Thushara Wijewardena, Co-founder and CEO of Aventude, and Thurupathan Vijayakumar, the company’s Co-founder and CTO, discuss Aventude’s vision, tech innovations, global expansion and plans for growth in this interview. Headquartered in Singapore with business units in Colombo and Sweden, Aventude seeks to add a different dimension to the technology service industry by providing comprehensive solutions beyond traditional coding.
Their mission is to deliver meaningful and impactful solutions, adapting to a dynamic global environment.
With a passionate and adaptable team, they embrace emerging technologies through research and development, focusing on the depth of technology beyond using buzzwords, in many innovative areas. Aventude’s success spans the Nordic region, particularly Sweden and Norway, where they’ve tackled critical and sensitive projects.
Plans include strategic expansion, strengthening international public and corporate sector partnerships, and emphasizing quality and progress, positioning Aventude as a hub of value addition for employees and clients.
Can you tell us the story of how Aventude was founded and the vision behind creating a community of passionate software engineers?
In November 2018, exactly five years ago, we launched Aventude with a clear vision. We aimed to bring a fresh perspective to the technology service industry, which was already saturated with numerous players. Being situated in Sri Lanka, an offshore destination brimming with talent, we saw an opportunity to harness this talent differently and create a more substantial impact.
Most technology service companies primarily engage in code-cutting and exporting the work of their teams. However, we believed we could do more. We possessed the knowledge and capability to add value across the entire spectrum of services, from addressing the customer’s complex problems to mapping out technology solutions, applying the best engineering practices, and even delving into research and development when necessary.
Our mission was to offer customers a comprehensive solution tailored to their needs. We wanted to go beyond simply providing code; we wanted to craft meaningful and impactful solutions. This gap in the market was our motivation for founding Aventude, and our commitment remains the same: to deliver superior solutions and broaden the scope for our clients through our expertise.
How has Aventude evolved over the past five years, and what have been the key drivers of your growth, expansion into different regions and the diversity of projects you’ve undertaken?
When we embarked on our journey, the world was in a state of flux. We encountered the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequently, our home country, Sri Lanka, faced its own set of challenges. The landscape we operated in was constantly changing, and this posed a unique set of circumstances for a tech company like ours, which was in its nascent stages.
Unlike businesses established a decade or more ago, we had to swiftly adapt to the ever-changing global environment to stay resilient. One of our most significant challenges lay in navigating these dynamic shifts on a global scale, particularly as our primary market spanned the Nordic countries, including Sweden and Norway, and we also undertook projects for clients in Singapore and beyond.
The ability to respond and adapt to these changes became our hallmark. Our team, a crucial ingredient in our growth story, possessed an unwavering passion and a “let’s get it done now” attitude. Their dedication played an instrumental role in our progress.
Moreover, a distinguishing factor in our approach is the tech-savvy founders at the core of our leadership. In many similar businesses, leaders typically have the business network and then hire technical experts. However, we stand apart in this regard, as our leadership is rooted in technical expertise and a profound vision for technology’s role in our industry. This, too, has been a pivotal element in our growth over the past five years.
Can you highlight some of the recent tech trends and rules your company has adopted and implemented in your quest to ensure that Aventude remains at the forefront of tech innovation?
As a project-focused company, our primary emphasis lies in how we differentiate ourselves by delivering end-to-end value. While there is a considerable presence of offshore companies in Sri Lanka, our interactions with them often involve both collaboration and competition.
Our approach is deeply rooted in research and development (R&D). Recent trends in the industry have been continuously evolving; at times, it’s centred around AI, and at other times, it’s been even architecture concepts engineering practices and frameworks. Also, our expertise revolves around software and data analytics. We build upon this foundation by incorporating the latest emerging technologies. Some of these technologies may seem unconventional, such as our customers engaging in R&D projects related to very innovative endeavours.
Can you provide us with a few real-world examples of the various industries and businesses in Europe, the USA and Singapore that have undergone successful transformations with Aventude’s assistance?
Our most prosperous market has been the Nordic region, where our journey began. In this region, we’ve undertaken highly sensitive projects. A standout achievement is our customer’s software solution—a low-code platform enhanced with the latest tech that has achieved tremendous success.
Additionally, we’ve developed software that’s used by municipalities in Norway, operating within the public sector. Their focus has been on conducting real-time measurements and data analytics to evaluate population quality and education standards.
It’s worth noting that managing public sector projects and delivering public sector software products from Sri Lanka is a substantial undertaking, given the multitude of challenges, including those related to security, compliance and governance.
Our expertise extends to various technologies, including AI for legal tech automation, image processing, and information management within the supply chain. In Singapore, our primary focus lies in the healthcare and aged care sectors, where we helped shape the future for the average Singaporean citizen.
We possess an in-depth understanding of Nordic public and private sector dynamics and maintain robust connections with startup communities, particularly in healthcare, veterinary services, and local development.
In Sweden, we’ve made significant strides in digitizing language interpretation—a critical endeavour, considering the language barriers faced by foreigners, including refugees, who may not speak Swedish. This becomes especially crucial when individuals need assistance from public departments, such as medical or legal services.
The language interpretation industry is a global behemoth operating within a highly regulated framework. Our contributions to digitizing language interpretation have transcended Sweden, benefiting government sectors through our Swedish corporate partnerships. This was especially valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic when remote interpretation became indispensable.
Our approach to these projects is meticulous, involving physical visits to ensure optimal conditions. We pay attention to every detail, from the choice of headsets to minimizing user clicks, recognizing the urgency that patients may have. We conduct thorough end-to-end analyses before developing software solutions.
This dedication has firmly established us as a prominent player in the challenging public sector arena of the Nordics—an impressive achievement within just a five-year history.
It’s crucial to highlight two key points here. Firstly, it’s exceedingly challenging for a Sri Lanka-based company to make a significant impact in the highly regulated and compliant industries of the Nordics within such a short timeframe. This represents a noteworthy breakthrough for Aventude, particularly considering that the majority of our customers are directly or indirectly linked to the public sector in these countries.
Secondly, we wish to underscore the significance of our work in interpretation services. While many companies discuss inclusivity today, its true importance becomes evident in times of trouble or sickness in a foreign country, where language barriers create vulnerability and a lack of support. We take pride in effectively addressing this critical need, demonstrating our commitment to inclusivity when it truly matters.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities you’ve encountered while working globally and how has Aventude navigated them?
One of the significant challenges we’ve faced is the contextual nature of our work. We operate remotely from Sri Lanka, which, being a small island, is quite distant from many of our clients. This context presents several typical challenges, including dealing with different time zones, language barriers, and cultural differences.
However, we’ve been well-prepared to handle these challenges. Before launching Aventude, many of our team members had extensive experience working in this context. This prior experience has equipped us with the knowledge and strategies needed to overcome these challenges effectively. Also talking about Sweden, our local presence and expertise there help to work more closely with the market.
Cultural adaptation is another aspect I’d like to highlight. When you walk through our office, you’ll notice that we differ significantly from a typical software company. We embrace values that are universally recognized and appreciated in any international setting. Our team members have a strong exposure to the global market, which has naturally facilitated this cultural adaptability.
Moreover, our agile culture is not limited to following a Jira board or managing a backlog. It extends to our work culture, characterized by open and direct communication, mutual respect, and collaboration across functions. This agile mindset has been crucial in addressing and adapting to cultural challenges.
Above all, our company’s three core values—clean, simple, and direct—have played a pivotal role in guiding our global operations. These values underpin everything we do, ensuring that we remain true to our identity and principles. They have been instrumental in our dealings with Scandinavian countries and other international partners.
Our technical expertise, the ability to provide end-to-end solutions, and our steadfast commitment to these three values have set us apart in the eyes of many. Clients often comment on our distinctiveness, acknowledging the difference in technical competence and our unwavering commitment to our values.
Additionally, we engage in customer profiling, and we’re transparent in our expectations. If a client’s demands run counter to our respected values, such as asking for unrealistic or culturally damaging requests, we may politely suggest that we’re not the right fit for their needs. Our focus has always been on quality over quantity, even as we’ve grown from a small startup to a mid-size company.
Furthermore, our hiring approach differs from many other young companies. Instead of merely seeking large numbers of interns or less experienced developers, we prioritize quality over quantity. Experience and expertise are critical criteria for us, as we aim to maintain the high standards set by our three core values.
Even when we bring in young graduates, typically from state and private universities in Sri Lanka, we invest heavily in their onboarding and training. This commitment to nurturing talent ensures that our team members consistently meet our standards and uphold the qualities that make us distinctive in the industry.
What can you share about Aventude’s vision for the future and plans to continue making a difference in the tech and business world?
As a company now celebrating our fifth year, our focus has shifted towards expanding in highly value-added areas rather than pursuing sheer scale. While numbers are undoubtedly crucial for any business, our primary aim is progress.
Typically, offshore companies are dominated by discussions about scaling up, increasing headcount, and achieving larger numbers. While this approach has its merits, our emphasis has been on progressing strategically. We’ve found success in this approach.
Currently, we’re strengthening our partnerships with our clientele to introduce more advanced technologies, such as AI, for initiatives like document automation. Document automation is a pertinent example, as it has garnered significant attention but often lags in government sectors. We’re committed to bridging this gap.
Furthermore, we’re now expanding our global footprint by entering the US market, but our approach is focused and selective. We aim to bolster existing engagements in the US while actively seeking growth opportunities.
Locally, we’re dedicated to creating a robust career platform for our employees, enabling them to thrive as Aventude professionals. Our compensation packages are very competitive, and we offer the flexibility for employees to earn in multiple currencies, including USD and LKR. Our overarching goal is to position Aventude as a hub of value addition for both our employees and customers, prioritizing progressiveness in the industry over sheer scale.
To achieve this, we’re discerning about the projects we undertake. We steer clear of legacy or non-trending areas, although we do engage in legacy modernization. For example, we decline projects that simply require data entry operators. We are deliberate in our choices, aligning them with our culture and commitment to progress.
Aventude’s Growing Influence in the Swedish Market
Our distinctive approach to collaboration sets us apart from the competition. Instead of merely offering staff augmentation or specific skill sets, we work with customers to provide end-to-end solutions with dedicated skilled professionals. We carefully recruit and integrate technology specialists into projects, working with them closely both at our end and in collaboration with our clients. This approach ensures a seamless integration of our dedicated teams into our clients’ organizations.
Additionally, we excel at assisting clients in providing rare but top-notch skills in the market by identifying top talents. Our collaborative framework encompasses productivity measures, quality assurance, and fostering team wellbeing through social activities and team building. While our team members work closely with our clients, they are the core of our organization, motivating us to prioritize their wellbeing and cultivate a positive employer brand in the local market.
Our presence in Sweden is steadily expanding, with a core team based in Colombo, where the majority of our work is executed. With our collaboration models and approaches, we are geared to serve large enterprises or even high-tech startups. Our services cater to three key client scenarios: Clients who need tech strategies to transform their businesses with digital solutions, clients who need developer capability expansions, and clients who are in a rush to get the latest tech R&D trends adapted to their existing products and platforms.
Our service offerings encompass strategic consulting, helping technology roadmap development, project execution, and the provision of dedicated teams to ensure competitiveness and meet project timelines. Sri Lanka provides a competitive advantage in delivering consistent high-quality work. Our integrated partnerships with teams boasting lower attrition rates compared to industry averages offer our clients stability and reliability.
The Pursuit of Innovation and Excellence
Innovation, to me, entails introducing novel ideas, cultures, and technologies into our environment. While we are a tech company, I prefer to shift the conversation away from the specifics of our technologies and towards our cultural impact. Accountability and responsibility are catalysts for peak performance. Merely instructing someone to “just do it” without guidance often falls short. We wholeheartedly embrace the idea that failure is an integral part of the learning journey. This mindset extends to all our team members, not limited to interns. We prioritize delivering high-quality work based on our best efforts, placing less emphasis on rigid deadlines.
In terms of excellence, we prioritize mentorship over hierarchy. There are no bosses; instead, we offer guidance and support. Encountering setbacks is accepted as part of the process; individuals are encouraged to try again. This approach forms the foundation of our commitment to nurturing excellence.
Fostering Diversity and Work-Life Balance
I‘ve had the opportunity to work in diverse environments, primarily on projects in North Europe. Unlike Sri Lanka, North Europe boasts diverse cities with people from various backgrounds. Our project teams have the chance to conduct on-site visits and meet the customer before embarking on real-world projects. This helps them gauge the diversity among team members, their cultural norms, age groups, and mentalities, especially when working on projects in Europe, Southeast Asia, or North America. This exposure to diversity has been immensely beneficial.
As a company, we plan to infuse this diversity into our Aventude Sri Lanka office culture. Despite diverse aspects, we function as one team united by a common goal.
Another aspect worth highlighting is work-life balance, which relates to the second question. We offer our team members the flexibility to choose when to work from the office and when to work from home. There are no strict rules; individuals can decide based on their team’s needs. This flexibility extends to work hours; people can choose when to start and finish work, as long as they meet deadlines.
A Foundation of Performance and Accountability
Our company culture is centred around performance and accountability. We empower individuals to excel and provide the necessary support and resources. Aventude sets no limits; we believe in reaching for the stars, and our team often surpasses expectations due to the support and encouragement from our management.
We don’t follow the typical practice of passing responsibility to others; instead, we emphasize accountability from the moment individuals join us. During interviews, we assess their compatibility with our culture of taking initiative and doing what’s necessary to accomplish tasks efficiently. Our collective focus is on getting things done and fostering ownership in decision-making, reducing the need for constant senior-level approvals and expediting projects.
Each of us works within different teams, eliminating the need for extensive meetings or consensus-building. We address issues directly, which promotes accountability and leads to improved performance, quality, and timely deliveries.
Continuous Learning and Growth
What excites me most about being part of the Aventude team is the continuous learning opportunities. Upon joining Aventude, I gained access to a learning platform where I could explore new content and technologies. I actively share my learning with fellow engineers.
Aventude values continuous learning, offering a learning platform for anyone to enrol and self-educate. Another aspect of continuous learning at Aventude involves leveraging the expertise of our team members. We organize tech talks and encourage experts to write articles. For instance, if someone is a front-end expert, they can share their knowledge through articles and tech talks, benefiting junior colleagues.
Aventude fosters a supportive and friendly work environment, where team members, including executives like the CEO and CTO, are approachable and helpful. We promote mutual assistance, understanding that during projects, challenges may arise, and it’s acceptable to seek guidance from peers.
Employee Engagement, Skills and ESG
Active employee engagement is a vital part of Aventude’s success. Beyond project work, we need to engage with people with meaningful activities that impact the society and environment we live in. They have to be fun too. That’s why we have integrated ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) into our employee engagement framework. Under ESG, we focus on three areas: environmental responsibility, social responsibility, and governance.
For environmental responsibility, we engage in activities such as beach cleanups and competitions that promote environmental innovation. These competitions encourage ideas like energy-saving software and tree planting.
In terms of social responsibility, we prioritize education as a tool for personal development. We support students needing education by providing sponsorships and have undertaken CSR activities, such as providing resources to a remote primary school in Kanthale.
On the governance front, we emphasize ethics and strive to minimize negative impacts while maximizing positive contributions to society. Our teamwork and collaboration are essential to our success. We work cohesively on projects, and our cross-cultural projects foster teamwork and collaboration across the organization. We approach every task as a united team, ensuring we meet our goals.