In 2019, Toshi Asaba set out to “make society a better place”. The CEO of Freewill, an IT consulting and solutions provider, Asaba had the vision to create an ecosystem of applications that connect with one another to help solve social and global issues. “It’s the reason Freewill exists today,” said Met Ciftci, Chief Design Officer at Freewill.
Working in collaboration with partners worldwide and utilising cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain and AI, the team at Freewill made Asaba’s vision a reality with the launch of its Inhouse Services division.
As a burgeoning new division with ambitious goals, the team needed to prove they could build a sustainable business model. And for that, they needed to be intentional about system design and development. “If we have to go back and do the work again, it’s going to cost us a lot. We can’t afford to miss”, says Ciftci.
Building an integrated application ecosystem, where all the applications are connected to each other, creates a number of technical complexities. The team utilised blockchain technology for application integration and created virtual wallets for consumers to use across the ecosystem. “Blockchain implementation can be difficult. It’s not only about how to solve a technical problem, but you have to consider the business implications as well,” said Julian Payne, Service System Engineer.
One of the first concepts the team looked to develop under the new Inhouse Services division was an online marketplace where people could sell and buy ethically made goods and services. For each purchase made, the user receives one virtual coin that can be used towards the purchase of goods or services. But the true value of the coin lives beyond the purchase. These coins expire after a certain period of time, at which point any coins that are unused are used to support organisations working to solve global issues. Whether a consumer uses the coins or not, they are contributing to environmental causes by transacting with the marketplace. “We want to enable users to make a contribution to the Earth or society without even realising it,” says Ciftci.
Unlike other project teams, Freewill moves work forward based on design mocks. The design mock is given to the development team to determine system requirements and make any necessary suggestions. In order to bring their application from concept to release, Freewill needed a partner that was comfortable working with deeply technical, complex ecosystems and who could offer up solutions that would enable them to build in perfect order.
“Not every partner can help us with what we want to do technically. We are working on a complex system, we have three applications. Everything is connected to one another”
Met Ciftci - Chief Design Officer, Freewill
“We wanted a partner that would be involved in the project, contribute ideas and help us build it together,” added Payne.
At first, Freewill's CTO, Tatsu Kobayashi reached out to NashTech and introduced both teams to each other. A time was set for the team to meet with NashTech at their Tokyo office. A few days before the meeting, the team shared a link to their marketplace application, tells market. On the day of the meeting, the NashTech team in Vietnam created a technical report of the service highlighting some of the issues they found, along with detailed recommendations for how to resolve them. “It was really impressive, in such a short time, to see a report like that and know you can rely on the team to handle the technical aspects with a lot of depth to the application,” says Payne.
Coming away from the meeting, the Freewill team was impressed with NashTech’s technical capabilities and felt they could trust them to build a partnership that would help bring their new tells market application to life. Once the decision was made to engage NashTech, Freewill handed the application over to the team.
The Freewill team decided to make the first release of the tells market application in a few short months. They worked with NashTech to develop a roadmap, and after a couple of weeks, they started their first sprint. “We started with a small team to see what NashTech was capable of producing in that short time,” said Payne. “The outcome was amazing. Since the timing was so short, we expected a lot of bugs to come out, but we had almost no bugs to report,” he added.
From that point on, Freewill worked with NashTech to build out a full team, scaling from three members to twelve, to begin work on new releases and ecosystem applications. Over the next two years, Freewill continued to partner with NashTech and broke ground on their latest application, SPIN, a story funding application focusing on nurturing talents. NashTech worked in close partnership with the team to define system requirements, solve business challenges and implement technical improvements.
“In the past, we tried to do things really quickly, but when we implemented everything on production, it wasn’t in a state where we could market it. Through our partnership with NashTech, we’ve been able to increase quality through planning and testing, allowing us to maintain our speed to market”
Julian Payne - Service System Engineer, Freewill
With NashTech, Freewill has been able to think differently about the business. “At the beginning, we had the idea, but we didn’t know how to implement the blockchain or how to make the system design. NashTech provided the solutions and we chose the best one. Now we have that knowledge and can pass along these solutions to our clients as well,” said Ciftci.
Two years later, tells market is providing goods and services throughout Japan. The partnership with NashTech has enabled the team to explore new ventures, including plans to expand their services to other countries, with many more ideas waiting to be developed. For Freewill, the future is looking bright.