Welcome Drew Lafferty and Lizelotte Green!

Hello, friends of Balsamiq! Our not-so-little-anymore team keeps on growing!

Today I would like to introduce to you our two new team members: Drew Lafferty and Liz Green!

Drew Lafferty


Drew is a jack-of-all-trades Developer / DevOps, based in Chicago, Illinois.

Drew Lafferty

He loves working full stack and diving into both front-end and back-end code, as well as learning about new web technologies and anything Ops related.

His main responsibility is to be the lead developer of Olio, our home-grown CRM web app.

On top of that, he's something close to an "IT guy" for us: if anyone has a technical question or needs some programming help, Drew's there to help.

We received over 200 applications for this job position and met some great people in the process. After three rounds of interviews, it became clear that Drew was the one who had the right combination of experience, skills, shared interests, location and culture fit for this particular job position.

Drew is already becoming an integral part of our team. It's such a luxury having him around!

Lizelotte Green


Lizelotte goes by Liz, and her job title is "Tier 2 Sales Support and Product Manager for CRM". It means that she's going to become our in-house expert on how we sell our different products, and work with Drew to make Olio as powerful and easy to use as possible for our sales support team.

Liz Green

Again, we received over 200 applications for Liz's position and met some really great candidates, who we hope to cross paths again with in the future.

We are ecstatic with having chosen Liz, though: she's smart, detail-oriented, enthusiastic, warm, driven and independent. She's also based out of Chicago, which gives her ample time to overlap with our CET and PST sales support team members.

You can find Drew and Liz's contact info on our company page.

Please join us in welcoming them to the Balsamiq family by adding a comment below!

Onward!

Peldi

P.S. BTW, we're not stopping here. We'll have more hiring-related announcements in the future, stay tuned here and keep checking our jobs page regularly!

The Balsamiq Marketing Checklist

balsamiq-marketing-checklist
Hello friends of Balsamiq!

Today we would like to share another one of our Handbook pages with you. This time, it's about Marketing.

We've come a long way since my guerrilla marketing approaches of 2008, and our marketing style has had to adapt.


What Does Marketing Mean at Balsamiq?

Marketing is a word that comes with baggage. It used to have a "push things down people's throats" connotation, but things are changing.

We use the word marketing to define anything customer-facing that we do:

Other ways to define it could be "customer communication" or even "most of what we do". :)

We "Do Marketing" in 4 Ways

  1. Product and Customer Service. Similarly to Apple, we lead with our product. Our main effort should be about making a product that's "at home" good. After that, we should focus on supporting and educating our customers so well that they become successful. If we do those things, extremely powerful word of mouth will follow.
  2. Inbound / Content Marketing. We like to generously give back to our community by providing a lot of free valuable content, giving away our software to schools, non-profits and many others, and more.
  3. Content Discovery / Community Management. We actively participate in the UX and startup communities in order to stay abreast of what's new, discover content to share with our customer and to nurture our market as a whole.
  4. Advertising. We believe that once the right people find us, they will become more successful. So we also spend a little effort trying to reach people who might need it. We do this via Sponsorships and Ads which guide them first to our website, then to try the product, then help them make something with it.

The Balsamiq Marketing Checklist

We use this checklist anytime we write a new blog post, documentation article, tutorial, FAQ, web page, Facebook post, even a little Tweet!

The list is very much inspired by our mantras, so make sure you internalize those first.

  • Goal
    • what's the piece's main goal? Informational, inspirational, or...?
    • how does this help rid the world of bad software?
    • which of our personas is this useful for?
      • how does this make them more awesome?
      • can we make them feel smart by reading it?
    • does this even need to exist at all, or is it noise?
    • is it as short as possible without losing information and tone? (respect people's time)
  • Medium and Channel
    • what is the right medium for this message? For example, should it be a video instead of a blog post?
    • does it have a picture on it, preferably with a face on it? (no stock photo, and don't be shy with our own faces)
    • what's the best channel for this content?
    • how can we improve its chances to reach the right people?
  • Tone: does our personality shine through?
    • does it do it in a non-humblebrag, non-condescending and non-contrived way?
    • is it honest, authentic, humble, transparent, witty, endearing, cute, delightful?
    • does it show the bad with the good? does it show our current challenges?
  • Invite Conversation
    • does it speak to our community as peers?
    • does it mention members for our community, and thank them for their input?
    • does it ask for help and invite conversation?
  • Timing
    • is it time-sensitive? Does it need to be scheduled?
    • is it timeless, or is its impermanence made explicit?
      • if it's meant to be timeless, don't use numbers
      • if it's not, write it down "this is our current thinking, which might change"
  • Take it to 11
    • how can we possibly make this less about us and more about them?
    • how can we take this to 11? How can we make this "best of the web"?
  • Housekeeping
    • how does this fit with the rest of our content? What pages should link to this? How should this be highlighted?

Download it as PDF!


So there you have it. This is our current thinking about marketing. I'm sure it will evolve, but it's been serving us well recently. What do you think? How could we improve the checklist?

Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

The Balsamiq Mantras

As we say on our company page, since starting out in 2008,

we are trying to build a company we’d like to do business with ourselves. We aim to be a company that’s human, respectful, transparent, inclusive, socially and environmentally conscious, and a good citizen of the world and the Web.

To help ourselves translate this aspirational goal into day-to-day practice, we recently created a handbook page which we call "The Balsamiq Mantras".

These are statements and concepts we try to keep in mind every time we interact with our community, and with each other.

It's all common sense stuff we've been doing to the best of our abilities for a long time, but we've only recently written it down, mostly for new hires.

I am sharing this today hoping it will be useful to other startups, and to ask for your help improving it. We hope you'll want to help us make our Mantras better in the comments!

The Balsamiq Mantras

  1. Help Our Customers (And Their Users) Be More Awesome
  2. Genuinely Care About our Customers' Success, Customer Service is The New Marketing
  3. Be Good Servant Leaders, Be Good Citizens
  4. Be Generous
  5. Be So Good They Can't Ignore You. The Golden Puzzle
  6. Inspire With Our Culture

1. Help Our Customers (And Their Users) Be More Awesome

Everything we do is geared towards making our customers - and even their customers - more awesome at what they do.

Kathy Sierra talks about this idea in her talk about Building the minimum Badass User or her book "Badass: Making Users Awesome". Both are highly recommended.

badass

It's not about our product, our company, our brand.
It's not about how our users feel about us.
It's about how the user feels about himself, in the context of whatever it is our product, service, cause helps him do and be.

Just like a good UI, we should aim to disappear in the background and only be there when people need us.

That's why we talk about benefits instead of features, why we showcase people's success via the Champions blog, why we made the high five page, and lots more.

When you're working on something, consider: how does this make our users more awesome?

Think: what else can we do to make our community more awesome? How can we help our customers help their clients/customers/users become more awesome?

2. Genuinely Care About our Customers' Success, Customer Service is The New Marketing

As our email signatures say, we're good people, and we care.

The central idea is to try and really put yourself in the customer's shoes.

  • This means really listening, reading their messages carefully, without rushing, trying to understand where they're coming from.
  • It means being patient, empathetic, compassionate and non-judgmental. Remember: An Enemy Is One Whose Story We Have Not Heard [Irene Butter].
  • Then, it means imagining the user as someone you like, someone you'd like to help succeed in life.
  • In support, this results in really trying to imagine the best course of action for the user, including offering full refunds, suggesting a competing product, offering to recreate some lost data for them...
  • In marketing, this means being clear and honest about benefits as well as shortcomings, being respectful and never talking down to our users, and always trying to align our goals with theirs.

When in doubt, choose to trust people's good intentions. Don't waste your energy trying to decipher if someone might be trying to scam us, it's not worth our time.

Be human, warts and all!

Think: how can we make our customers more successful? Do our processes support this goal?

NOTE: there is a tension here: on one hand we want everyone at Balsamiq to have the freedom to do what's right for the user, but we can't afford to overdo it. A line has to be drawn somewhere.

For example: giving our software away for free to everyone would undoubtedly help more people be successful, but it would also drive us out of business. Another example: we used to give all open-source projects, even tiny ones, free myBalsamiq forever. After a while we realized that this put a strain on our servers, so now we require that open-source projects have at least 20 contributors. We offer smaller projects Mockups for Desktop instead.

In other words, let's try to be accommodating, but also keep in mind the long-term sustainability of what we offer customers.

Think about it this way: going too far is actually something that hurts our customers in the long term, as it might drive us out of business.

Derek Sivers speaks about this in this excellent podcast interview, at around minute 18:00. He says you have to serve others within the limits of what you can sustainably do.

3. Be Good Servant Leaders, Be Good Citizens

As we say on our company page, we try to be good upstanding citizens of our online community.

We realize that we are only a small part of a community that involves our customers, our users, our partners, our competitors, their users, industry experts, bloggers, event organizers, and many others.

We strive to be considered leaders in our community, but we know we have to earn it.

Here's a quote about Servant Leadership:

The point of servant leadership is to serve others by thinking of their needs, recognizing their needs and supporting efforts to meet their needs. Doing that requires strength, clear vision, and an undeterred drive. It’s not about taking a backseat and deferring to the whims and wishes of others.

Highly effective leaders are more interested in creating more leaders not in gathering more followers. They see themselves as equals to others. They adopt an other-orientation so they are able to be more effective in reaching their own goals, too.

We also try to be good citizens by sponsoring do-gooders, volunteering, donating 3% of our profits, and more.

How this applies to competition: we never speak ill of our competitors: they are people, doing their best, just like us.

We compete on usability and customer service: if someone has better usability and customer service than we do, they deserve to win.

We are respectful of our customer's time: that's why we believe in quality over quantity, and we are extremely mindful of not spamming our customers.

Think: how else can we be of service to our community? We have time and money: how can we use them to provide something that the community needs?

4. Be Generous

Derek Sivers says:

All great service comes from this feeling of generosity and abundance.

We can afford to be generous.

We have the time, we have the money, helping people is what we should be doing. So, be generous!

If the word generous doesn't do it for you, you could try compassionate instead.

Think: having a hard time with a difficult task, or a difficult customer? Think to yourself: am I being generous enough?

5. Be So Good They Can't Ignore You. The Golden Puzzle

A big part of being REALLY GOOD at what we do is to really "GET" our customers. We strive to think outside the box in order to provide them with "the complete solution" and not just a piece of it.

Some examples of how we do this:

  • we show inspiring quotes while people wait for things to load
  • we have an "I need inspiration" Help menu
  • we have a What should I make for dinner? menu
  • we lighten the mood of a support call by Rick-Rolling them with our hold music.

...all these things scream "we get you!" to our customers.

Atlassian calls this Always Be Marketing. We call it the Golden Puzzle: whenever someone writes something good about us publicly that's not about our core competencies (in our case, our product and our support), we call that a Golden Puzzle piece. Here's our collection.

I spoke about this concept in my Business of Software 2010 talk (from 29:32 to 34:25), take a look:
goldenpuzzle

This is, of course, easier said than done. It's a high bar to reach, and we will not reach it every time. But it's a good goal to have, it's a fun challenge.

When people copy what you do, rejoice! It's a sign that it was really good! :)

Think: whatever you're working on, how can you make it go to 11?

6. Inspire With Our Culture

This is something that's hard to do because we run the risk of seeming boastful or, even more annoyingly, humblebragging.

At the same time, this is something that people respond really well to, and some people actively demand of us.

People consider us thought leaders in many different fields:

  • bootstrapping a micro-multinational
  • our progressive company policies
  • being "optimized for working from home"
  • being "a learning organization"
  • providing outstanding support
  • being human! (empathy, saying sorry, using GIFs, taking responsibility, REALLY listening...)

Our community wants us to share what we learn along the way. We're just trying to figure this out like everyone else. Sharing our progress helps us digest it and invites ideas we wouldn't have on our own.

We do this in this Life@Balsamiq blog, but we should do more.

Think: what are some topics we should share? What are some guidelines we can follow when sharing these kinds of topics? How do we deal with content obsoletion?


Questions and Challenges

Of course, this philosophy is not without challenges.

Here are a few questions we're pondering right now (we'd love your help in the comments for these):

  • How can we make sure we preserve these values as our company grows?
  • What risks does this expose us to?
  • Is this clear enough to be digestible by everyone at Balsamiq?
  • Is it too long? Too preachy?
  • Does this page inspire people to do more, do better?
  • Is this enough to insure we have a consistent voice?
  • What's missing from this page?
  • What would you remove, or re-work?

A final note to our awesome customers: please hold us accountable! We try to live up to our goals, but we're only human. Don't be shy with negative feedback, it helps us serve you better! :)

Thanks for reading this far, looking forward to reading your thoughts below.

Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

Looking Back at 2015

Hello again friends of Balsamiq!

Peldi here with our traditional "state of the union" end-of-year report. You can find previous editions here: 2008, 2009, 2013, and 2014.

As usual, this is going to be a very long post.

Summary

We continue to truck along nicely, executing on our vision one step at the time. As usual, a large part of our efforts happen behind the scenes, both in product development and in general company growth. Revenue-wise, 2015 was yet another record year for us, with sales passing $6.4 million. We continue to grow organically, just the way we like it.

In 2015 we released Balsamiq Mockups 3, a MAJOR update to our product. In many ways, it's the product we should have built from the beginning. We also worked on bringing the new version to our different products, and will continue that effort in 2016.

2016 is going to be another very exciting year for us, with the native version of Mockups we've been working on for years finally being released, at least in our browser-based products.

The Nitty-Gritty

Interested in all the details? Let's dive in!

Mockups

After about a year of incredibly hard work, in March we released Balsamiq Mockups 3 for Desktop. It added native support for projects, a more modern and professional UX, easier to use symbols and assets, new icons, a new fullscreen mode, built-in support for "branching" via alternates, a trash bin, and even background music to help you focus.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on what we added to Mockups in 2015. Take a look at these release notes for all the details:

We also wrote a bunch of automated tests for the new codebase, and are always adding more.

If you still haven't updated, you're really missing out. Just head over to our download page to get your free update!

myBalsamiq

The themes for myBalsamiq in 2015 were: security, yearly plans and switching to native.

We did a lot of work with security researchers to make sure your data was as secure as it could be. We did twenty-five (25!!!) zero-downtime, invisible-to-you releases in 2015, and are very happy with where we are right now. We will of course continue to work with security researchers and follow industry best practices to keep your data safe and secure (email us at security@balsamiq.com if you want to get involved).

After a lot of under-the-hood refactoring, we were able to finally ship annual plans for myBalsamiq, which are especially useful for our large enterprise customers, but convenient for all (annual plans get 12 months for the price of 10).

Another big focus for myBalsamiq has been to bring the new editor features to it. Because our native HTML/JS editor is coming along very nicely, we've decided to use it for the next major update to myBalsamiq instead of trying to cram the old Flex-based one into it. For our myBalsamiq customers, this means having to wait longer, but we think the new stuff will be worth the wait.

We also did a couple of small releases to lower the pain of those of you who work both with myBalsamiq and Desktop 3, by integrating the FontAwesome icon set in the "old" myBalsamiq editor.

We also continued adding lots of automated tests, so we can all sleep better at night.

In 2015 our users added 24,000 projects to myBalsamiq, which is now hosting about 140,000 projects. Sweet!

Plugins

2015 was another record year for our plugins as well.

We released a new version of Mockups for Google Drive, which is now at feature parity with Mockups 3 for Desktop. We also started migrating our customers from the PinPayments payment processor to Stripe.

On the Atlassian plugins front, we updated Mockups for JIRA to make it compatible with JIRA 7, and Mockups for Confluence to make it compatible with Confluence 5.9. We also added the FontAwesome icon set to them.

We also worked on (and released in early 2016) a new version of Mockups for JIRA for Atlassian Cloud customers, which also brings it to feature parity with Mockups 3 for Desktop, and is sold only via Atlassian Marketplace.

We are working with Atlassian on a new version of Mockups for Confluence for Atlassian Cloud customers, which will be released in 2016.

Mockups 3 for Google Drive and Mockups 3 for JIRA Cloud use a new collaboration server we made which provides real-time collaboration, so that multiple people can edit the same project at the same time.

We attended AtlasCamp in Prague and sponsored Atlassian Summit in San Francisco. Our commitment to the Atlassian ecosystem remains strong.

The Long Road to Native

We continued to invest a significant amount of effort in our "going to native" project. This means effectively rewriting our 7-year-old codebase in a way that will enable us to deliver our product as a native application, both on the Web and in all major desktop and mobile platforms.

We started the year by building a proof-of-concept application on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and HTML/JS. This little project taught us a lot about possible performance issues and other "gotchas", and informed our architectural decisions for the main Mockups editor project.

When that was done, we started working on the editor in earnest, replicating the existing features of Balsamiq Mockups 3 one by one. We still don't have too much to show you publicly, but we're super-excited about it, and are shooting for doing a private beta of a new version of myBalsamiq that uses the web client sometime mid-2016. Stay tuned here for updates.

In the meantime, you can get a taste of what's to come by using the native HTML/JS viewer in Mockups 3 for Google Drive, or the newly released Mockups 3 for JIRA Cloud.

This is going to be our biggest project of 2016. It'll be great.

Ops

Operations is often the unsung hero of the story: if things work smoothly, no-one notices! :)

As always, we did a lot of ops work in 2015, including migrating the myBalsamiq mySQL version from 5.5 to 5.6 (harder than it sounds), we moved the build archives from an old Rackspace account to AWS S3, we did several updates to our build machine and Jenkins, we reserved AWS instances and regularly reviewed AWS Trusted Advisor for security and other improvements. We also added DKIM/DMARC to our domains to ensure a more secure and reliable delivery of our emails.

Here's a Pingdom report for all of our monitors for 2015.

pingdom

As always we could do better, but we're pretty proud of all those 100%s!

Sponsorships and Philanthropy

  • As usual, we donated 3% of our 2014 profits to different non-profits!
  • We sponsored 85 new events in 22 countries!
  • We gave away over 306 months of free myBalsamiq service!
  • We raffled off tickets to 6 different conferences and events!
  • We gave away 781 free licenses to do-gooders of all kinds!
  • We gave our employees lots of free time to volunteer, and organized a few volunteering company outings.

It feels good to be a good citizen! :)

Marketing and Website Updates

Now that we have a product we're proud of and a great organization to support it, we started pushing on marketing a bit more.

Support, Docs & Sharing What We Learned

Website updates

  • We switched balsamiq.com, support.balsamiq.com, docs.balsamiq.com, blogs.balsamiq.com, forums.balsamiq.com and uxapprentice.com to HTTPS. It's more secure, and Google likes it better.
  • We made all of our websites responsive, so that they look great on tablets and phones.
  • We switched our site search provider from Google Custom Search to Swiftype. Try it out, it's awesome.
  • We improved our product comparison page.
  • We improved our company page and added a little easter egg to it (click on the team photo!)
  • We improved our What should I make for dinner? page and published 12 new video recipes.
  • We changed how we build our balsamiq.com website, from grunt to gulp + webpack.
  • We created a new React-powered contact form to help us skip a few steps when giving people support.
  • We also created other React-powered forms, for applying for a sponsorships, free software or a job at Balsamiq. These forms integrate directly with Desk.com (our help desk service) and Confluence (our internal Wiki).
  • UX Apprentice is now translated in 6 languages (English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish), and we added a useful resource page to it.
  • We added a curated press list to our site.
  • We created a new page for our talks and interviews.
  • We updated our brand a bit: gone is the sad old dark red, welcome the new bright red! :)

Admin, Finance and More

Making sure a 20-person geographically-distributed startup runs smoothly is no small task.

We hired 4 people, in 3 different countries: as you can imagine, that's a lot of paperwork. :)

In 2015 our friend Ben Norris left us to follow his dreams - we miss you Ben! :) - so we decided to leave the state of Utah and instead establish a nexus in Illinois, where Brendan lives.

We also organized a company retreat in a castle in the Loire Region of France, which was amazing.

We hired an intern (Alain) to work on an exciting new feature of Mockups, coming soon.

We continued to improve our local benefits packages, by offering food vouchers for our Italian employees, adding a pension fund in Germany, better medical support in the Netherland, introducing 401(k) matching for our US employees, added a $250/mo co-working allowance for everyone, and more.

We also changed our vacation policy from being "unlimited" to "minimum expected days", which is more effective in encouraging employees to actually take vacation. We got written up about it on CNN Money, which was pretty cool. :)

As usual, we worked with our accountants and lawyers and investment bankers, to make sure we're doing everything right. :)

We also raised the price of Mockups for Desktop for the first time in its history - from $79 to $89 for a single license - and extended the trial period from 7 to 30 days.

Here are the revenue figures for 2015:

2015_revenue

As you can see, revenue is a healthy $6.4M, up 4.87% since 2014. Nice and steady growth, just the way we like it.

2015_revenue_by_product

2015_revenue_area

The two charts above show that people continue to gradually migrate from Desktop to SaaS, in line with the whole software industry. This is lovely for us, as SaaS revenue is super-predictable, and recurring! :)

2015_geo

The chart above is also very similar to last year's. As always, Australia is over-represented in this chart because that's how we track sales that happen via Atlassian Marketplace (Atlassian is based in Australia, but the customers really come from all over the world).

2015_transactions

Our shopping cart handled over 123,000 transactions in 2015. Solid! :)

Profits remain very healthy. We won't have the exact figures for a few months, but we suspect they'll be over 30% again.

Conferences, Interviews and Press Mentions

We attended the following conferences (bold means that one of us spoke at the event):

  • DotJS Conference Paris
  • UserConf 2015 San Francisco
  • Atlassian Summit San Francisco
  • Code Mesh 2015 London
  • Storytelling and Social Media Workshop Bologna
  • ReactJS Day - Verona
  • Newsletter and Email Marketing Workshop Bologna
  • Business of Software Boston
  • CITCON - Helsinki
  • Software Circus, Programmable Infrastructure, Amsterdam
  • Microconf Europe Barcelona
  • Madison+ UX Conference
  • ReactEurope 2015 Paris
  • AtlasCamp Prague
  • NSConference 7 London
  • Google+ workshop's Bologna
  • World IA Day Bologna
  • IXDA San Francisco
  • Interaction 15

Press mentions around the web are too many to list, but here's a little sample of some of the most interesting articles:

Looking ahead

We're very excited about the year ahead. We are already working on some highly requested features, and the "going native" project is really coming along well. Our plugins will get a full revamp, we'll continue to invest a bit more in marketing, and we'll probably hire a couple more people to help us go even faster.

As always, we hope you'll want to come with us in our journey.


Thanks for reading this super-long post.

If anything in this post surprised you or sparked your interest, don't be shy and add a comment! I'd love to answer any questions you might have.

We hope 2016 brings you and your families health, happiness and success.

Onward!
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

Welcome Brendan, Virgin and Stefano!

Hello friends of Balsamiq!

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you three new members of the Balsamiq family today.

Brendan Saricks

Brendan is the guy in your family that everyone calls when their computer doesn't work. He has been a customer advocate (and nerd) for his entire adult life, and is excited to help the awesome Balsamiq community make the best software and websites they can!

Brendan is based in the Chicago, Illinois area.

Virgin Pereira

We stole Virgin away from a certain fruit technology company where he was taking care of European customers. He is very excited to join the Balsamiq team and help users making their way through this great software!

Virgin is based in Bretagne-de-Marsan, a peaceful village in the South-West of France.

Stefano Brilli

Stefano is an ambitious programmer working on Mockups. In the past he did everything, from embedded programming to web development. He is excited to learn how an independent software vendor such as Balsamiq works, and the possibility it provides to work on several different technologies.

Stefano works out of our Bologna, Italy office.


We are now up to 20 people, can you believe it? Our little 5-star restaurant on the web keeps growing up! :)

Please join us in welcoming our new awesome Balsamici by leaving a comment below.

Onward!
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

Looking back at 2014

Hello again friends of Balsamiq!

Peldi here with our traditional "state of the union" end-of-year report. You can find previous editions here: 2008, 2009 and 2013.

As usual, this is going to be a very long post.

Summary

We're doing great. We're executing on our vision, one step at a time. Most of what we did in 2014 was behind the scenes, and will be released in 2015 (we're SO excited). Revenue grew about 4.5% (not bad considering our last official release was in March), and profit margins remain very healthy. Our micro-multinational finally feels mature, with all the processes and benefit programs we'll need for a while. Customers are gradually migrating from Desktop to myBalsamiq, as expected. Support load and competitive pressure are both low, so we can afford to stay focused on gradually moving to native platforms and other hard-to-do product improvements.

The Nitty-Gritty

Interested in all the details? Let's dive in!

Mockups

We only had one official release of Mockups this year, on March 13. With it we introduced bracketed text links and iPad and iOS7-styled controls. We also did 3 small bug fix releases, but overall, the 2.2 codebase has been mothballed since about April, when we shifted our focus to...

Balsamiq Mockups 3: as you may remember from last year, our focus has been to gradually move away from Flash, towards native implementations on all major platforms, while sharing the bulk of our code-base between versions. It's a massive undertaking, and a risky one. To lower this risk, we decided to take two in-between steps: the first one was to refactor our existing code-base to separate the parts that required Flash from those that didn't. The idea was to end up with a core set of classes that could be translated to Javascript to form the core of our native editors. We spent months rearchitecting the existing code-base, pushing Flash-specific classes to the edges and cleaning up 6-years worth of technical debt in the process. That effort is now complete, the new codebase is a joy to work with, and will serve as the basis for the future Balsamiq Mockups native editors, coming sometime in the future. The other step we wanted to take to minimize risk in the migration to native was to make all of the UX changes we've been wanting to make to the product for years, BEFORE going native. This way we could deliver the changes sooner and test them on the existing code-base, letting the dust settle before we port the new UX to native platforms.

These two steps (code refactoring and UX improvements) were meant to happen separately, but sometime in April we decided it made more sense to do it all at once. It took about 10 months, but it's all done. We are planning on opening up a public beta of Balsamiq Mockups 3 at the beginning of February, and starting work on the native editors in earnest right after that (we'll start with iPad and Android versions first).

UX changes in Balsamiq Mockups 3

The main change is that we are finally moving from a one-mockup-per-file to a one-project-per-file model. The new file format is called BMPR (pronounced bumper) and it contains all of the mockups, assets and symbols for a given project. Super-easy to share, and designed for the future (it will also contain mockup revisions, branches, comments, and more).

Mockups for Desktop 3 is able to import and export your existing BMML files, but BMPR is its primary file format. BMPRs are based on sqlLite, which allows us to automatically save every change as you make it.

The editing UX is much more mature: you can open multiple project windows at the same time, and we have adopted a "3 column" UI which is very common for authoring tools: the list of resources is on the left, and properties are on the right. The annoying floating property inspector is finally a thing of the past! :)

We also made the full-screen presentation experience much more powerful, and greatly simplified creating and working with Symbols.

In the process, we fixed over 750 issues between bugs and feature requests. The app is noticeably faster and able to handle large projects without much trouble.

Balsamiq Mockups 3 is going public beta on 2/2/2015, stay tuned on our Product Blog for the download link!

The road to native

In 2014 we focused on creating a multi-platform viewer of BMML files, as a first step towards native editors. It was a lot of work, but it came out really nicely. We now have a core set of Javascript classes that can render any BMML natively in multiple platforms.

We soft-launched (or are about to launch) 3 incarnations of this native viewer:

  • a native OSX BMML QuickLook plugin: read more and try it out here. We are going to make this work in Yosemite and understand BMPR files soon.
  • an HTML+SVG viewer inside of myBalsamiq, in the single mockups view. This will ship publicly in a few weeks.
  • a native linux renderer (uses Node.js and Canvas to output bitmap files) to be used by myBalsamiq for creating thumbnails and PDFs. This will replace our current hacked-together and error-prone solution of running a cluster of Mockups for Desktop linux clients.

The viewer supports skins, links, custom icons, assets...the works!

myBalsamiq

2014 was a good year for myBalsamiq, our beloved web app.

Just like for the Mockups editor itself, most of the work happened behind the scenes. We actually shipped 25 releases of myBalsamiq (all without any downtime of course). We added the ability to specify a secondary billing administrator, we added more events to the mockup-, project- and site-history streams, we added the ability to restore deleted mockups, made several performance updates and added features to help our sales support team extend trials quickly. We also worked extensively with security experts, making your data safer every day.

Behind the scenes, we rearchitected how we save mockups in the database (we migrated the BMML data out of RDS and into S3), we merged custom editor code with our main browser-based Flash editor, started using Docker and Vagrant to develop and deploy different components of our web app, made the app work with our new Buy Page, gave our administrator UI a new look and feel and started React-ifying the front-end code.

2015 will be the year in which we finally start investing more in myBalsamiq. By the spring, we should have 3 full-time developers on it (incredibly, we've only had Luis work on myB full-time until now).

The focus for 2015 for myBalsamiq is to integrate the B3 editor (trickier than it sounds), to offer yearly subscription plans, and to revamp the UI to make it much faster and streamlined (moving to React). This will also help us simplify the server-side code, which will finally start having some real JSON APIs. You just wait, it will be great. :)

Plugins

In 2014 we simplified our plugin business by discontinuing two low-performing products, which ended up being less painful than we expected.

In 2015 we will continue to work on streamlining Mockups for Confluence and JIRA, by moving to the Atlassian Connect architecture and trying to migrate as many of our customers to Atlassian Marketplace as possible.

Mockups for Google Drive remains our best-kept-secret, which makes it the ideal test-bed for new and exciting things. In 2014 Mockups for Google Drive was the first product to adopt the BMPR file format, the first plugin to fully support Symbols, and the first to get real-time collaboration in the editor! In 2015 it will also be the first to offer Stripe-based subscriptions (the final step in migrating all of our payment processing to Stripe), followed by myBalsamiq.

For 2015, our plans are to bring Balsamiq Mockups 3 to all of our plugins...and we will finally have feature parity between all of our product versions!

Testing

Automated testing continues to be a very important part of our development process, allowing us to confidently deliver high-quality releases in a short amount of time.

Our main growth area for 2014 was around security testing. We have learned a ton and put it all in practice, with the help of some security researchers who wrote to our security@balsamiq.com address.

Keeping your data safe is a never-ending effort, but one we enjoy doing. We cannot go into too many details, but rest assured that your data is even safer now.

We continue to write new tests as new features are developed, and continue to make sure our testing bots run smoothly and quickly.

Ops

Operations is another of those areas that "is never done", but that we enjoy nonetheless. :)

In 2014, we quickly dealt with both the Heartbleed and Shellshock vulnerabilities. We upgraded our build machine, streamlined our AWS usage and even created our own private Docker registry.

We are very proud of our uptime reports: our websites pretty much never go down (yay for static sites on S3!), and myBalsamiq had 99.97% uptime (not bad, but we want to do even better in 2015!).

We improved how we build our static websites, swapping our Hammer workflow with one based on grunt. We also put balsamiq.com, media.balsamiq.com and uxapprentice.com behind a CDN, which makes them fast all over the world.

Website Updates

In 2015, among other things, we plan on switching balsamiq.com to be HTTPS-only: the GOOG says it's time.

Admin, Finance and More

The main focus of our admin team in 2014 was to implement our new let's compete locally on benefits policy across our different geographical locations. For our LLC, this meant switching to a new 401(k) provider, new medical benefits plans that also cover family members and a new life and disability insurance. Similar improvements are about to kick off for our Italian, French and German employees.

Other than that, we worked on the many little and big projects required to make a distributed micro-multinational work smoothly: we streamlined how we work with our accountants and payroll providers, we kept up with our local tax registrations, set up a new company nexus in Utah, we revamped our expense reimbursement forms, we updated our liability insurance and passed our PCI compliance audit, we learned about COPPA and made some changes to make sure we comply with it, we improved how we do international wire transfers, updated our transfer-price documentation, organized an amazing company retreat and several mini-retreat and get-togethers. We also formalized a bit how we organize retreats and picked a location for our 2015 company retreat: we rented a small castle in the Loire Valley in France at the beginning of June! :)

We also upped our contributions to our Donations (now 3% of profits) and Profit Sharing programs (now 15% of profits), trained in first-aid and fire-fighting for office safety, updated our office safety compliance documentation, rented another garage, made business cards for everyone, and welcomed Francesca to the Balsamiq family!

We also invested part of our cash reserves, finally putting our money to work.

We continued to improve our Company Handbook, and we'll be sharing more of it in 2015. For now, I just want to mention three new policies we started in 2014 that are working out really well:

  1. We started to have quarterly 1-1 catch-up meetings between each employee and myself. The goal of these meetings is to take a step back and think more long-term than what we usually do.
  2. We started a Professional Development program: we encourage each of us to take half a day each week during regular work hours to learn something new or improve something we already know.
  3. We started a Time Off to Exercise program: we encourage each of us to take half a day each week during regular work hours to do some physical exercise.

On the financial side, we created an internal dashboard to help us track sales. Below are a few of the charts for 2014.

Here you can see revenue growing nicely, even if we haven't focused on it. Note that these numbers are not 100% accurate, but pretty close:
revenue

Here's a count of transactions: we're handling about 10,000 transactions each month these days...not too shabby! :)
cumulative

Here's a chart showing where our customers are. Australia is over-represented because of our Atlassian Marketplace sales, which we don't break down:
geo

Here you can see that Desktop sales have slowed down while myBalsamiq sales just keep growing (as expected). Plugins are pretty steady:
line

Here's another chart, showing how revenue is gradually migrating from Desktop to SaaS, as expected:
percent

We are at about $370,000 in revenue per employee, which is high. We plan on hiring one or two programmers in 2015, which will help us go even faster. Interested?

Conferences, Interviews and Press Mentions

We attended the following conferences:

  • Clojure eXchange 2014, London
  • Microservices Meetup, Amsterdam
  • Enterprise UX Meetup, San Francisco
  • Business of Software 2014, Boston
  • JS Conf 2014, Berlin
  • Atlassian Summit, San Jose
  • JS MVC Meetup, Amsterdam
  • AtlasCamp, Berlin
  • JSDay, Verona
  • You in UX Web Conference
  • 99u Conference, NYC
  • React 2014, London
  • WebRTC meetup, Amsterdam
  • Joy of Coding 2014, Rotterdam
  • Interaction_14, Amsterdam
  • Javascript MVC Meetup, Amsterdam
  • Strange Loop 2014, St.Louis
  • Leon spoke at a HCI class at Purdue University (video)

My interview for the ConversionAid podcast was surprisingly popular, here's the link: How Balsamiq Bootstrapped Its Way Into a $6M Business.

Press mentions around the web are too many to count, but here's a little sample of some of the most interesting articles:

Looking ahead

This year is going to rock: 2014 was for building, 2015 is for shipping! :)

As always, things will take longer than expected, there will be ups and there will be downs, and we'll learn A TON in the process. Bring it on, we're ready! :)

Thanks for reading this super-long post.

If anything in this post surprised you or sparked your interest, don't be shy and add a comment! I'd love to answer any questions you might have.

We hope 2015 brings you and your families health, happiness and success.

Onward!
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

Looking back at 2013

Hello friends of Balsamiq! As 2013 comes to an end, it's time to revive an old tradition (2008, 2009) and look back at all that we have achieved this year.

TL;DR: We continue to truck along nicely, growing organically. We are now 5 years old, employ 16 people, revenue is over $6M, profit margins are around 30%. In 2013 we focused on laying the foundations for future growth and started to work on the next generation of Mockups.


Once again, this was a transformative year for our little company. The main difference is how big we are. We added 6 new people to the extended Balsamiq family. In order to do so, we had to spend a considerable amount of resources codifying "how we work" in our ever-growing company handbook, as well as change offices in Bologna and even rent the office below our new office in order to make room for all the new hires.

The other thing that might be interesting to notice is that more than half of what we did in 2013 was not directly customer facing. That's a very high percentage, which I'm sure will be much lower in 2014. I don't feel bad about it, it's just part of the natural ebb and flow of our company's journey. Just like in product development we alternate releases focused on features with ones focused on bug fixing, so does our company's focus alternate between product/growth and making sure our company is solid enough to withstand future growth.

This post is meant to show you a bit of what's under the hood, so that you know what we've been up to and can get a sense of what it's like to run a company like ours.

Alright, let's dive in!

First up, let's talk about our products.

We did 8 official releases this year: Jan 19, Feb 28, Apr 16, May 21, Jul 9, Sep 25, Oct 24 and Dec 13 - releasing about once a month seems to be a pretty good pace for us these days.
We also had to ship 5 hotfixes this year: Jan 28, Mar 8, Jul 16, Oct 24, Dec 20 - mostly to fix small regressions...but still, I hope we'll be able to lower this number in 2014.

New Features in all versions of Mockups

For a year not really focused on product development, we ended up doing quite a bit! :)

Take a look, click on each link to see the relative release announcement:

Improvements specific to Mockups for Desktop

Improvements specific to myBalsamiq

Improvements specific to mockups-web

Mockups-web is our internal name for the Flex editor that runs our web demo as well as all the plugin versions.

In 2013 we focused on bringing our plugin codebases closer to each other (less code = less maintenance!), by having all plugins (and myBalsamiq!) share CSS and JS wrapper files, which resulted in more consistent keyboard shortcut support across our versions, and more.

We also made a lot of progress in merging the mockups-web and myBalsamiq Flex editor code-bases. Once again, less code means less bugs and a more consistent UX across products, both of which are awesome. This HUGE but mostly-behind-the-scenes work should be completed in early 2014.

Improvements specific to Mockups for Google Drive

Mockups for Google Drive wins our most improved in 2013 award. It went from being a little experiment full of bugs and with high churn into a well-loved, very advanced, fast-growing product.

Mockups for Confluence and JIRA

Mockups for FogBugz and XWiki and new Integration Strategy

As part of our efforts to STREAMLINE ALL THE THINGS!, in November we said goodbye to Mockups for FogBugz and Mockups for XWiki.

We plan on integrating with these tools again (and many more) in 2014, by offering a few simple myBalsamiq APIs. This new integration strategy is a lot easier for us to maintain than writing our own plugins, and will result in more, cheaper, faster and more powerful integrations, all at once!

Mockups 3.0: native and project-centric!

Speaking of future stuff, this might be a good time to mention the other BIG project we've been working on for most of 2013. We are moving off of Flash, and plan on releasing native versions of the Mockups editor on HTML, Windows, OSX, Linux, iPad and Android. In order to continue sharing 80%+ of our code between all versions, we are writing a core set of libraries in Javascript, and running them either natively or in a JSVM (like Spidermonkey) inside native shells. It's a HUGE effort, but it's super-exciting and coming along nicely already.

The first part of this next-gen version of Mockups, a native BMML viewer for different platforms, will come out in early 2014. Building the different native editors will be our main development focus for 2014.

We have also been thinking about the UX of the Mockups editor, and have a lot of exciting updates in the pipeline. The focus is to make projects (i.e. collection of mockups) first class citizens of our app (all versions), simplify the UX of using Symbols, and a lot more...too much for this post, but know that we'll bring some of these improvements to the Flex-based editor first, and soon! :)

Next up...

Testing!

Our love for automated testing has been growing steadily, as has the amount of our code covered by our automated unit, integration and functional tests.

The focus in 2013 was still to have our tests catch up with our code, and that effort is pretty much complete. Now we just write tests for the new features as they come in, as well as add any tests that are necessary to prevent regressions from happening again.

We now have more, faster and more reliable tests. More of our developers write tests first, and we run more and more tests on our build machine after each build, as it should be.

We are expanding our load, performance and penetration tests and expect to do a lot more in this area in 2014. It'll be exciting!

Operations!

Ops is another one of those totally-behind-the-scenes but vitally important parts of what we do.

We re-did how we do myBalsamiq builds to make for faster and safer zero-downtime updates (in short, we now generate AWS AMIs directly instead of WARs). We reserved a bunch of AWS instances, which will lower our Amazon monthly bill quite a bit (now around $4k/month).

We changed how we build our websites, from WordPress to a rock-solid HTML/CSS/JS (jQuery) + Hammer + Github + Jenkins + S3 workflow. We also moved our website's assets to a dedicated media.balsamiq.com S3 bucket.

We moved all of our code from our own Bazaar server to github.com, and are totally loving it. We also open-sourced a few repos while we were at it.

We now have per-branch online staging areas for our products and website, and on-deck areas for testing the final bits before they go live.

We switched from Eclipse + Flash Builder to IntelliJ IDEA as our only IDE, and are very happy about it.

We bought and installed new SSL and code-signing certificates, and even set up fancy DNS redirects for the many balsamiq.* domains we own.

We are very happy with our uptime report. Here it is straight from Pingdom:

pingdom

Next up, let's talk about our websites!

Updates to our Websites

Another behind-the-scenes project that made a huge jump forward for us this year is what we affectionally call...

...Olio!

Olio is an internal web-app that makes our company's engine run smoothly. It's a custom CRM + license manager + sales support help desk solution.

We debated buying vs building for a while, and after evaluating a lot of tools we decided to build our own home-grown solution. We are VERY happy with it: our customer database now has over 160,000 transaction, with about 4,000 more getting added each month. Because Olio takes care of managing keys, sending keys to those who lost them, generating estimates and invoices, sending automated maintenance reminders, making sending free licenses a two-click operation and more, we are able to serve a big global customer base with what totals to only two full-time sales-support people.

This year Olio became super-powerful: we started by making it generate estimates and invoices, then we made it send automated maintenance reminder emails, we integrated it with Stripe, generate all the reports our accountants need from us and even made it manage exchanges and refunds.

Starting in January, our accounting work will be MUCH easier than it's ever been, making us even more efficient. We are also working on replacing the current Buy page and shopping cart experience with an Olio+React-powered client-side, single-page, super-usable shopping cart application.

In case you're wondering, Olio is not for sale...we're keeping it as a little competitive advantage, at least for now. ;)

The rest of what's on the list are things that are pretty much invisible from the outside world, but that are just as important as product features! Without a solid company behind it, even the best product is nothing but a proof-of-concept. :)

Admin, Finance and More

Speaking of solid company: there's A LOT that goes into making a micro-multinational run smoothly.

Here are a few examples, in random order: we updated our local LLC business registrations, we "got out" of NYC (Mike moved to California so we no longer need to pay NY-state sales tax). We bought furniture for our office in Bologna and rented and furnished a new office right under it. We hired 6 people and let go of 1, which entails quite a bit of paperwork, and training! We invested some of our reserve cash, switched 401k provider, updated our PCI compliance applications, as well as the Transfer Pricing documents we submit to the IRS and the Italian tax agency each year. We catalogued our fixed assets, took mandated safety and first-aid courses and started a quarterly review of many financial metrics. We established proper contracts with our external collaborators, and dealt with Natalie relocating from Italy to California.

We organized and ran an awesome company retreat in San Francisco during which we celebrated our 5th birthday and also had 3 other mini-retreats during the year: a developer one in the Marche region in Italy, a sales-and-admin one in Bologna and a UX-and-Docs one in San Francisco.

We politely turned away 29 emails from VC-types, answered 9,719 sales-related emails and 2,536 tech-support related ones (on top of the hundreds of GetSatisfaction forum threads). We also donated more than 2,000 free licenses this year.

Handbook + Kaizen

Our internal handbook got a lot of attention this year. We started using the term Kaizen - an old term to explain how we move forward in small, continuous improvements.

We started a monthly "Balsamiq Kaizen" meeting in which we discuss and review handbook pages together.

Here are a some of the pages that either were created or received major updates in 2013:

  • Company Equity & Ownership
  • Contingency Plans
  • Don't Create Work: The Curse of Maintenance
  • Fighting Fires
  • How we split Work
  • Dealing with Really Angry People
  • How we do GetSatisfaction
  • Sharing Updates with the Community
  • Raffles
  • Hiring Forms for California Employees
  • Salaries and Benefits for Multinationals
  • Budgets
  • Donations
  • Gift Policy
  • SWAG Gifts
  • Time off to Exercise
  • Office, Home Offices, Co-Working Spaces
  • Professional Development
  • Working Hours
  • Recurring Internal Meetings Etc
  • Sponsorships
  • Buddy System
  • External Collaborators
  • the sales support bible received a HUGE update
  • and many others...

If you're interested in knowing more about any of these policies, let me know in the comments and I'll be happy to write about it.

We started a monthly "Balsamiq Media Club" meeting - we all watch or read the same thing and then we get together on Google Hangout to chat about it, as a bonding experience - and a monthly "UX Club" meeting, where we discuss and teach each other about UX-related topics. We favorited hundreds of customer twestimonials, bookmarked hundreds of press mentions, ran lots of raffles and sponsored a ton of events, organizations and websites.

We experimented with live chat support on our website, and decided we weren't ready to offer it yet. We worked on Mockups for iPad quite a bit, then decided to put it back in the icebox until the shared code-base was ready to power it (but we did nail down the UX, which is awesome).

As a company, it felt like we went from version 2.0, to 2.5, to 3.0 and we're quickly getting to 3.5 (I'll explain more in a separate blog post).

Last but not least...

Conferences and Interviews

We attended the following conferences (* means we spoke):

We were interviewed 5 times:

Looking ahead

We are SUPER excited about 2014. We have a rock solid team and company, we work very well together and love doing so, we're under very little competitive pressure, and a lot of the seeds we've been planting will finally bear fruit.

As always, things will take longer than expected, there will be ups and there will be downs, and we'll learn A TON in the process. Bring it on, we're ready! :)

We hope you'll want to come along for the ride.

Here's a question for you: after reading all of the above, what do you think we should do differently? What should we do better? Be blunt, make it hurt, we need it! :)

Thanks for reading this super-long post, and for helping us get to this point.

We hope 2014 brings you and your families health, happiness and success.

Onward!
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

Happy 5th Birthday, dear Balsamiq!

01cupcakes

With the SuperMoon shining upon us, the friends who make up Balsamiq met in San Francisco to celebrate our company's 5th birthday. Our team is scattered around Europe and the States, so being together is rare and deliberate. Our goal is to ensure that our friendships are based on more than just Mockups. We get together to make sure we still believe every word of our Manifesto.

Planning a retreat for 16 (including a startling 7 first-timers whom most of us had never met) takes a caring advance team, some boots on the ground, and lots of detail-wrangling. Led by Joy, a team of 5 of us put together a full-to-bursting but balanced schedule that represented the interests and values of our company. We picked some activities that were work-related, community-based, and sometimes just straight-up fun.

02schedule

Lessons from our 2013 Retreat

Start with a "Day Zero" to give travelers a soft landing.

Because of the distance between us, one group or another will show up at a Retreat with jet lag, regardless of where we meet. This year, to give travelers a soft landing, we organized Day 0. I met the four flights at SFO on Saturday, and brought the gang to the Peninsula to soak up some Vitamin D along the San Francisco Bay, and enjoy a casual dinner. Our friend Roberta prepared up a Mexican feast, and we spent the evening getting to know the new balsamici and laughing with friends.

Build on Themes

The week was punctuated with group activities, presentations and field trips focused on themes.

Identity/Awareness: we walked to the San Francisco Zen Center to learn about the practice of managing stress through meditation. This sounded like it would be especially helpful for customer-facing jobs (like Sales, and Tech Support), but it was actually a very powerful experience for our group. Interestingly, during the remainder of the week, I noticed people repeat the final lines of the Loving Kindness Meditation, applying the lesson in a wide variety of situations. When I answer an incoming phone call, or write a complicated email, my little mantra is:

May he have what he needs and is best for him.
May he be happy. May I be happy. May all beings be happy.

To help us continue to get acquainted, Leon took us across the road into Golden Gate Park, to play some ice-breaker/improv games.

07improv

After dinner, we each delivered a 5-minute talk about our personal Heroes, to define our values and identify what inspires us.

Team/Communication: this was the nuts & bolts stuff: vision and roadmap, goals of internal processes, Olio - our home-grown record-keeping and License tracking tool - and more. A particularly successful event was a discussion about Communication led by Natalie, using partner dancing as a metaphor. That night, we took Group Swing Dance lessons. That's right. We took a bunch of software engineers to an old-fashioned dance club and we had a blast. Shut the place down. Surprise!

05dancing

Ben led an outstanding session on Sketchnotes, a terribly creative and different way to take notes. Stay tuned here for a blog post about it, and check out the darling rollovers he did for our company page. Those are also featured on the T-Shirt we gave to Peldi at our birthday party.

03peldi

Community: because it was important for us that our San Francisco Retreat include some form of volunteerism, we spent an afternoon packing pasta at the San Francisco Food Bank. In a remarkable, small-town surprise, we ran into a group from Adobe there, including some former Macromedia friends! Another good lesson: if you want good people, hire on compassion and empathy.

08foodbank

Think Globally. Act Neighborly.

Make outings count! Fun + good for the soul = memorable. A week flies, so we kept all our activities in The City. We walked a lot, allowing us to transition easily through diverse events and offering opportunities for small groups to have side-conversations during each walk.

13bacon

14bowling

We thrive in Close Quarters

We rented an old Victorian split into two separate units, in the historic and personality-plus Haight-Ashbury. Maybe because we all loved summer camp, or maybe because we don't get to work together all year long, but we love living in the same house. We are just not hotel-people and we wouldn't know what to do with a conference center. We love casual, shared space, and a large group provides lots of opportunity for side conversations. Of course, when welcoming everyone to the Retreat, Peldi reminded us that we were free to duck out anytime, for privacy or just to get a break. The house worked out perfectly, even if it was a tad snug.

09work

Allow for mini-breaks and the chance to create some inside jokes. Make sure you have a room that is big enough for everyone to be in at one time. We were about 60 sq ft short, but we made it work.

We built in time to relax in the park.

04fencing

Don't forget sight-seeing. It's important the out-of-towners aren't distracted or feel like they are missing out on what the location has to offer!

11baybridge

It was great to have everybody in San Francisco, since that's where it all started, when Balsamiq was just Peldi. Peldi toured around the young whippersnappers through his old old neighborhood, where it all began.

06hoods

In another old-timey scene, a passing car rolled down the window, honked the horn, and shouted, "Hi Peldi!" as our mob ambled down the street. Nothing makes you feel more at home than running into a friendly face and a warm greeting.

10wall

Celebrate!

On Wednesday, June 19, we celebrated Balsamiq's FIFTH BIRTHDAY! Thanks to everybody who came out to celebrate with us. It was great to see so many old friends and happy faces. It really warmed our hearts. Our team, like any other, thrives on the electricity of real, healthy, face-to-face friendships. During our Retreat, we recharge the batteries on our team that will augment and sustain these two-dimensional on-line relationships.

It's almost scientific how a Retreat completes the circuit, generating between colleagues a deeper reservoir of understanding and patience, that we then slowly discharge over several months. We are nourished by the collective experience. At our Retreat, we work, think, eat, and play together, to recalibrate the vibes, adjust the tension, and synchronize the cadence to keep our company running at a sustainable clip. We've already started to plan next year's Retreat. We end each Retreat looking forward to the next time we can be together.

15bowlingshirt

We'd love to hear how you keep a distributed team close and emotionally connected. Please feel free to share your challenges and experiences in the comments.

12goldengate

Val for the Balsamiq Team

Salvatore Cammarata joins Balsamiq!

· Posted by peldi in Company · 1 Comment

Hello friends of Balsamiq!

Our little team is growing again! This time I'd like you to join me in welcoming my good friend and old college buddy Salvatore 'Sax' Cammarata to the Balsamiq family.

sax-600

Sax will take on the big and difficult job of making our plugin strategy move forward and grow, both by maintaining our current plugins and by developing new ones. We also have a long list of companies that want to integrate Balsamiq with their tools, and have some pretty exciting plans to make that possible in a scalable way.

I've known Sax since we were computer-lab mates in college. I remember us spending many long hours working on a Turbo Pascal compiler written in Objective-Camel. The project was extremely painful, but mostly thanks to Sax's skills and perseverance, we delivered it on time. It turns out that were the only team to be able to deliver it at all, so the professor had to change final assignment to something easier for the rest of the class. :)

I am excited and looking forward to working with Sax again. He will be based out of our Bologna office.
Please welcome him with a comment below, or email him at sax@balsamiq.com.

Onward!
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

Andrea Serra joins Balsamiq!

· Posted by peldi in Company · 4 Comments

Hello friends of Balsamiq!

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you Andrea Serra, the latest member of the Balsamiq family.

andrea_for_blog

Andrea is a client-side developer who will be focussing on our myBalsamiq wireframe editor, at least at first. He's only been here for a couple of days, had never done any Flex development before, and he's already checking in new features for the next release. W00t! :)

Andrea has been working on software to power Formula 1 race cars and other fancy cars. I'm sure that his knowledge of embedded software and the particular issues it comes with - performance, low bandwidth communication channels, coding against a shifting API, etc. - will come useful to our company in the future as well.

Andrea will work out of our Bologna office and his email is andrea@balsamiq.com.

Please join us in welcoming Andrea by leaving a comment below.

Onward!
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team


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