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Chris Cardell

Interview with Paul Rhodes (Loggable)

Loggable is a simple way for freelancers, developers and creatives to track time and control costs.

I interviewed Paul Rhodes, Loggable founder to find out more. This is the hundred and fifty first in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Paul!

How would you describe Loggable in under 50 words?

Loggable is an intentionally simple time tracking and analysis tool designed to help talented businesses who are great at what they do but not so great at managing their time. It facilitates retrospectives and helps businesses improve their processes and profitability.

How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

A thirty something, developer turned business owner.

Tell us more about how Loggable works and who uses it.

The system is based on split level reporting. For every project there is a budget (time sold, set by the manager) and the actual time taken to complete a task (time taken, completed by the team). The team members enter the time taken to complete a task against a project using a simple categorisation system. This data is then processed to report progress, split off type of work completed and a visible history of the project. Loggable is not designed as a stick with which to beat team members with. Instead, it creates conversation around what to do differently next time to improve. You can see where calendar deadlines slip but profitability is maintained. It demonstrates what happens when you throw resources at a problem. The main users of Loggable at the moment are creatives and developers, however, we are reaching more sectors with chartered surveyors and professional service companies adopting it. As a result of a freelancer using Loggable for 1 week they increased their prices :-)

Tell us a bit about your background. How did your interest in web development start?

I’m a naturally lazy person and have always been interested in music. I went to University pre dot-com boom because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I loved playing in bands and wanted to create digital music CDs with video and multimedia tracks for bands.

I did a computing course that was 50% programming (PHP, Director, Flash) and 50% design. I quickly learnt that I am not a designer. Whilst at Uni I worked for a multimedia company in Manchester and loved it! We created educational and promotional CD-ROMs for large corporates. After graduation, I moved back to the Midlands and got a job as a multimedia / web developer with the focus on web. Over the next 8 years, I worked as a junior developer and progressed to senior web developer for a number of early mobile web companies. The companies were early adopters for mobile and we developed mobile delivery platforms to get content onto green screen mobile phones over WAP. This gave me a taste of both service and product development. I didn’t realise at the time how much I loved product development.

You started 22 Blue, a web and mobile development consultancy. Did you always want to be your own boss?

I never imagined myself running a business. I kind of fell into it. I’d worked for 2 previous companies where I was tasked with building the development teams. On both occasions, I was one of the first developers in and grew the team of developers to 8 and 10 respectively. During this phase, I became a certified Scrum Master and was doing more and more management, when all I really wanted to do was develop and cut the code for 8 hours a day.

I was lucky enough to go on a business trip to Boston, USA and see the likes of Jason Cohen, Kent Beck and Jeff Sutherland talk about Agile, Continuous Integration and TDD. This was a moment that changed everything. On the flight home I saw there was “another way” to address some of the core issues we were facing as a product development team. Unfortunately, my boss at the time didn’t see it that way. So with my 2nd child on the way and no real plan, I decided that I would start my own company that allow me the freedom to pursue my idealistic view of development.

Tell us about your recent startup, Green Gorilla Apps. What made you decide to start working on Loggable?

Despite my best intentions, huge amount of stress, late nights and long hours 22 Blue sadly went into liquidation in May 2012. I had grown the company from my bedroom to a team of 6 in 12 short months and after 2 years it started to unravel. We traded on raw talent and I learned some big lessons about the commercial aspects of business – sounds simple now. After a lot of soul searching I had to made a decision about the future… I decided that despite all the negatives, if I corrected a number of the core problems then it would work.

Green Gorilla was born and the very first thing we did as a team was to conduct a post mortem on the past 12 months – the highs and lows. We identified that as a service based business there were some key questions about our delivery that should be able to be answered at any stage of the project. Out of this requirement and the need to get things right, we developed Loggable v1 in the first week of trading. We wanted a solid base to build upon.

Where are you based? Who is the team behind Loggable?

We (Paul, Sam, Kyle and Jon) are based in Bromsgrove, in the Midlands, UK.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Loggable?

The system isn’t that complex so nothing was particularly challenging from a technical perspective. We spent a lot of time promoting, reviewing and gaining user feedback. Of all the technical tasks, the user invites system was the most complex. Users have their own accounts, as well as being team members and / or collaborators with other accounts.

How long did it take to put together Loggable?

We developed the original version in CakePHP in 1 week.

Over the next 6 months, we rolled it out to early adopters and gained feedback. We reviewed and implemented the key ideas over the next 6 months whilst working fulltime on service contracts.

During those 6 months, we had transitioned as a business from PHP to Rails (part of the idealistic approach).

So in Dec 2012 we rewrote the entire application in Ruby on Rails and launched it on 7th Jan 2013 out of closed Beta.

I can actually tell you the exact hours completed to date: 353 hours / approx 44 days.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

Lots. We have kept Loggable intentionally simple. It doesn’t do invoicing or classic project management or CRM like many other time tracking tools. Our plans for 2013 are to build upon the key reporting suite and also integrate with third party systems like Xero, Nimble and Basecamp.

What do you wish you’d have known 3 years ago that you know now?

From a commercial perspective, the importance of strong legals, good financial team and most importantly credit control. That said, had those been in place Green Gorilla and Loggable would not exist today.

From a technical perspective, be idealistic and follow through. The power of creativity from within your own team is unparalleled. We use Rails, TDD, Agile, CI all because we all believe it the best thing for the job.

Where do you see Loggable in 3 years time?

I want Loggable to have a dedicated team pushing it forward, rolling out new features and supporting users. Currently, we are a service company supporting a product part time.

Has Loggable got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

It’s early, early days but so far we are slowly but surely building our user base. The most important thing is that we engage with our users and listen to their ideas.

How many users do you currently have?

As of launch at the start of Jan we have 80 users.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

The hardest job of all is ahead of us, growing the user base through marketing and supporting our community. We want to be a human, approachable company. If someone is having a bad experience, we want to engage with them and help. The feedback so far has been great in terms of ideas and also our promptness to fix issues.

Name 3 trends that excite you.

Continuous Integration, Open Source Opinionated Software and Frameworks.

What tips do you have for effective time management?

Log it and review it. If you don’t log your time, how can you ever improve.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’d like to say Xbox and Guitar, but it has to be spending quality time with my wife and 2 kids at the park.

What one piece of advice would you give to soon to be startup founders?

Take action, don’t think about doing it too much. Planning is overrated. Get out there and prove a concept as quickly and easily as possible. Oh, and read Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

Promoting Loggable. We have a big launch event at the end of Feb that is going to be pretty cool.

Can you convince the reader to sign up to Loggable in under 50 words?

Question: do you know how much profit is left in each of your projects at this moment in time?

Finished reading? Check out Loggable!

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2013 at 9:43 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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