RebelDot 2020

A rebel 2020 in retrospective. Ready, set, remote!

A rebel 2020 in retrospective.

Few months into 2020, we wouldn’t have believed that this year was going to lead to so many positive changes in our company. It was hectic, indeed, but we managed to ride the wave together.

We had ups and downs and fought the inner battles between anxiety and excitement, two common emotional states amid a series of big changes.

Even with all this hassle going on, 2020 turned out to be the year when we reinvented the way we work and play.

We are now remote-first.

In 2019 we were proud to have opened an office in Copenhagen and extend our reach overseas.

This year, however, embracing the future of work, we left our main headquarters in Cluj and started working from home.

RebelDot remote working

Being scattered in no less than 15 locations around Romania, we kept on building web and mobile apps with the same drive and commitment, (if not even higher) from each of our improvised personal offices situated in the living room, on the balcony, or even in the garden somewhere at the countryside, far from the noise of the city.

What initially seemed like a temporary safety measure, in a matter of weeks culminated into a wise decision that was going to impact our long-term growth.

RebelDot Work From Home

We turned two & had our first online party.

Having turned two years old, we couldn’t stand the thought of being apart, so we had to find a way to celebrate together and bridge the distance gap between us.

With 3 different virtual rooms, where each of our rebels could share hilarious stories, play games, or even throw dance battles, our first online anniversary party was an epic way to transcend distance and celebrate together while showing off our cool rebel t-shirts that we have received as a gift.

RebelDot 2 year anniversary

We have onboarded 27 new rebels. 

Working from home didn’t stop us from expanding our team. In fact, we continued to grow on a much higher pace than before.

Adapting to the new work environment, we also had to optimize our recruitment process. We knew that each applicant had a certain energy which we used to feel when meeting them and we wanted to give them the chance to manifest that same vibe in the online interviews as well.

Looking at the numbers now, we can say our efforts proven successful. We have onboarded 27 new rebels and had an attrition rate of 5.5% which means that, even at distance, people could still feel and enjoy the company culture.

rebeldot caricatures

Bringing back the small moments at the office is impossible, but worth trying.

Those early conversations in the kitchen while sipping our coffee or the random interactions resulted from a trip to the water dispenser. These are only a couple of those little magical moments that we miss.

Still, while there’s no point in claiming that technology could replicate the beauty of these serendipitous moments, we feel fortunate to have discovered novel means of getting in touch with each other.

We have cooked together, where those of us with chef-like skills managed to impress through their technique, while others simply brought a smile to everyone’s face through their excessive use of pepper or other ingredients. We kept on having the coffee dates so rebels in different departments could get to know each other too, only this time online. We even had a mental health webinar to teach us how to deal with the unknown in the uncertain times brought by the current pandemic.

Strengthening our team-spirit with initiatives that reached far beyond into our hearts than the actual work, this was yet another year filled with laughs and stories that bonded us on a deeper level, creating priceless memories in and outside work with friendships to last for a lifetime.

cooking night

We pivoted Visidot, our internal startup.

In 2020 we launched Visidot, a contact tracing and digital visitor log, developed to support businesses in keeping track of their guests, gather statistics, and visualize real-time data in a 100% GDPR compliant environment.

Soon after launching it, COVID-19 kicked in, impacting not just the business offices that this product initially targeted, but also many other industries.

Having noticed this, we took the pandemic as an opportunity to get back into development and work on pivoting the app to those industries in need.

Pivoting Visidot to the HoReCa industry seemed like an intuitive move, like the next logical step forward. It happened as we recognized the market need for such software and decided to support the local community, helping organizations survive the tough conditions.

We are now confident that Visidot could touch upon many other industries in the upcoming year and represent a step forward in Romania’s digitalization.

We left our HQ behind.

Perhaps this was the decision that wrapped up the whole year.

Being more or less forced by the context, we had to finally wave our goodbyes to the Buftea Street office. We gradually got used to the idea of finding productivity no matter the setting and got excited at the thought that the office would become a social space, an environment where we would catch up rather than work.

This is why we started to look for a new office, one that would fit this new set of needs, a house that looks more like a residence than an office. It was obvious that this change was going to take place eventually, but, to most of us, it was, indeed, a sudden transition.

Although we had a few specific requirements in mind, in less than a month we found the perfect space, added a splash of yellow, and quickly populated it with our rebel spirit.

Now we got ourselves a brand new Rebel Playground where we can meet to take the edge off a challenging project and chat about anything not work-related in front of the chimney or outside, enjoying the beautiful weather in our spacious garden.

RebelDot farewell old office

New clients acquired.

Looking back, we will remember 2020 as the year in which business became virtual. Companies started looking at technology as a way to streamline their business processes and make them more available to their customers. It’s funny how reflecting back at the year that just passed, technology has found its way into every possible business sector out there.

It kind of reminds of the joke below, that was roaming around LinkedIn feeds at the beginning of the pandemic.

LinkedIn Covid transformation

2020 was also the year in which businesses were forced to think outside of the box, more into the real lives of their user, finding clever ways in which to blend technology into the daily lives of their customers.

From pivoting existing digital products to create new experiences for users, this year we acquired over 10 new clients building web and mobile apps in new industries, some of which are: Influencer Platforms and Networking, Bills and Utilities Management, FinTech, LiveEvents, Parking Management and InsurTech.

You can see the entire product index of web and mobile apps we have built since 2008, on our website.

nova app

We invested in 3 technology startups from Romania, Amsterdam and UAE.

Today, technology helps us stay safe by bringing our favorite events to us. It gets our groceries delivered to our doorsteps and helps us get in touch with our families and friends’ miles away. It helps businesses remain in touch with their audiences, and gets the news where it needs to be, in little to no time. If we ever dared to question technology’s potential, 2020 proved the contrary. Technology is here to stay, and we are here to facilitate its way into the hands and pockets of people.

One of the startups we have proudly invested is Eventmix, a Cluj based startup aiming to revolutionize the industry of events, bringing event organizers a new way of starting engaged with their communities.

” I am thrilled to let you know that I have joined Eventmix as an investor, closely collaborating with them to build a platform through which event organizers can easily set up online events directly on their website. 🎉

Eventmix is a startup co-founded by Sergiu Biriș and Andrei Dunca, two entrepreneurs who are not new to the #techstartups scene, having already built Trilulilu, acquired by  Digitap, and LiveRail, acquired by Facebook.

The two successful exits brought them a lot of media traction that they have wisely used to push the local startup ecosystem forward.

What excites me the most about Eventmix is that it makes it super easy for me and even my kids to host whatever online interactive events we want, be it a game streaming or a business conference.

From the early days of RebelDot we devoted to supporting startups in their journey towards innovation. While we collaborated with visionaries from all over the world, we were driven by a desire to support the local scene.

I am happy to see entrepreneurs from Cluj create products like Eventmix, that are a reference standard for what it means to be #Agile, and adapt to the ever-changing business environment. Thank you for placing Romania and #Cluj on the #startupecosystem map! ”  – Tudor Ciuleanu on LinkedIn.

Giving back to the community.

Besides the internal remote initiatives and regular “pulse checks” carried out by our People and Culture department to ensure that every team member is being taken care of, just like in 2019, this preoccupation with caring was a major element in our external efforts this year too.

Being fortunate enough to be part of a community that has been nurturing our growth for years now, we wanted to keep on giving back so that the support is mutual.

We continued to support the young techies by joining various student hackathons and defining potential career paths for them, but we also glanced at the ones in need, offering a helping hand.

From supporting organizations like ELF, Un Sigur Cluj & CERT, to making more conscious decisions when it comes to sustainability and the way we care about our planet, 2020 has made us more aware of the world around us and the impact the business ecosystem can have over the world around.

RebelDot CSR

Opening our Christmas gifts together.

Having already got used to spending time together online, Christmas was not going to be any different than that. Still, we wanted to add the essential element of surprise, bringing joy and warmth into the homes and hearts of each of our rebels.

The presents were delivered in advance and, to make things even more exciting, we asked everyone that they would hold on until our latest company meeting of the year, so we can unwrap the gifts together and see the reactions in real-time, just like we used to when we were at the office.

And that was fun!

RebelDot presents

The idea behind this bundle of presents was to offer something that would keep both our soul and our body warm.

We all got a small box of Christmassy tea, some beautifully designed cups to enjoy it properly, a funky pair of socks and, perhaps the best element of this bundle, a (hipsterish) hoodie, coming in 3 different colorways.

RebelDot Christmas
RebelDot cup

Thank you for being part of our journey, see you in 2021!

RebelDot Video Live Streaming

How to build a video streaming application for your business.

The big picture.

Video content is king, there is no doubt about this. We have reached the time when video content is in high demand and it seems that this is not going to stop here. Companies around the world are exploring this niche especially now as we are making efforts to socially distance. Events that once happened on big arenas now are happening remote, on Zoom, WebEx, Whereby and other video streaming platforms. eLearning apps are taking the place of onsite learning opportunities and everything that used to happen in person, is now happening thorough a screen via video streaming.

The social distance is not the only decisive factor that creates this increased need for video streaming. Communities are more engaged to use video streaming platforms as a form of expression and communication with their peers. Platforms such as Twitch,Tiktok, Instagram (Reels) are coming to support this need of the market and to offer suitable streaming solutions.

Video streaming, either live or on-demand, is happening right now, while you are reading this.

So today, regardless of the sector you are operating in, if you plan on starting a stream into the virtual world, delivering quality content to millions of people you have 2 obvious options:

  1. Use an existing video streaming platform and comply with their terms, conditions, and prices.
  2. Build your own custom streaming platform using a reliable partner.

Let us focus on the second option and see what it takes to create your own streaming platform, what services you can use to achieve that and what could be the estimated cost. We will go forward in this article with a use case of Microsoft Azure and its related services to achieve our purpose.

Building a video streaming app.

You should know that there are 2 types of video streaming:

  • Live Streaming: a live event which is simultaneously recorded and broadcasted almost in real-time.
  • Video on-demand: broadcasting an existing video when this is requested.

For this specific matter, Microsoft Azure offers support via Microsoft Media Services for both mentioned streaming possibilities.

Let’s dive deeper and look at the operations that must be performed so you can deliver video on-demand streaming, what are the must know terminologies when it comes to videos and how the overall simplified architecture looks like.

Microsoft Azure Video Streaming
Fig. 1.0 Simplified Steaming Video on Demand Components Architecture

Concepts and Services.

A video file contains multiple components such as an audio track, caption track, metadata about the video and many more. All of this are stored in a structured manner inside a container which is described as the video format which can be MP4, AVI, or other types of format. In Azure Media Services any digital video file is described as an Asset. For example, when you upload a new video file this will be stored as an asset item inside the platform.

Before being able to stream a video, an operation called encoding must be done. The encoding operation is responsible to compress the initial file and to prepare multiple quality versions of it. The encoding process is based on a specific algorithm which is called codec such as H264. For the encoding process, Azure Media Services offers an integrated system which helps you process the raw digital files by offering a set of encoding presets and the possibility for custom defined ones.

Now we are a couple of steps away until we can stream a video. But first let us see if you and your business have the need to deliver the content in a secure way, to be able to restrict access to specific streams and to decrease the possibility of copyright infringement and piracy. For this specific matter, there is an integrated technology which helps to achieve all of this called DRM (Digital Right Management). Azure Content Policy Service allows you to manage DRM licenses in a convenient way with 3 biggest DRM providers:

  1. Widevine: proprietary technology owned by Google
  2. PlayReady: proprietary technology owned by Microsoft
  3. FairPlay: proprietary technology owned by Apple

Now, when you want to start streaming a video, you are in the position where you have a big video file. This must be sent in small pieces since you do not want to force the user to download all the video file at once. Here, the streaming protocols are coming into the picture and there are 2 approaches:

  1. Progressive download: send small chunks of data to the user
  2. Adaptive streaming: send small chunks of data to the user and select the best video quality based on multiple factors such as network speed. Some of these protocols are HLS, DASH or Smooth Streaming.

After the previous steps has been decided an output locator has to be created and a streaming endpoint. The output locator identifies which asset do you want to stream and under what policies (streaming policy and encryption policy). The streaming endpoint will stream your content to the clients and will provide the streaming URLs. For an easy integration, Azure offers its own player, which has an embed mechanism for the DRM licenses, called Azure Media Player.

How much does it cost?

Now that you have a clear overview on what are the technologies and services that will be used, we can look at what costs you might expect. The following scenario has been taken into consideration and it consists of:

  1. Usage of 1h of HD quality encoding services (done only one when the video is uploaded).
  2. 10GB of assets distributed around the globe using Content Delivery Network for a better network management and availability.
  3. Usage of 10000 DRM protection licenses for each of the 3 provides (Widevine, FairPlay and PlayReady).
  4. The usage of Azure streaming services.

All of these yield an estimated cost which starts from $135.08/month for a scalable and easy to integrate a streaming solution.

DIY Video Streaming Platform Costs

Next Steps.

After the overall picture is painted and the estimated costs are known, most of the unknown variables seem to get more clarity. As a business that wants to get into the video streaming sector, now, you can easily assess if this a suitable solution that satisfies your needs and enables you to provide quality video and audio content for your audience at a large scale.