one of the top US sports leagues and the nations leading broadcast provider.
In this interview, Andrej shows us what certified digital nomads looked like initially, how he learned to combat fear when income streams slow down, and how they keep themselves current in tech. He says rather than balancing life and work, he integrates them which is a really neat way to look at it. Enjoy!
What motivated you to start Nomads? How did the idea come about?
I’ve had a thirst for “doing my own thing” for as long as I can remember—my first entrepreneurial endeavor was in elementary school. Nomads came out of 2 needs I ran across when I was organizing a community group called the Miami Android Developers.
I met many developers looking for projects, and even more startups looking for developers. At that time, my passion was to “put a ding in the universe”, specifically through mobile, which was then a brand new frontier in human-computer interaction that quickly became too much to resist. I quit my job, and jumped in head-first.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you're most proud of?
My favorite thing is probably the feeling I get when working with an amazing team—the feeling that we can accomplish anything we set out to accomplish. Creating something from nothing can be intoxicating. Aside from that, there's a sense of freedom that's hard to get from anything other than entrepreneurship. And a sense of responsibility—the buck truly stops here.
I'm proud that we’ve been able to create that freedom and flexibility for everyone in our tribe—we don’t keep specific hours, we don’t work in cubicles or offices—everyone works from home (or a co-working space, or a coffee shop—whatever they prefer).
As an example, two of our tribe members, a husband-wife team, recently picked up and moved to Puerto Rico to be closer to family, without missing a beat (or a paycheck).
As a business owner, what's your greatest fear and how do you keep it under control or harness it?
With a service business, any increase in revenue requires a linear increase in the team size. The greatest fear is always simply that next month, quarter, or year, we will not have the demand required to keep the team at it’s current size.
We mitigate against this by having a large number of independent tribe members who are used to hunting on their own, or joining one of our teams. The other attempt at mitigating is creating a more predictable set of revenue “knobs” that we can turn as needed.
What was your biggest business mistake and how did you come out stronger at the end of the day?
Relying on one large client who, as their needs grew, made it both impossible, as well as unnecessary for us to continue developing our demand pipeline. This made it so that when the inevitable slowdown on their end materialized, we had to hustle to avoid shrinking too much. We’re still working on preventing this in the future in order to be more diversified and resilient.
What is the toughest decision you’ve ever made when starting a business? How did it make you better at the end of the day?
I remember many tough decisions that all had to do with investing in the business, increasing overhead, and committing to operating at a certain level of revenue. Each time, we decided to “go big”, it has forced us to hustle to reach those revenue targets and make the decision correct in retrospect.
What does your day-in, day-out look like? Is there any specific habit that has helped you become a better person?
With running multiple businesses, the amount of things coming at me each day can put me into a reactive mode, a sort of autopilot. To combat this, I start my day with activities which stimulate creative and unstructured thinking: a 1-2 mile run with my dog, a long shower (prime thinking time), a breakfast with my wife, and I cap it off with a 15 minute planning session during which I outline 3 things I want to accomplish for the day.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?
Rather than balancing life and work, I have integrated them: I work with my wife, and my friends are peers and/or partners. My interests generally and broadly revolve around the business, and even the few unrelated hobbies I have are things that reduce stress, increase mental stamina, and therefore can be seen as an investment into being as effective as possible.
What are your visions for your business? Where do you see it in the next 5 years?
The vision with which I started Nomads (then called New Frontier Nomads) is timeless. Gather a tribe of elite talent in order to pursue, and help others pursue opportunities which are always unlocked when a new technology moves the frontier of human-computer interaction. We started with mobile, moved into OTT video, and we are currently excited about AI, transportation, and AR and VR as meaningful next frontiers.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Florida today? Where should they start?
For Florida or anywhere else, my advice is the same: get to know your community. Find like-minded people who are passionate about the same things that get you out of bed in the morning, or things adjacent to it.
Give value without expectation, and know that it will come back. In South Florida, a great way to get to know the community quickly is to attend Refresh Miami—the largest and oldest monthly tech gathering.