It’s Abstractas’ 14th anniversary and we decided to unveil its story. Abstracta is faithful evidence of how education is capable of hacking the system and turning the dreams of 3 students into reality. The outcome? The increase in the quality of life of those who make up the company, the development of the communities in which it is inserted, the creation of partnerships capable of maximizing results and optimizing the entire business, and the improvement of the digital experience of users, through quality technologies that have a direct impact on daily life.
Federico Toledo, Fabián Baptista and Marías Reina dreaming big, in 2008, the year Abstracta was founded.
The story of Abstracta is the story of a dream come true. Three young students became friends in college while studying Computer Engineering and were encouraged to dream big.
While studying, Matias Reina and Federico Toledo worked side by side on software testing projects at the Software Testing Center (CES), and Fabián Baptista at Quanam. They made great efforts to cover their expenses and be able to continue studying.
The creation of Abstracta took time and went through different stages. “In 2007, we started developing a product for automated testing in GeneXus and ended up setting up our own company. That’s how Abstracta was born, in August 2008. Our original dream was to become a testing products company, then this idea mutated and today we do many more things related to quality,” said Matias.
“It was a bet to do something innovative, to work with friends, and to be able to define ourselves how far we wanted to go”, he added.
“When we started, although we always thought big, I don’t think we were able to imagine what we are experiencing now. The idea evolved and so did our dreams. It happens that when we reach our goals, we always set our sights higher, aiming to take Abstracta, the team, and the region to the top,” Federico emphasized.
“When we started, we were not only concerned about achieving our goals but also about how to achieve them. It wasn’t worth doing it any old way. As the team grew, we felt the need to make certain values explicit, because they became our north,” Fabián recalled. And he continued: “Many people have joined us during this time and have taken ownership of the project, making it their own, improving and strengthening it. All this is part of what makes us proud”.
Federico Toledo, Matías Reina and Fabián Baptista, with the first Abstracta t-shirt. 10 years later (2018), Sofía Palamarchuk would join as a partner.
Founding of Abstracta
It all started one afternoon after leaving the Zonamérica exhibition center in Montevideo, after a day’s work in which they identified a clear need in the industry for testing. “We wanted to create an innovative product in order to simplify test automation in applications where it was more complex, such as those made with GeneXus,” Matias introduced. “We came up with an idea, started writing it down on paper, and got excited.”
“That’s when we started experimenting, discussing, and dreaming. We planted the seed of what would later become Abstracta,” said Federico Toledo. And he continued: “We designed the idea and presented it to the company we were working for. But the company had a different focus, and we moved forward on our own, working after hours and on weekends”.
In 2007, the Ricaldoni Foundation opened a call for technology-based ventures, through the School of Engineering of the University of the Republic. There, they had the opportunity to take a course at the School of Economics and begin to put together a business plan. Then, Simon decided to go live in Germany for a while, and could not continue with the venture.
It was then that Matias and Federico invited Fabián, a classmate, and friend from the university, to join them. “Fabián came from another world and made a very big bet. I remember he told me: ‘I have no idea about testing, but if you tell me there’s an opportunity here, I’ll get involved,'” recalled Matias. In 2008, Fabián began to develop what would become Abstracta’s first product: GXtest.
Article published when they won an award in the Emprender Fund.
– With the seed already planted, who supported you to achieve the founding of the company?
Matías: We competed in a business plan competition of Fondo Emprender, a private sector initiative to promote investment in startups. There, we won a prize for best business plan, which came with a check for 2,500 dollars. Then, we had the possibility of accessing a seed capital of 50 thousand dollars in the same Fondo Emprender, which was a loan. At that same time, we accessed a window that the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII) had to promote Young Entrepreneurs, and we won a grant of 20 thousand dollars. We discussed it a lot and decided to accept this option instead of the capital from Fondo Emprender.
– What did you invest these funds in?
Matías: They allowed us to create the company, formalize it and pay rent for our first office. Sometime later, we were able to present our prototype (the first beta version of the product) at an international GeneXus event, “XVIII International GeneXus Users Meeting”. There we were awarded a prize for an innovative product. At that moment, Nicolas Jodal, the CEO of GeneXus, told us that we had a tremendous product and that motivated us a lot. Sometime later, we signed a partnership contract that allowed us to have 40 thousand dollars more in funds to finish developing the product.
The roles and tasks were changing over time, in the consolidation of Abstracta. In the beginning, Matias and Fabian were the developers, and Federico was the tester. Fabián was the first to leave his formal job to dedicate himself full time to Abstracta, in 2008, after receiving the first check from the Fondo Emprender. Until then, everything they did at Abstracta was something extra to their jobs, which was what allowed them to survive.
“Since I was a child, they planted the seed of entrepreneurship in me, so even though I was working in a very nice company, I dreamed of dedicating myself to something of my own. I always say that it was a very easy decision because I am one of those people who like to take risks. And when I was young I was even more so, always with my mother’s support. What could go wrong? To have learned something and try again or, in the worst case scenario, to go out and look for a job,” Fabián said.
Federico and Matías continued working at CES, although they reduced the number of hours. They were 6 hours there and about 8 hours at Abstracta. Those were very intense times, and without a doubt, the effort was worth it. Eventually, it was everyone’s turn, to take the risk to move forward in their own project, change the focus, and expand.
A one-way trip
When they finally had a working prototype of GXtest, the founders of Abstracta presented it to GeneXus CEO Nicolás Jodal, Gastón Milano (CTO), José Lamas (in charge of partnerships), and many other people from the team.
Federico said: “After some conversations, we ended up signing a commercial agreement that allowed us to dedicate ourselves fully to what we knew (building the product) while GeneXus provided us with its experience and its network of channels for its commercialization and distribution”.
Thus, in 2009, GeneXus began marketing GXtest, the first product developed by Abstracta and the engine of its foundation. “From one day to the next, we started selling all over the world”, exclaimed Federico.
In 2009 Federico traveled to the United States and participated in the GeneXus Meeting in Chicago. It was there where he made the first sale of a GXtest license. Thus, GeneXus USA became Abstracta’s first client company.
That same year, they opened the first official Abstracta office in Montevideo, Uruguay. Until then, all the work was done on shared work days at their homes and different locations.
In 2011, Federico emigrated to Spain to pursue a Ph.D. with a focus on testing, which would later translate into a great contribution to Abstracta. From Spain, Federico was linked to Abstracta all the time, creating content, giving training, even in Spain, and was dedicated to forging networks and generating community.
“I am eternally grateful for the support of my partners in that personal dream I had: to live abroad and get to know another culture, other places, other people. From the moment I proposed the idea, we immediately began to look for ways to align it with what we were doing at Abstracta,” said Federico.
That same year, in Uruguay, Matías’ first child was born and he and his wife took out a loan to buy a house. “The money was not enough with GXtest alone. At that moment, I had to decide whether to look for another job that would give me more income, or to dedicate myself 100% to Abstracta. It was a big family decision. I remember great talks in the living room of my house with my wife and my in-laws. It wasn’t easy, but we decided to take the risk,” Matías said.
It was then that, in order to increase revenues, they started to add the services area in Abstracta, always related to testing and software quality. And then GXtest ceased to be the sole focus of the company. They decided to focus on services and consulting model. GeneXus Consulting was the first company to rely on Abstracta’s services area.
In 2013, they launched Monkop (currently Apptim), a tool that analyzes the performance of native apps. Over time, this platform would be used by many large companies around the world, including Japan.
In 2014, Federico returned to Uruguay and began to dedicate full-time to Abstracta. “When I came back, I put together the online introductory course to testing that today we offer to the general public but also to many people through different social impact initiatives such as Jóvenes a Programar and ReconverTite. When I returned from Spain, I came up with the idea that we could collaborate on something with a social focus”, said Federico.
That same year, Abstracta published the book, “Introducción a las Pruebas de Sistemas de Información”, authored by Federico Toledo and several collaborators; co-founded the most important testing event in the region: TestingUy, where the book was officially presented; and created the Internationalization Plan to the United States led by Sofía Palamarchuk, with financial support from ANII.
Over time, Abstracta’s growth became evident, in terms of the number of people working, clients, projects, and culture. In 2015, the staff already exceeded 50 people and was in a moment of exponential growth not only in Uruguay and the region but also in relation to recurring clients in the United States.
In 2015, Matías Reina moved to the town of Salto, and the company opened an office there. “We discovered many talented people in Salto and decided to give them and ourselves a chance. The result was so good that there came a time when our priority was to hire people from there,” said Matías. Undoubtedly, this became a significant contribution to local community development.
2016 was also a year of important developments. Abstracta Academy was launched, a space that would become a key platform for testing training in the country. And the People Care area was created, led by psychologist Vera Babat, with the aim of focusing on mental health and organizational culture in Abstracta.
In 2017, Matías Reina became CEO of the company, and Federico became COO. On the other hand, Vera joined the company’s C-suite, which already included other women, such as Laura Daguerre (Chief Sustainability Officer), and Valentina Tortarolo (current CEO of Abstracta spin-off upCamp). Later, Lucía Lavagna joined the C-suite as Chief Growth Officer.
Vera’s entry represented a turning point in the company’s history because since then they have been able to focus more on organizational culture.
Matias said: “Thanks to Vera, we started to connect more deeply with ourselves, with our peers. We became aware of issues that were difficult to reflect on before, to understand them in a more integral way. We learned to trust each other more, to listen, and to look for purpose in what we do.
In the same vein, Federico emphasized: “Thanks to their contributions, we have been able to make improvements in the work environment, in the organizational culture, and even in the meaning of work, balance, family life, and how everything comes into harmony. We were able to implement great improvements in our job offers and in the accompaniment of the team with a more holistic vision, with greater empathy for human and health aspects”.
When it celebrated its first decade of existence, the company added a new partner, Sofía Palamarchuk, who had led the Internationalization Plan to the United States in 2014 and had worked as a performance tester in multiple projects since 2013. By this time, the company already had 70 people working in different countries around the world.
Sofia joined the board on January 11, 2018, and was the company’s first non-foundational partner, as well as the first woman.
“Since my beginnings at Abstracta, almost 10 years ago now, I always felt listened to and valued in the different roles I took on. With the support and trust of the board of directors, I was able to dedicate myself fully to Abstracta’s expansion, and those were years full of learning, challenges, and celebrations,” Sofía said.
“My work helped lay the foundations of what Abstracta is today in the United States, and its recognition at the international level,” she emphasized. And she pointed out, “By taking on a key role in Abstracta’s expansion in the United States, having the opportunity to be part of the board of directors was very important.”
“I was very proud to be the first female voice on the board, which always had the theme of women’s empowerment and gender equity as a priority to generate the impact we seek,” she exclaimed.
In 2018, the franchise model began, led by Laura Daguerre. That same year, Abstracta Chile began to take shape. And on August 27, 2019, the official launch of the office in Chile took place.
“Our objectives and expectations were to position the brand in Chile and empower the industry with our proposal. In addition, to replicate all those aspects for which Abstracta has been recognized all these years: good working environment, linkage with local communities, social impact through its labor integration programs, among others,” recalled Mauricio Rojas Lagos, CEO of Abstracta Chile.
“The first years were complex, due to the social demands in Chile at the end of 2019 and, later, the arrival of the pandemic. But we pulled through and grew stronger. Currently, we are having a sustained growth of clients and projects in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States. This has allowed us to incorporate new professionals on a continuous basis,” he said.
Undoubtedly, 2020 was not only a complex year for Abstracta Chile, but also for Abstracta globally. Fortunately, this forced reorganization of ways of working led to the growth and consolidation of all areas of the company, in the midst of the pandemic. And so we continued to grow.
With this momentum, and the need to rethink aspects of daily life from multiple angles, we managed to lead major initiatives of social impact and community development, training, job retraining, and support for labor market insertion. In other words, we are able to carry out first-class testing and work for everyone, with a social outlook at a time of great need, accompanying each member of the team.
“We provide opportunities where they are most needed through different programs and initiatives. To women, migrants, and people living in the interior of the country. To young people, with their first job opportunities, and to people over 50 years of age who decide to change jobs”, Federico specified.
Step by step, we achieved a very important milestone in our history: joining the UN Global Compact, focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “Health and well-being”, “Gender equality”, and “Decent work and economic growth”.
In 2022, having already come a long way, we achieved a level of maturity that allows us to rely on our tools to overcome different types of situations that arise along the way. It allows us to trust in our decisions and strategies, to be resilient to crises, and, even with pauses, to keep growing.
Thus, today we already have important clients in San Francisco, California, and more than 150 people working in Abstracta from different parts of the world, making contributions to the IT industry and the development of the communities in which we are located.
This year, Lucía Lavagna is spending a season abroad, this time in Vancouver, Canada, with a view to and generating networks. And undoubtedly, history continues to be written…
Abstracta Camp, in 2021. Undoubtedly, the individual contribution of each person who is currently working and who has worked at Abstracta in the past is paramount to achieving our goals and great purposes. We build Abstracta together because together we can go further.
The Biggest Difficulties Abstracta has Gone through
✔️Cessation of contracts due to changes in business strategies, at different times in our history. One of which affected us the most occurred in 2013, with GeneXus Consulting, who represented 50% of our turnover that year, a number that became 0 in 2014.
Situations of this type have allowed us to prove that one of our greatest strengths, as a sustainable company, is the variety of projects in which we work and the varied geographical distribution of our clients. This strategy makes us strong and resilient to crises.
✔️2020 – Pandemic.
“We survived the fall of many positions in different clients, keeping the team without any layoffs even when we were several months with zero margin. The uncertainty of not knowing how much more we were going to be able to sustain the situation to be able to give that support to the people we want to give was something very hard” (Federico Toledo).
✔️2021 – Temporary removal from the CEO’s position.
Matías Reina had to step away from Abstracta for a period of 7 months due to his daughter’s health reasons.
“It was not easy for anyone. It recharged the whole team a lot, in a very particular year for everyone, with a pandemic, with a super particular moment in the industry. Despite everything, we came out stronger. The team moved forward, the company continued to grow, and they put up with me endlessly, they were a great pillar for my family” (Matías Reina).
What is the Greatest Motivation for Getting through Difficulties?
“We are empowering technologies that are enabling software to be made faster and with higher quality, helping to create more accessible technology, and helping more people to have access to communications infrastructure. When we look at what we do on each project and with each customer, we don’t just think about the products themselves but what they enable. How their technology extends and improves the quality of life of many people,” he continued”, explained Matías
“The greatest impact lies in what the technology we create allows, and that this technology is of good quality”, he emphasized. And he exemplified: “Through technology, we helped to manage the pandemic in Uruguay in a better way. We are helping public education teachers to get paid on time, and farmers in Mexico and other countries to market their products better. We bring financial services to more people, we make medicine more intuitive, and we create new technologies for new treatments”.
Abstracta has grown a lot. Today, Abstracta researches new advances in the world of software quality to develop competitive products, which become new businesses. Abstracta is a platform for an ecosystem of companies.
This ecosystem opens real possibilities for Abstracta’s workers to lead spin-offs and products aligned to our purposes.
They also position themselves every day as thought leaders: they share their knowledge and form networks, thus managing to be part of conversations about testing with referents from all over the world.
They have managed to create an inspiring and authentic workspace, where each member can develop professionally and personally with high-quality projects. From that place, they also create great bonds with their clients. And, in turn, they promote initiatives that favor community development and improve the quality of life in the communities in which they are located.
What Future do you Envision for Abstracta?
Matías Reina: In 10 years I would like us to be in 5 countries, well established, with equipment, committed to the local community, emphasizing more and more our strongest attributes. I also imagine us being in all the departmental capitals of Uruguay and in several cities outside Santiago in Chile. In 20 years I imagine us in more countries, especially in Asia and Oceania. I would also love it if we could be in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.
Sofía Palamarchuk: I feel that this is just the beginning, that we have a long way to go and continue learning. Ten years from now I see a much bigger Abstracta, with teams on different continents and projects that improve the quality of life of the communities where we are. Twenty years from now, dreaming big, I imagine a network of technology companies that grew up in Abstracta, employing thousands of people in Uruguay and the world, training hundreds of women, and giving us, women, the opportunity to take an active role in an industry that will become the engine of the world’s economies, especially in Uruguay.
Fabián Baptista: I would love for us to be able to crystallize the knowledge, ingenuity, and work of many of us into a valuable product that positions us as a reference, and Abstracta was born with that idea. In 10 years I see Abstracta recognized as a global quality leader working on the most challenging and innovative projects in our industry.
Federico Toledo: To continue growing and providing opportunities, each time better, more diverse, more challenging, and generating more impact. I would like us to be able to contribute to the care of the environment. I would like us to be established in more countries, both in Latin America and in the rest of the world. I would like us to continue to be a reference in software quality. I would like us to generate more entrepreneurial spirit, and provide support to more people to promote new spaces that are aligned with the objectives we have, spreading the values and principles by which we are guided.
Would you like to know more abstract stories? Start here.
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