Software Companies Will Want To Keep Track With Trackerbird
Unlike websites, software companies have to deal with the fact that they have almost no idea what their customers are doing with their products, how they’re interacting, what pisses them off, what they’re really digging. Google Analytics lets websites track all of this, but what are desktop software companies to do?
Keith Fenech, CEO of Trackerbird, decided to take some time off from kiteboarding and skydiving to solve this problem with his co-founders Anthony Spiteri, developer, and Clifford Farrugia, CTO. Trackerbird wants to change the way software companies do product management by giving them access to all kinds of anonymous data on user-experience that they couldn’t have even dreamed of before.
The Trackerbird crew is smart, funny, and they have an awesome logo, which is something I always appreciate. Keep reading for great advice from Keith and some hilarious anecdotes about Clifford.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
It took a while to come up with a name. We wanted a short name that people could remember, had a free domain and could be accompanied by a cool logo. The name Trackerbird came along whilst brainstorming on this concept:
Imagine having a little friendly bird sitting on the shoulder of each of your customers whilst they are using your software. The bird would sit there attentively with his binoculars observing how people interact with your software and report back to you on what makes them happy and what frustrates them possibly to a point where they dump your application.
Why did you build Trackerbird – What problem did you want to solve?
Well, as I worked in product management for an international software company, I began to realize there was a big gap in business intelligence. Product Managers (or software developers who are managing their own products) often face dilemmas when trying to take important strategic decisions affecting the product roadmap, and this is usually due to the lack of facts about how people are using their software…
We wanted to build a scalable and affordable solution that could answer these questions. In essence we wanted a high-performance analytics engine that would be the equivalent of Google Analytics but for desktop software.That’s practically how Trackerbird was born.
Whilst we were at it we also wrapped our API with a cool Reachout Marketing framework which allows software vendors to communicate with their user-base by sending promotional or informational messages to their desktops. This is a new marketing channel which can help upsell, cross-sell and increase conversion rates for evaluating users.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
Check mail, coffee, load Windfinder – Being a kitesurfing geek, the latter seems to be an irresistible part of the routine, even though you’re too busy to actually go kiting!
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
When we first started we were just one full-timer and two part-times. Now the company has three full timers and another two persons working on freelance or part-time basis.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
In the early days we didn’t even have a home office so lots of ideas were initially discussed over a beer at some pub, but after the nth beer (and the smell of food being delivered to the next table) things usually got slightly unproductive so we started to meet up at weekend bootcamps where we used to ‘borrow’ the use of a family-owned flatlet for a long weekend, setup our PC’s and get a bunch of (unhealthy?) food supplies to take us through an R&D marathon.
The lack of working space during bootcamps did present a few challenges. On one occasion Clifford decided it was time to fix a flickering lamp during one of his “thinking breaks”. Within 10 seconds he managed to break the lamp stand, create a short circuit, blow the fuse and switch off four development machines costing us a few hundred lines of code (plus the cost of a lamp). Clifford survived (i.e. we did not kill him), but for subsequent bootcamps it became company policy that he was not allowed to touch anything electrical (apart from the coffee machine which uses a seperate circuit).
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Frustration is usually [caused by] of a series of activities gone wrong over time, rather than a single event, and just like a screwed up operating system, a quick reboot usually freshes things up. In my case nothing clears up the mind better than a session of kitesurfing. It’s like a reset button on an old XP machine – makes miracles.
I guess the most frustrating thing is having to deal with people who don’t deliver. I encountered such situations when subcontracting projects on freelance, and being a very pragmatic person, the first reaction is usually “stuff this, I’ll just do it myself!“, however there are times when changing your priorities is not possible or does not make business sense, in which case you just have to work your way politically around it.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
It very much depends on the mood really. We have a very informal working environment and when not working from home, we make use of an open plan office.
There are times when everybody is engulfed in their own world, only the sound of keyboards or mouse clicks breaks the silence. It’s almost the perfect time to consider having a nap, but just before that crosses your mind, like a strike of thunder on a perfectly sunny day, you get somebody like Clifford who jumps out of his chair almost flipping the desk in the process shouting “Fu** I knew it!!!”. It would be one of his ‘Eureka’ moments after spending hours trying to solve the greatest mystery following the Big Bang. That is usually followed by a most welcomed celebration routine where he goes round making coffee for everyone, whilst explaining the details of his discovery.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Our vision is to become the must-have tool for Product & Marketing managers within Software Companies. Just like web-analytics services are nowadays imperative at increasing downloads, Trackerbird will become the quality tool for SMEs to help them truly understand how people engage with their desktop software in order to take timely product management decisions based on FACTS, and increase conversion trends.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food? Give us the deets, dude!
I’m inspired by all people who push beyond their limit to achieve stuff which the people around them might label as crazy, risky or impossible. If I really believe in something, the more people say that’s crazy, the more motivated I get to try and prove it. I believe in always living a step outside my comfort zone, always looking for that extra challenge.
Once you feel comfortable doing something, it’s usually a good idea to you move on to something more challenging, otherwise it’s just a matter of time before you start losing motivation.
I don’t really believe in following role models, because every person carries their own baggage and by aiming to ‘follow’ someone else’s footsteps you will always remain a step behind. Of course it’s good to learn from people’s experience – it usually saves you time and unnecessary pain – but in the end we only have one lifetime, don’t waste it living in a cocoon doing things which have already been proven by someone else, or even worse living someone else’s dream. Ultimately it’s better to live a life of “oh wells” than a life of “what if’s!”
Since I’m an extreme sports enthusiast, one of my favorite quotes is: I refuse to tiptoe myself through life, only to arrive safely at death.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded? Where’d you get the money, man?
Trackerbird is self funded.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Act fast, launch fast, get feedback and re-iterate. It’s much more difficult than it sounds since deciding when you are happy enough to launch a good quality product is not a clear black-on-white decision. But it can help save your cashflow and team motivation. Motivation in a startup team plays a key role in the startup’s survival – I would say passion and motivation is even more important than funding, because if you are passionate enough at what you do, the rest will follow.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your currently startup / projects)
It’s really difficult to imagine a whole year off ! But forcing myself to do so…
– I would love to get back to my old Skydiving hobby – which unfortunately is not something one can easily afford whilst funding a startup.
– Travel the world on adventure holidays and dive with sharks.
– Get my Private Pilot License.
– Invest in a large workshop to build some of my (crazy) DIY engineering projects which I have been on the backburner for a long while. First on the list would be my kite-powered boat.
And as you can see I was good enough not to mention ANYTHING related to Technology and IT!
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
Well the thing is, success is fuelled by the desire to always achieve more. Sometimes one rarely has time to stop and look back and admire the “success.” Having said that, starting with a simple idea, overcoming all the startup challenges, and developing it into full blown sellable product, was a huge achievement in itself.
The fact that Trackerbird is now being used by a number of software companies in their live products was another successful milestone. So yes we did come a long way and this road was only possible because of the brilliant team behind Trackerbird where everyone is determined to push the limits and not give up at all costs.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Google – how else would you know the answer to life, the universe and (almost) everything?
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Google Calendar – life saver. It even reminds me of my girlfriend’s birthday!
Dogs or cats?
Cats, require less space and less maintenance.
iOS or Android?
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
The greatest thing is having a team which believes in a common goal.
Where can our readers get ahold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+?
We’re only just a phonecall or email away. Below are some links for readers who are interested.