Open Enterprise Interview with Ryan Bagueros, North-by-South

Latin America is emerging as a real hotbed of open source

At the same time, I was moving up as an engineering manager at an incubator-type company in San Francisco, which launched Tagged.com (amongst many other websites) and eventually I was Director of Engineering at that company. While I was doing this, the free software movement in Latin America was really taking off, with Brazil leading the way via a presidential decree that mandated a migration to open source software.

So, a lot of the Latin American programmers I was working with took jobs with the government, either getting involved with the migration efforts or initiatives like "Digital Inclusion" in Brazil (an ambitious effort to bridge the digital divide by building computer labs and doing trainings, all based on open source software, even in remote locations of the Amazon).

Well, in 2006, we decided that all of us who had been working together would hold a meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil. After six years of working together on a daily basis, many of us were meeting each other face-to-face for the first time. At that meeting, which was really a great time, we had a chance to really talk about our personal lives. The Latin Americans couldn't believe how much money web developers made in San Francisco. And I was floored by the incredible free software movement that was happening there, seeing it first-hand. And we started talking about how we had really perfected geographically-distributed development with our open source projects and we decided that we would try out getting jobs in San Francisco and working together to get them done.

We started doing that and it worked! I wrote an article for O'Reilly's online magazine about the technology we used for remote development - that technology has changed a lot since I wrote that article, but the fundamentals haven't changed.

Well, as we did more and more jobs, I started using all the contacts I had in San Francisco to build a core management team here that could get jobs, my friends in Sao Paulo started organizing more and more of the developers we knew, and we started really doing it. I was lucky that a handful of really talented people here in San Francisco loved the idea and got involved.

Through those relationships, we connected with an investment firm who put in just a little bit of investment money, mostly so we could get some breathing room and be a little more selective about which clients we'd work with. And that brings us up to date with today, with NXS in full swing and doing a number of really exciting development projects.

How does North-by-South operate? Where are your offices? How are the teams structured and operated? What technologies do you use for managing projects?

I think we're successfully using a lot of business innovations that many other businesses are moving towards. First, we maintain a geographically-distributed, flexible Developers Network. This network has designers, programmers, sysadmins, HTML/CSS/Javascript experts from all over Latin America - mostly Brazil but also Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Then, we've got a core team in San Francisco of experienced industry veterans who get the jobs and do the project/technology management. I'm very lucky that Natalie Ammirato, by far the best project manager I've ever worked with, loves the NXS concept and she's part of the SF team. I'm also lucky to be married to an extraordinary woman from Brazil who I've been close friends with for 10 years or so, Isabela, who helps manage communication with the Developers Network. Finally, I'm lucky to be advised by an experienced executive, Jonathan Shambroom, who is currently General Manager of Sony's internet TV network, Crackle.com.

When we come into contact with a project, our team in San Francisco meets with the project owners and figures out what they want to do and we start to plan everything out. Once we've done that, we announce the project via an internal mailing list, custom-build a team from our Developers Network and then we get to work.

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