This week, DoneDone turns five years old. I wanted to tell you a little bit about our story and what we’ve learned.
Our story is, perhaps, the story of many bootstrapped SaaS applications. Full of major feature additions and minor feature tweaks. Full of emotional highs and lows. Full of steady-as-she-goes growth.
We initially built DoneDone for our own team of seven developers at We Are Mammoth because we weren’t happy with the issue trackers available at the time — free or paid. We found that issues got lost in the ether when you could assign them to no one or everyone. We found that our team was less efficient when you could customize issue statuses and workflow. Software just became a dumping ground for lost ideas. Even today, many bug and issue tracking systems still feel like nothing more than a complex spreadsheet of input fields and text boxes.
We built our product with just those few wishes to start. From the very beginning, DoneDone has always required a single responsible fixer and tester on every issue. It also has a very simple workflow and default filters like “Issues waiting on you” that keep the focus on moving issues along to resolution. After five years and thousands of code commits, those simple tenets are still alive and well.
We launched our product publicly in April of 2009 without much pomp and circumstance. If 37signals could launch Basecamp and make more money in their first month than they thought they would make the entire year, why couldn’t we?! So, we tried it out.
For the first seven weeks we had no paying customers.
This wouldn’t be an overnight success. But, we kept building and building. We kept corresponding with — at the time — our very modest customer base. We kept adding new features like a public API, tagging, third-party integrations, mobile responsiveness, bulk editing, global searching, due dates, reports, activity lists, and Public Issues. Because we’ve taken no external investments and funded ourselves via our consulting work, we’ve always been able to grow DoneDone at our own pace and make our own decisions. That’s been absolutely fulfilling.
Like Washington’s Axe, no single component of the current DoneDone app is original. We’ve switched billing systems. We’ve switched hosting environments. We even rewrote the entire codebase back in 2011. We’ve gone from pay-per-project to a tiered payment structure. But, philosophically, DoneDone is still that same axe. We still want it to be the issue tracker that hits the sweet spot — the intersection between what a developer, project manager, and non-technical client needs to get their products out-the-door.
In the past year, DoneDone has been used in over 120 countries. Each month, DoneDone sees well over 30,000 new issues logged and on their way to resolution. In 2013, we saw an 88% increase in our gross revenue. We can’t thank you — our customers — enough for helping DoneDone continue to head in the right direction.
So, if you’ve been wondering what wisdom can we pass along to you? In five years, here are the lessons that persist.
Give things time to find their right place.
Our redesign this past March had a polarizing effect on you. We got a lot of compliments on the new design, but frankly, some of you detested the change. We took that feedback to heart, and we’ve made some alterations to get at the optimal design. And, we’ll continue to do so. We’ve learned that the growth of an application is equal parts dreaming, building, listening, and internal debating.
Customer service is a feature.
If you’ve emailed, tweeted, or submitted a ticket to us in the past 18 months, you’ve talked directly to one of 2 people. Either Jeremy or I have gotten back to you — and hopefully, quicker than you’ve expected it. As a small business, we’ve learned that communication with our customers is even more impactful than a line of new code. It creates a real trust between us and you that can’t be automated.
Nothing feels more meaningful than helping someone.
Despite what may be portrayed in movies like The Social Network or where Mike Judge’s new HBO series Silicon Valley will likely head, DoneDone’s story is simply about a few people wanting to earn a living building something that helps people. Our every day wins aren’t about securing that next round of funding nor getting a step closer to the exit.
Instead, they’re far more modest. A win for us is when we can help the super-friendly folks at Crush & Lovely in New York better integrate Git commits into their DoneDone workflow. Or, when the Stampede Design team in Malaysia tells us how much they love the new design. Or, when we can collaborate with Phil at Doorbell.io to offer an even simpler way to gather customer feedback into DoneDone. That’s the real stuff that keeps us motivated to do more.
There’s certainly more work ahead for us. But, for now, thank you for a wonderful first five years!