Interview with Craig Bryant (DoneDone)
DoneDone is a web-based issue tracker which helps teams prioritise and communicate.
I interviewed Craig Bryant, DoneDone co-founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and seventeenth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Craig!
How would you describe DoneDone in under 50 words?
DoneDone is a single place for your team and clients to log bugs, issues, and requests for web and software projects. It gets folks out of email funnels and spreadsheets and into solving problems more collaboratively.
Give us some examples of how it might be used?
It’s easy. Give your clients and team access to your DoneDone account. Have them create new issues and assign ‘em to your production team. Once an issue is fixed, it gets automagically assigned back to the tester to verify it and close it out.
Once you’re up and running, you can share files like screenshots and copy decks, correspond via email, and programmers can interact with DoneDone directly via their Git/SVN repositories.
What’s your background? When did you co-found We Are Mammoth, the company that built DoneDone?
My background started in music then moved into technology around the time Flash 4 came out. After about 5 years of working like a dog at big agencies, I cofounded We Are Mammoth with Ka Wai Cheung. We both knew there was a better way to run a business. Six years deep, we think we’re on the right path.
What made you decide to start working on DoneDone?
There weren’t many client-friendly issue trackers four years ago. One particularly bad solution we were using convinced us to cut bait and build our own. When I say we, I mean Ka Wai. He built v.1 specifically for our internal use. After a few months, we released it to the public.
Who came up with the name?
The original name for DoneDone was BugSpray. We thought it deserved a better name and DoneDone was the best suggestion (could’ve been me, I forget). It’s a tip of the hat to the Agile/XP concept of only deeming a feature (or story) as truly done when it’s able to be shipped to the public. Everything else, well, isn’t finished.
What technologies have you used to build DoneDone?
On the back-end, we use .NET & SQL Server running on a load-balanced environment down at Rackspace. We’re in the process of getting DoneDone running in Azure right now which will help a ton with redundancy, performance, and costs.
Other than that, just some elbow grease, HTML and jQuery.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing DoneDone?
I’m not sure about specific technical challenges, but there’s a whole lot of unromantic UX and programming work involved in building a SaaS like DoneDone. It’s not just issue tracking, it’s customer management, billing, permissions, storage, performance, and a gazillion other considerations which make a good product. That, I think, is the biggest challenge we’ve faced.
How long did it take to put together DoneDone?
The first version took a few months. Version two, which we released in October of 2011, took about 8 months. We’re currently wrapping up v3, due out in October and that’s been about a 5 month exercise.
You recently made some ‘healthy improvements’ to DoneDone. Can you tell us what you have improved?
Back in July, we released a first iteration of what we’re calling DoneDone notifications. It’s a suite of real-time updates in Chrome, FluidApp, and DoneDone itself which folks can use instead of email to stay on top of their projects. It reduces response time because you’re not sitting around waiting for an email server to squeeze out a notification.
Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
We’ve been working on a v3 of DoneDone which should be out in October. It’s a simplified, responsive UI which removes the project-silo feel of most issue trackers, putting users in better control of how to view and filter their issues. It’s also got kick-butt reporting features. After that, we’re working on due dates (or sprints, milestones, etc.) and integration with Harvest for time tracking. It’s a busy fall, for sure.
How did you decide on your pricing model?
DoneDone originally was pay-per-project on top of a base $15/month fee. It was confusing for users, so we moved to tiered-pricing last October which charges by the user rather than projects. All plans now have unlimited projects. Can’t say that about other services, for sure. We’ve also got a free plan for up to 3 users.
What do you wish you’d have known 6 years ago that you know now?
I was watching a documentary on Pearl Jam a few weeks ago, and the interviewer asked singer Eddie Vedder what advice he’d give his 20-year old self. His answer was “be careful.” I think my advice to myself 6 years ago would be “don’t be so careful.”
Where do you see DoneDone in 5 years time?
DoneDone will continue to be the best issue tracker for teams working closely with clients in testing. More so, though, DoneDone will provide just as much value to other phases of projects, such as planning, design and development. For that to happen, we need to break some cultural barriers in project management. There’s some good precedents out there already which we’re paying close attention to.
What has your growth been like?
Growth has averaged between 5% and 10% month over month pretty reliably. It needs to be stronger though. While our continuous improvements and good customer service are the reasons customers stick around, we need to do more to get folks in the door to begin with.
How many users do you currently have?
We’ve got 37,000 active users spread across 2,000 accounts.
Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
Email and panic. Email is the lazy man’s first go-to tool. Panic leads to a loss of reason which in turn leads to loss of process. DoneDone needs to be the first thing which comes to a user’s mind when something goes wrong with a website.
Which entrepreneurs do you most admire?
I’ve always admired the team around the corner at 37 Signals. There’s no difference between their words and their deeds. I also have strong admiration for guys like Ari Weinzwig, of Zingerman’s fame, who place such strong value on team training, customer service, and running a disciplined small business.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
We’re fortunate to have a successful consulting business in We Are Mammoth which helps fund and staff services like DoneDone. If I were coerced to squeeze a complaint out of that it’d be that we’re not as LEAN a product team as we might be if our very existence were threatened by our product’s balance sheet. I tend to look at the bigger picture though. We’re a successful business, first and foremost.
Who helped you get to where you are today?
Our clients and our customers. We’ve worked with the biggest employers in the world right along side small shops carving out a place in the world. It’s given us a wide perspective and experience which gets funneled right into our product development and services.
My cofounder Ka Wai Cheung is right up there too. He’s a patient, disciplined leader for our company. There’s no We Are Mammoth with out him and I’m lucky to have him as a partner and friend. Hold on, lemme get a tissue.
What is your favourite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
The sun and my moleskin notebook, by far. After that, tools like IA Writer, Instapaper, and Evernote. I’m strangely excited by the recent Moleskin/Evernote smart notebook initiative. Alas, my handwriting is terrible and I’m not sure Evernote’s solved that yet.
What one piece of advice would you give to future startup founders?
Run your business before you hire for it. Manage your books, provide customer service, and be a HR manager before you hire for those positions, for example. If you don’t, your shop is probably going to suck at all of those less-glamorous but critical jobs down the road. That is, if you make it that far. You’ll gain respect for the work itself, make better hires, and understand a whole lot more about what makes a good company (yours!) tick if you’ve worked in trenches other than product development.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
With our business, it’s two things. I’m giddy about our company’s second 6 years. We’ve got a great staff aligned towards helping businesses like ours be better workplaces. I hate to say it, but it took us six years to realize our calling.
The second is a new service we’re building, called Ceremony, which helps small shops like ours be better workplaces by helping with onboarding, employee document management, and team communication.
Outside of We Are Mammoth, I’m excited by Chicago’s relevance as a tech and software community. There’s a workingman’s ethic in this city which is a great match for the huge amount entrepreneurial spirit here. Take a look at Starter League (formerly Code Academy) and our city’s chief data officer (@ChicagoCDO) and you’ll know what I mean.
Can you convince the reader to start using DoneDone in under 50 words?
You know all those times you’re sorting through files, emails, and scribbled-on napkins during production and testing? DoneDone fixes that. For up to 3 users, it does it all for free. Stop throwing your time out the window. Sign up for DoneDone.
Finished reading? Check out DoneDone!