Business Growth and Strategy

Scalable and efficient organization is not possible with just a large team in the Netherlands

25Friday spoke with Daan Giesen, CEO of LessonUp, about his experience with nearshore development and his choice for Portugal and 25Friday. LessonUp is a platform for teachers and has grown from 6 to 40 FTE during Daan's involvement. 25Friday has been LessonUp's nearshore partner for several years and currently provides a team of 6 software engineers.


Photo of Sybren van Putten

Sybren van Putten

Sr. Product Consultant

Published June 18, 2024

5 minutes read


LessonUp is a platform for teachers, where they can create and share interactive lessons with their students. Daan started in the education sector four years ago and has gained a lot of experience with digital platforms in various other sectors in the past.

The move to Nearshore Development

About three years ago, LessonUp began exploring the use of nearshore development capacity. The direct trigger for this was the difficult market when it comes to the quality of software engineers.

Daan: "There are just a lot of challenges. Large tech workplaces like and can offer salaries and secondary working conditions that we, as a young company, could not. But we have a good mission and are trying to do something good for education in the Netherlands and Europe. That helps a lot, but still, to attract really good people, salaries and secondary conditions are an important aspect. So we tried to search with many different recruitment parties in the Netherlands, but that didn't work."

The Portuguese and Dutch culture

Although LessonUp came into contact with 25Friday through its network and Daan is personally well acquainted with the country, the choice of Portugal was a conscious one. Daan indicates that in nearshoring, even when it works well, cultural differences are clearly noticeable in the way of working and communicating. And about why the Dutch culture works well with the Portuguese.

Daan: "What we share is that we both work hard. Portuguese people really have it in their culture that they have to work hard, because the situation there is like that, and there are dozens of others in line to take your job there. As a result, they work hard and deliver a lot of quality, that's what they stand for. I think that's a good combination with the Netherlands. I also see one big difference: risk-taking. A Portuguese person is very risk-averse. Where a Dutchman goes for it from an idea, a Portuguese person is more hesitant and first thinks about the how, why and the right way."

Maarten: "That's recognizable. I notice a lot of commitment and loyalty at certain meetings or presentations - that's very strong in Portuguese culture. They like Dutch directness, because then they know where they stand. On the other hand, I notice that when there is uncertainty, we can be transparent about that with our Dutch and Portuguese colleagues, but that this is experienced differently."

Daan: "The combination that you have made, which is very nice, is that the 25Friday organization is located in the Netherlands. So we have to do with you as a Dutch company and you see that other companies choose other options, with which they are completely established abroad."

Taking time for Face-to-Face contact is essential

LessonUp is located in The Hague, but not all employees come from that area. Not everyone is in the office every day, and a lot of remote working had already been set up. In that respect, there is little difference since the collaboration with a nearshore team. The only thing (the only thing...), says Daan, but that also applies to his Dutch colleagues who are not in the office.

Daan: "To really look each other in the eye and be able to say and understand what is meant on both sides; for that you sometimes really need to be in the same room together. Especially when things are not going well. Taking the time for that remains essential."

Maarten: "That's also why we contractually stipulate that team members come to the Netherlands twice a year. We see it as crucial that you are together in the same room three, preferably four times a year."

Availability and quality, not costs, determine Nearshoring

Asked about the start of the collaboration, Daan explains that it took some time to find the right communication: "It's a different culture, you have to get to know each other. And finding your way in a complex tech landscape is difficult for everyone. It doesn't matter whether you are in the Netherlands or somewhere else. You are just five, six months further before someone really understands the technical background. The nice thing for us was that we started with two people at the time and slowly scaled up. They can take on new team members and now we have six" (nearshore engineers).

At 25Friday, we find a number of things important in nearshore development; availability, retention, flexibility to scale, and cost. Daan says that cost should not be the deciding factor for nearshoring, because: "Overall, you end up with the same cost", but: "Portugal has good universities where developers are well trained. In terms of quality, they are often better trained than here in the Netherlands or other countries. Secondly, we would have liked to have had some extra colleagues here in the Netherlands, but it is simply very difficult to recruit and retain them. And thirdly - if you can find colleagues here in the Netherlands, they are often already expats. For LessonUp, it is preferable for non-Dutch engineers to be together in two large hubs (The Hague and Porto), rather than individually spread over more places in the Netherlands.

As you ponder about Product and explore the potential within your product management practices, remember that you're not navigating these waters alone. We, the 25Friday team, are dedicated to guiding tech companies through the maze of product strategy. With our expertise in consultancy and nearshore development, we partner with organisations to fine-tune their product vision, align their teams, and craft strategies that resonate in today’s dynamic market. Reach out to us, and let's work together to turn your product challenges into successful ventures that stand out in the tech landscape.