Since 2007 Lemonfrog AG specializes in building and running online marketplaces for services. Lemonfrog started with Babysitting24, a site matching babysitters with parents, and soon expanded to other marketplaces with websites: Petsitting24, Homeservice24, Tutor24, Seniorservice24, and more. Lemonfrog platforms operate in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
The idea behind Lemonfrog was to create software that can be easily configured to serve as the basis for any type of services marketplace platform. The company is self-funded and grew to a point that they needed to augment their development team. Tino Wendland, co-founder and CTO of Lemonfrog AG, started the software endeavor as a side project. After a few years he quit his other job and dedicated all his time to running the company.
He decided to build the application using the Ruby on Rails framework. "I worked in Java enterprise software development before. Programming in Java is complex and time-consuming. I was looking for something more efficient and simpler since I was working on Lemonfrog in my free time at the beginning. I found RoR and it was fun to work with it. One framework from the client to the database", says Tino Wendland.
When his business gained some traction, Tino Wendland decided to hire a remote development team. Initially, he worked with a local Swiss software development agency, but after three years started looking for developers abroad. In 2014, he chose Netguru, who have been responsible for frontend and backend development of the application.
- Creating a universal tool for building service marketplaces. "We had to write a universal configurator. That's the innovation we came up with. Every kind of business model that matches a client with a service provider could work on this platform", says Tino Wendland.
- Attracting new users with an attractive and intuitive design. With an universal and customizable backend of the platform, the frontend needed to be simple and easy to use.
- Meeting legal requirements for each service purchase. Labour markets in EU countries are highly regulated. For Lemonfrog platforms to scale up, they had to help users overcome legal formalities specific for each services and each jurisdiction.
Netguru team has worked with Lemonfrog since September 2014. During this time Lemonfrog web applications have gone through several major upgrades on the frontend and backend. To be successful, Netguru had to focus on four crucial aspects:
- Integrate proven software development processes. Netguru's experience in building applications in Ruby on Rails proved to be helpful for Lemonfrog. "I was surprised how confident they were from the get go. Netguru team knew very well what the development process should look like: the ownership of repository, communication. It was quite unusual for me. It's a similar mindset to the one of the creators of Ruby on Rails. Since I agreed with most of Netguru procedures, I accepted it and in the long run, it turned out to be very effective", Tino Wendland recalls.
- Provide full-stack service: developers, quality assurance specialists, designers, and project managers. This solution increased efficiency. Netguru specialists in one office can consult with other experienced colleagues working on other projects. "This is the advantage of big companies like Netguru. It's much easier to scale up, and you don't have to look for another contractor if you need additional services, such as design", says Tino Wendland.
- Design a software engine with dynamic relations. Making the platform adaptable to different markets required creating a database with dynamic multifaceted interconnections and user defined fields.
- Harmonize the two development teams with annual meetings. Years of experience running dozens of projects with remote teams have taught Netguru how important personal relations are for quality product development. Tino Wendland shares this opinion: "Once you actually start working together, it's always good to meet in person. Even if the work runs smoothly. Meet each other in person at least once, have a beer and talk. This creates a human-to-human relationship that can easily develop remotely. It's very important."
Lemonfrog took their sharing economy platform to a new level with the improved code quality and attention to user experience. Their business gained market share and revenues grew. Meanwhile Netguru team built from scratch a new service, Fairboss, that provides legal support for the Lemonfrog service platform.
- Reorganized, redesigned and integrated new functionalities on the fly. Since Netguru took over the development, Lemonfrog platform went through a series of major upgrades. The product was reviewed, each of the websites have been redesigned, the code quality of the backend was improved, and new functionalities have been added.
- Built a completely new application in months. Lemonfrog was so impressed with the platform development, that it started Fairboss, a completely new side project with Netguru. Fairboss helps marketplace users with legal formalities and was ready in just a few months.
- Established a scalable development team. In just two years the Netguru team working on Lemonfrog grew from one to four developers. The team's size can be adjusted to the project needs at any time.
- 11 marketplace platforms introduced into the markets of three countries. Establishing a stable development process and improving the application helped Lemonfrog increase the speed of business growth. The company expanded from Switzerland to Austria, and then into Germany. "Our software makes it very easy to create a customized tool for every kind of service. Then we just have to market it efficiently", says Tino Wendland.
Going from a brilliant concept to a trusted solution for online service marketplaces, Lemonfrog continues to experience success. It’s a fantastic example of finding a working business model and taking full advantage of it. If you’d like to learn more, check out this interview with Tino Wendland and follow our blog for further news.