Over the past two months we’ve begun a new series on Low End Box, interviewing industry leaders in a Q/A style. Today’s interview is with Ismir Halilovic, CEO of CrossBox.io, a custom software development company founded in 2010.
What can you tell us about yourself, how you got to where you are today, and your role at your company?
Since 2010, we have been operating as a custom software development company. Over the last ten years, we have developed many successful key solutions for private sector customers. Most importantly, during this time, we have formed a great team of developers, designers, and system administrators who passionately build professional, modern and reliable software solutions.
While doing custom development for clients, we have noticed the growing need for an email solution that has a modern user interface and features common on popular SaaS platforms. After exploring a number of standalone solutions that existed at the time, we decided to try to build something ourselves, so in January 2016, we started working on a prototype. The prototype was completed in 6 months and this was a proof of concept needed to start developing the product.
During the closed beta period, we have partnered with several providers (web hosts and email providers) to fully understand the real-life needs and issues that arise in the email hosting industry. These partnerships have greatly helped shape CrossBox to what it is today – a solution that is not only tailored to the end-user, but also to the service provider.
In August 2018, we opened a beta for all providers interested in installing CrossBox on their infrastructure. During this period, we worked with even more service providers and end-users to refine and polish the product. That’s when many great products such as CrossBox Cluster and Android/ iOS apps were born.
September 2019 marks the date CrossBox was officially out of beta. From this point on, CrossBox is considered to be production-ready software.
In 2020, we plan to continue to improve the product and add many new and great features. We aim to make CrossBox the ultimate communications software for web hosts, ESPs, ISPs and Telcos by consistently delivering quality products with reliable and affordable services.
What advice would you give to business owners today, or those aspiring to become one?
Be persistent – no great product was created overnight. It may take years for people to notice your product or service at all, so don’t let that discourage you. Keep working hard, as long as necessary, and the results will surely follow.
Listen to your customers’ feedback – no one will spend time talking to you about something that doesn’t really matter to them. Take this feedback seriously. Putting yourself in the shoes of your customers makes it easier to understand what their problem is and ultimately solve it.
Be different, be innovative – copying others inevitably means you are also copying their mistakes. Also, thinking outside the box gives you the advantage of offering something unique to the market.
Would you recommend the software industry as a source of opportunity for entrepreneurs? Are there growth opportunities in the market place?
For sure. I think software companies are kind of market makers. They are the wire that connects the customer and the provider. There are many opportunities to develop new software solutions, especially in the hosting industry, which lags far behind SaaS companies.
What do you enjoy most about your role? What do you find most difficult? Tell me about a challenge you overcame?
For me, the best feeling is to work with great people. Our team is full of highly motivated and innovative people who love what they do. Given that each team member has their own unique way of working, making decisions and bearing responsibility, the biggest challenge is to create a team that works as an individual, with the same vision. This is something that I believe we have been able to overcome and that significantly affects our software, in a positive way.
Both personally and professionally, what guiding principles ground you?
That’s easy: persistence, dedication and a desire to improve.
Tell me about some of the new and exciting things you are working on at your company?
We are preparing a new version of CrossBox that will allow hosting and email providers to offer their clients features that are often only available with SaaS companies. These features include email scheduling, email snoozing, canned responses, adding large files to emails, and screen sharing. Also, we rewrote the backend from Python to Go and we can now guarantee the fastest possible email operations. There are some cool new features as well, but we’ll leave them as a surprise.
How does your company test for security vulnerabilities in its software?
We have a quality assurance engineer and their job is to review every single line of code that gets pushed into the repository. Each of our senior programmers has between 5 and 10 years of experience and rigorously adheres to best programming practices. We have not yet done an external security audit, but we have plans for that in the future.
Final thoughts and anything you would like to add?
I would like to see more companies developing self-hosted software solutions. I think this is the only way to keep private data truly private without the big companies processing it and selling it as they please. Also, self-hosted solutions prevent so-called lock-ins, allowing data owners to transfer their data and lease services from another company, without suffering from lack of features on the new platform.
Apart from serving as a CEO, Ismir is a senior system administrator, DevOps, and full-stack developer. He is involved in all aspects of the company, from development to operations.
Edis is a senior software engineer and a tech lead. He leads the developer team, enjoys writing efficient code, and is in charge of software technologies and architecture.
To learn more about CrossBox.io, please visit https://crossbox.io or click on the thumbnail below.