Interview with Adam Awan (Tree.io)
Tree.io is a free online small business application for project management, sales and CRM, accounting, invoicing and service support.
I interviewed Adam Awan, Tree.io founder to find out more. This interview is the seventy second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Adam for the interview!
How would you describe Tree.io in under 50 words?
Simply put Tree.io is free business software. To elaborate: it’s an open source business management platform for small to mid-sized companies; it’s a way to track, communicate and collaborate on everything happening in your business. Everything from projects to clients, support tickets to reports.
What made you decide to start working on Tree.io?
After leaving University in 2010 I got talking with an old class mate of mine. Both of us were entrepreneurial and we thought there was room in the market for a system like Tree.io that didn’t have a six figure price point. I’d always wanted to start a business so there was very little holding me back.
What are the origins of the name?
During our beta we had named the project “hardtree” which was to symbolize durability and the tree of information that would be stored and managed with the system. Many of our international users misinterpreted the ‘hard’ to mean difficult and we found the domain tree.io was available, it seemed more memorable and it’s a natural, positive word.
Other than providing a single destination, what advantages does Tree.io provide over Google Apps, Basecamp, Zoho, Zen Desk and Salesforce?
Tree.io can be installed on the user’s own servers. We give our users full reign over our source code and the flexibility to customize and modify the software to their needs.
How much has your initial vision changed since launch?
Since conception our vision has evolved constantly. The scope of Tree.io expanded from support ticketing software to a platform, from a SAAS to open source. Software that does not adapt to the continually evolving demands of the modern world is destined to be pushed aside by more innovative and forward thinking minds.
You announced in October that you’ll be going Open Source. Was this a difficult decision?
This was a very difficult decision considering it meant changing our entire business model, migrating our users to standalone instances on Amazon or on their private networks and then generating revenue via installation and support which was a completely new arena for us. The outcome is that Tree.io draws interest from a much wider audience than previously possible and can be contributed to by anyone in the world.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Tree.io?
One technical challenge I pray never to repeat was implementing PayPal’s ReferenceTransactions. After perhaps 15 hours of phone calls to get authorized and dozens of facsimile documents and several weeks of working with undocumented API calls on an unbelievably convoluted PayPal test system I get a call telling me we can’t have ReferenceTransactions anyway because we would need to be turning over £20,000 a month. I also had the displeasure of implementing API integrations for several other types of PayPal payment abominations, Google Checkout, Recurly and Recurly.js. The latter of which I would highly recommend.
How long did it take to put together Tree.io?
The first beta, hardtree, was launched in around 5 months after we got started. We were working 7 days a week, 12 hour days.
How does Tree.io generate revenue?
At present we charge for installs and support. We also charge royalties on any third-party paid installs and cloud services.
Has Tree.io got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
What they don’t teach you at University about starting a Web 2.0 business is that marketing is sometimes more important that the product itself. Initially we found things very hard to drive traffic and for people to discover us. We soon discovered word of mouth was the key factor to getting people to try us out and we pursued this avenue of marketing ever since.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Starting up meant we needed to be not only developers but our own system administrators, marketing specialists, sales professionals, support technicians, accountants etc. At the same time as this is a hurdle, this is what I love about running my own business and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What are you most excited about at the moment?
I’m very excited about the Tree.io open source community on GitHub. It’s a real delight to see other people contributing to the project.
Can you convince the reader to start using Tree.io in under 50 words?
Your business data should be in your hands and now there is an affordable solution to for your own network or in the cloud. Tree.io is freely adaptable to meet your demands so your team can communicate and collaborate about everything in one place. Plant your Tree.io today!
Finished reading? Check out Tree.io!