Peldi's Talk About Balsamiq's Journey So Far

Balsamiq's story is a compelling one: one man creates a product, builds a company and stays fiercely independent.

It sounds good, but as you can imagine it's not without pain. As we grow, many ask us how we did it, and we love to share our adventure.

Last September, Peldi had the opportunity to tell the story at the Business of Software USA conference. The ups, the downs, and all of the different plans we've tried to execute so far.

The video is now available. And, even though Peldi reserved a brief acquisition anecdote for our live audience, we are sharing it today in the hope it's helpful and maybe even inspiring to other entrepreneurs out there.

Hopefully, after watching this video, you'll think: "Hey, if Peldi was able to be successful, even if he clearly had no idea what he was doing, maybe I can make it too!" ;-)

If you liked the video, you might also be interested in this Peldi's "Ask Me Anything" session where he shares further on these topics.

We'd love to hear your thoughts about both, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to add your comment below!

    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.


    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:

    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.


      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!


      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!


      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 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!


      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.


      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.


      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,,,, and 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 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 (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:


      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.



      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! :)


      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).


      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.

      Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

        A New Year's Toast to Some Awesome Non Profits

        Four years ago we added a company donation policy. Over the years we increased the amount we donate from 2% to 3% of our profits and we've added the ability for each employee to split up their donation between two organizations, instead of just one. Other than that it has remained unchanged and is one of our favorite annual practices!

        Allowing our team to choose which organizations to give to enables us to personalize how our company makes donations. We also get a chance to learn more about each other, as every year we hear our team members share why they picked the organizations and issues they did, which are near and dear to their hearts.

        We believe this diversity and individuality enriches the team as a whole. We see how we are different, with different interests and passions, and yet, the wonderful thing is, we also see how much we are the same, and how we share common core values.

        Some shared values we saw this year include promoting education and research, humanitarian aid, and supporting local community projects for those in need. We know non-profit work is rewarding, but also full of many challenges, so we wanted to give a special shout out to the organizations we donated to in 2015, thanking them for their dedicated work to make this world a better place.

        We've chosen three to highlight for you.

        Education and Justice - Sojourn to the Past

        During the 50th anniversary year of the March from Selma to Montgomery, it seemed particular fitting to support a wonderful non-profit founded to teach children about the Civil Rights Movement. Sojourn to the Past takes young adults to southern US States to visit the first schools to be racially integrated, churches that were firebombed, and other historical sites important to the movement. This trip, along with a dynamic curriculum, can be life-changing; it was for our colleague Val's family.

        When her son, Sam, decided to go, Val's husband Jake joined as a chaperone. They visited Stone Mountain, where the Ku Klux Klan held cross-burnings, participated in invaluable group exercises designed to help process their experiences, and they were lucky to meet with several real heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, including Congressman John Lewis.

        Congressman_John_LewisCongressman John Lewis with Val's son and husband - Photo credits: Audra Gray

        We are proud to support this organization, recently honored by the King Center, that promotes the values of diversity, education, respect and compassion, and social justice through non-violence.

        Humanitarian Aid - Syria

        2015 was also a year where we became more aware of the ongoing situation for migrants and refugees across the globe. Many of us felt compelled to donate to efforts to help with the Syrian refugee crisis.

        There are many organizations that should be applauded for their efforts in this massive humanitarian emergency. Leon, Marco, Natalie, Peldi, and Paolo added their support via three of them: Save the Children, The UN Refugee Agency, and Catholic Relief Services.

        Though it doesn’t actually seem like much in the face of such a huge, complicated, and painful situation, we're grateful to be able to help in some small way.

        Local Community Projects - Stella del Mattino

        We also value small organizations working to help those in need in our local areas. We chose various food banks, housing projects, and programs to help protect women and children from domestic abuse. One of these local projects is Cooperativa Sociale Stella del Mattino, an organization founded by Francesca's father. This Italian organization provides employment for 10 individuals with disabilities, who would otherwise have extreme difficulty finding a job.

        The community helps its members gain some independence, and feel relevant and active participants in society. And it's even a place were love blossoms, as two members in the community met there and were married a few years ago. :-)

        We're honored to support groups focused on impacting the every day lives of those around them.

        We at Balsamiq are humbled and grateful to be able to support these organizations, and the ones listed below. Learning about the work they are doing, challenges and inspires us to see what we also can do with our hands, time, and talent to help our community, both from within the company and in our personal lives.

        We'd love to hear ways your company is striving to support its community and our world through donations of time or money.

        There is so much awesomeness happening in the world!

        Balsamiq Sends our Heartfelt Thanks to These Hardworking Organizations

        Alzheimer Italia (Italy) Die Tafel (Germany) Sacramento Loaves & Fishes (US)
        Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (Italy) Electronic Frontier Foundation (US) Save the Children (Italy)
        Associazione La Conchiglia (Italy) La casa delle donne (Italy) (Italy) Sojourn to the Past (US)
        Berkeley Food & Housing Project (US) Mensa dell'Antoniano (Italy) St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin County (US)
        Bimbo Tu (Italy) Mozaic-Breizh (France) Stella del Mattino (Italy)
        Buddhismo della Via di Diamante (Italy) Nuovo Rifugio Amola (Italy) The UN Refugee Agency (US)
        Catholic Relief Services (US) Rueil Digital (France) World Wildlife Fund (US)
        Center for Domestic Peace (US)    

          A Season to be Thankful

          Another year has gone and here we are, looking back to what 2015 brought us.

          As usual, Peldi will publish a detailed “looking back” post soon. In short, we have grown, released our biggest update ever, learned a lot of amazing things, and are all excited about the new year.

          Even if we keep on growing, we haven’t changed our best traditions. One of these is Christmas Gifts.

          This year, Santa brought everyone a winter jacket embroidered with the Balsamiq logo. And since we all have different tastes, every Balsamico got to choose their own jacket at REI. We like the idea of letting everyone pick something they need and want, and will actually wear! So we've done personalized clothing for a number of Christmases. Some of us are starting to be asked by strangers if Balsamiq is a brand of clothing. ;)


          The end result is that we are all happy with our jackets, and proud too, to support REI and their effort to get everyone outside.

          We also received a photo-album from our last retreat (thank you, Anna!) and a whole pile of smiley stickers!


          When I received my gifts, I was filled with gratitude and joy, but a lot of my attention was focussed on the little dedication that Santa-Peldi wrote for us. I'd like to share it with you:

          Every December when it’s time to write this little note I wish I had spent some of my PD time taking a writing class. :)

          This year is especially tough: I would like to say something thoughtful and appropriate about dealing with recent news events, but I’m not up to the task. What I do know is that, personally, I find great comfort in being surrounded by such a kind, warm and kick-ass group of friends.

          It really is a blessing and a privilege to be working through this personal and company Kaizen path with you all.

          It looks like 2016 is going to be yet another awesome year. Let’s take some time at the end of this one to relax and take a big breath, there will be time to dive back in in January!

          Please give a big hug to your loved ones for me - pets included!


          We hope you all have a great holiday season, and we look forward to working with you in 2016.

          Francesca 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.

            Peldi for the Balsamiq Team

              Company Policies: Time Off to Exercise

              This post is part of a series about our VERY FEW company policies. Read this intro post for some context.

              Joining a new company is always overwhelming.

              When I started working for Balsamiq almost a year ago, I was excited and confused at the same time. This always happens when I start something new, especially a job: new colleagues, new things to do, a lot of questions in my mind.

              As part of its on-boarding process, in order to make it easier for new employees, Balsamiq always assigns a "buddy" to them. The buddy's job is to be the go-to person for any questions or doubts a new employee has. Lucky for me, my buddy was Anna :-) We spent a few hours talking about everything in Balsamiq; most of our chats were on admin, benefits and logistics. A LOT of amazing stuff.

              What particularly struck me was the part on Time Off to Exercise. Our Handbook page called “Working Hours” says:

              "We also value physical exercise and professional development very much, so don't be shy in taking time off of regular work in order to do those activities."

              We also have a Handbook page called "Time off to Exercise". Here it is, piece by piece:

              Exercising has TONS of benefits… it prevents burnout, it makes us more productive, it makes us live longer, happier lives.

              In order to encourage everyone at Balsamiq to stay healthy, everyone is encouraged to take some of their work time - say, up to 5 hours a week - to exercise or do some physical activity.

              So basically, Balsamiq is saying: "Try not to wear yourself out (we all know it's completely useless). Try to live better. Trust us, you will be more productive overall if you spend a few hours exercising instead of working."

              This is revolutionary. I was shocked. The first thing I thought of was, "If Balsamiq cares about our health so much, the least we can do is care about that ourselves!"

              But what kind of exercises could we do?

              This could mean going to yoga, taking a zumba class, going out dancing one night and sleeping in the next day, going for a bike ride or a long walk, or even shoveling gravel if you're into that kind of thing...

              And what about the work activities?

              During those hours it's expected that you will not be available for email, HipChat* or calls.

              And what about our workmates? They might need us.

              Try to plan in advance as much as possible, and if it's easy, add your exercise time slots in the Balsamici Availability Google Calendar so that others will know when you're out.

              A final note about the sharing power:

              Share what you do in HipChat* too, it will encourage people to do more as well!

              *HipChat is our "virtual office."

              When your company gives you the opportunity to stay healthy and you take it, a lot of things change in your personal life as well as at work. You will be more likely to search and accept challenges. You will be more committed. You will have much more energy to deal with everything. You will be happier and healthier. It's really a win-win situation.

              Everyone here in Balsamiq takes this opportunity very seriously. Tennis, yoga, walking, running, basketball, biking, gym...


              Some of us prefer to do exercise in the morning. I read a lot of articles stressing the importance and the benefits of an early morning workout; I also read some articles against that. I'm not sure where the truth is, but I like doing exercise at 7 AM: it provides me a boost of energy for the whole day. And I work better after a workout: I am more productive during those 6.5 hours than the other working days.

              But it's not just about doing exercise; it's a change of mindset. As a company, we practice Kaizen, continuous improvement, in this area as well.

              For example, some of us have been switched to the IKEA convertible desk recently. Peldi goes up and down a couple of times a day. If he needs to do "real" work, he stands up; for reading and reviewing, sitting is best for him.

              As you can read in Everything Science Knows Right Now About Standing Desks, standing desks are good for energy expenditure, weight loss, metabolic risk factors. Moreover, they are good for your mood!

              In one seven-week study of standing desk use, participants reported less fatigue, tension, confusion, and depression, and more vigor, energy, focus, and happiness—and when they went back to their old desks, their overall mood returned to baseline levels.

              Don't you want a happier life? Don't you want your employees live happier lifes?

              But if your company doesn't have a Time Off to Exercise policy, there is always a way to stay healthier.

              1. Try to walk whenever you can. I try to go everywhere by walking. It was a bit difficult at first, because it takes longer than going by car or bus. But to be honest, it took me just a little while to get used to it! It's just a matter of being organized and good at Google Maps! :-)
              2. Always take the long way. I can't explain how good it feels to make the extra effort. It's definitely something addictive!

              As always, we hope our few company policies will be useful to someone else out there. That's why we were so happy when we found these tweets the other day :-)

              Do you have any suggestion for our policy about Time Off to Exercise? Let us know, comments are below!

              - Francesca for the Balsamiq Team

                Peldi's 15 Tips For Public Speaking

                If you are thinking "I want to give a talk at a conference / event / workshop", I have some tips for you. Well, they aren't from me; they are from a workshop called "A talk about talks" that our fearless leader and frequent public speaker Peldi gave us during our 2014 Company Retreat.

                Let me break it down for you. Here are Peldi's 15 steps for a successful conference talk:

                peldi-speakerImage credit: ©John M. P. Knox

                1. Get Invited

                Sadly, judging from most conferences' "Speakers" pages, the first step to be invited to speak is to be male, white, tall and in your early thirties. Things are changing though, and hopefully we'll all be able to go to better, more diverse conferences.

                One good way to get invited is to write a blog. Blogging is the easiest and fastest way to get noticed.

                You can also straight-up ask to be invited. If you love a conference and you are dying to speak at it, flat out ask the organizers. Peldi did this for Business of Software, and asked Neil Davidson: "What do I have to do in life to be able to speak at BoS?". And he did it! Peldi gave his first talk Do worry...Be happy! at BoS in 2010, and that was the beginning of his public speaking "career".

                Tip: If you are not famous, start by going to talk where no one else wants to go to, because it's far away or not in a sexy location. This will be great practice for you, and once you speak at a conference, you can put “Public Speaker” on your Linkedin profile and signature! Remember, conference organizers are always looking for speakers.

                2. Have Something Useful to Share

                The worse thing you can do on stage is to do a sales pitch for your product or yourself. Instead, talk about something that people clearly want to hear about; for example, your talk could be based on your blog's most popular post(s).

                After a while you might get invited to speak just because you are well known; in that case, ask the organizers what they would like you to talk about and send them a few topic ideas.

                Tip: Send the organizers your talk’s outline at least two or three times. Work on it together. The worst thing you can do is go to the conference and disappoint the organizers.

                3. Know the Audience

                Who attends this event? What kind of people are they? What do they do? These questions help you set the register, the tone and the language to use. Don't forget to ask the organizers about it; usually they have data from the previous years.

                It is equally important to know why are they going to that conference. Put yourself in their shoes: if you were to go as an attendee, what would you want to learn?

                Lastly, answer this question: what do you wish someone had told you when you were just getting started? Don’t forget that a lot of people that go to conferences are less experienced than you, otherwise, you wouldn't be the one giving a talk. In a way, your job is to try to remember what it was like when you first started getting interested in that topic and the things you were googling, the things you wanted to know...

                Tip: Go the extra mile and think about any shortcut you can provide to your audience about your experience on that topic; they will be thankful for that.

                4. Give it Time to Ripen

                Peldi usually describes his process in this way: first, ideas come up in his head and then they go to his belly and they ripen; there is a "pregnancy" stage that could last one or two months, depending on how much time he has.

                Let it simmer, don’t rush it out. And then you will feel one day it wants to come out. That is when Peldi opens Keynote, and in 1 hour he has all the structure down!

                When you go to Keynote, the first step is make one slide per bullet, then save and close; within a minute you will open it again! The very first days are all about opening and closing Keynote. By putting your talk down in a structure it will help you think through and come up with ideas.

                You’ll get more and more ideas over time; add them to Keynote as they come.

                5. Work on the Talk Structure

                Here is the classic structure of a talk:

                It's a good start, but remember Kathy Sierra's advice: your goal should be to make your audience awesome. This means that talking about yourself and how great YOU are is just a waste of people's time. Jump straight into the content instead to maximize time for things that will help your audience.

                So here are better and better structures:

                6. A Clean Title Slide

                It has to include:

                • The title of the talk.
                • Your name and Twitter handle: people will be tweeting your quotes during and after your talk, and there’s no better way to get feedback on how you did than looking at all your Twitter mentions! :)
                • Date and name of the event: for posterity and for people who will find the slides online.
                • Suggested hashtags: both the event's official hashtag and yours or your company's.

                7. Skip the “About me” slide

                People have already read your bio in the conference program guide, you don't need to prove to them that you deserve to be on stage. Plus it's much better to let the content speak for itself.

                If you don't want to skip this slide altogether, you should make it very quick, as it makes you look sales-y and possibly insecure.

                8. Skip the Table of Contents

                Aristotle's advice is to "tell them what you're going to tell them", but I suggest skipping a TOC altogether. People don't have time and it takes away any surprise you might have during the talk.

                9. Let The Meat of the Talk Emerge

                What Peldi usually does is start dictating rough notes on his phone (because ideas come in every moment of your day, when you are falling asleep or while you are driving). He just puts random things related to the main topic in a note.

                Just brainstorm, don't focus on structure yet: structure will emerge later in Keynote or PowerPoint.

                10. Try to be Funny

                Another ancient technique (this time from Cicero) is Captatio Benevolentiae: capture the goodwill of the audience at the beginning of a speech or appeal. Basically the first thing you want to do is to get the audience on your side. One of the easiest ways to achieve that is to make them laugh: start with a joke, or relate to the audience with something you might have in common. You can also make fun of yourself, it shows that you are humble, and it's a safe way to make a joke and not offend anyone.

                Not sure what to do? Just add a cat slide! :)

                peldi-obligatory-cat-photoImage credit: ©John M. P. Knox

                If you can't be funny, you can steal other people’s funny stuff:

                • Videos.
                • Cartoons.
                • Memes!
                • Remember: Puns > Jokes.

                Just give the author credit in a little note at the bottom of the slide.

                11. Don't Make The Audience Read

                Don’t make the audience read your slides, except for short quotes. People can read faster than you can talk, and then you lose them because they are reading your text and in the meantime they try to listen; it doesn't work. So have bullets show up one at the time: in Keynote, use “Appear” > “By Bullet”.

                12. Use Different Media

                • Use “Section Title” slides: they help you with pace and prompt your memory.
                • Use photos: a big photo + 0-3 words = Great Slide. A photo sets the mood, people read a lot into it without you have to say anything. Note: Do not use “stock photo” photos, except ironically.
                • Use videos: they can be very powerful. But don’t overuse it and keep the clips short (even a 5-minute video is too long). Remember to check with the venue about audio. If you are going to give a technical talk, this is also a great (and safe) way to do a demo: just talk over a pre-recorded video with no audio instead!
                • Use screenshots, for example from Wikipedia; it's better then just writing some text, it's more powerful for the audience.
                • Use short quotes, and give people time to read them. The best quotes are from people the audience looks up to and people that they might recognize. This reinforces that you understand them and you are all together in this. Peldi used a great Steve Martin quote in some talks, "Be so good they can't ignore you"; what happened is that people magically attribute that quote to Peldi, even though he kept saying "It's not from me!". Well, you can’t fight it, it’s human nature...
                  Bonus Points: quote previous speakers at the same conference and provide a respectful counterpoint. That means you’ll be working on your talk until the very last minute and it makes connection between people (this is called "pulling a Paul Kenny".)
                • Use cartoons the audience might love: people love thinking “I remember this one!”. This is another way to make connection. Give people 5 seconds to read the caption and laugh before starting to speak.
                • Use charts / infographics: usually people love to look at them. You can also use some Prezi-style presentation software, where you dive in and zoom in. But be careful that they don’t overshadow your content: people might be more excited about the zoom in and out than the actual content.

                13. Iterate!

                Iterate, at least 5 times, up until the minute you give it. Don’t think that it’s going to be good the first time, this is one of the most iterative things that Peldi knows of. Some organizers say: "Send me your slides 3 weeks before the talk", and Peldi always says "no", because he feels that he's got nothing until the minute he goes on stage. Your answer might be: "The slide will be ready after the talk". There’s always something to change or add!

                As you work on your talk, hit play; go left and right. Flip through it over and over! You need to feel the rhythm; it’s a dance, so choreograph it! It’s like a song or a poem, pay attention to the cadence.

                Tip: Stub slides with words, then find images or short videos to replace the words to communicate in a more powerful way.

                14. End with Thank You + Links

                • “Thank you”: you should always say thank you, possibly in the language of the audience, or something like "I hope this helps".
                • Your name, email, Twitter handle: people will have questions, but most of them are shy and they won’t come to you after the talk. But they will send you an email!
                • Ideally, a short link (e.g., to PDF of slides. Right before he goes on stage, Peldi prints the Keynote to PDF and saves it to Dropbox. Right click, "copy public link", go to the last slide and put the link in there. Super quick!
                • Social links galore: by then, it’s OK to sell yourself a little bit. :-)

                15. Rehearse!

                This is the difference between a great speaker and a bad speaker. Show your talk to at least one more person (a colleague? a spouse?): if it’s an important talk, rehearse at least 4 times, 2 of which in front of someone. Even if they have no feedback, it will be useful to you. You don’t really care what they think, but it forces you to go through it. Plus, it’s the only reliable way to know how long the talk will actually take.

                Tip: The more you do it, the more you memorize it.

                See the full Slide Deck!

                For all the details and more tips, here's Peldi's original slide deck from the Balsamiq retreat about this topic:

                I hope you enjoyed Peldi's Tips on Public Speaking.

                Do you have questions, or other tips to share? Post them below!


                  On Working from Home, Better

                  Balsamiq is a company optimized for working remotely. Of our ~20 employees, only nine live within commuting distance of our only office in Bologna, Italy, and even those employees rarely go in five days in a week.

                  As I come upon three years at Balsamiq, I find myself reflecting on what I've learned about working from home in that time. There is truth to what Peldi has said: "the first year is great, then it gets hard."

                  The Daily Routine

                  There are a lot of articles out there with tips for working from home (like thisthis, this, and this). Many of them will tell you to get dressed and/or shower first thing in the morning, to create a routine as if you were going into an office.

                  This is good advice for someone new to working from home. After all, we all want to avoid this.

                  But I've experienced that getting really good at working from home (especially if you do it full-time) is less about replicating your office job life and more about unlearning it.

                  Forget what you think working looks like.

                  The first thing I tell people when they ask me for advice on working from home is to forget what you think working looks like. In an office, working looks like typing on your computer or sitting in a meeting room. Well, many of us have learned that meetings are a waste of time (to generalize). And sitting in front of a computer screen all day, typing away? What are we typing, anyway? TPS Reports? Just "stuff," to look busy?

                  At home nobody is looking over your shoulder, which is probably the best thing about working from home. So forget about "looking busy" and do whatever you need to do to do good work. It's very liberating once it really sinks in! The problem with sitting in front of a computer is that it makes it hard to think. And, for most of us, good thinking leads to good work.

                  Working from home as a skill is about managing a balance of working with your natural inclinations and working against them. You should work with own rhythm when it aids your productivity and work against it when you get in your own way.

                  Working with yourself

                  I find that I like to start work right away when I get up. I drink my coffee and check in on things, then I get up for breakfast after about an hour, then get dressed sometime after that. I enjoy being able to do things in that order (that would not work so well at an office).

                  I've also started embracing that I sometimes need a long-ish break early in the day but that I'm often ok with short breaks for lunch. This actually took some time to occur to me because that's not how I was "taught" to work in an office.

                  Pushing against yourself

                  For me, I've learned that if I start tabbing through all my windows without doing anything in them that I've hit a productivity wall and I need a break, even though I may not really feel like it. So I try to get myself to just stand up as the first step. Once I'm up I'll go for a walk or do some chores. This often does wonders. Being physically away from the computer makes me feel more ready to work when I come back.

                  distractionsImage credit: © The Oatmeal

                  "Commuting" by walking around the block can help transition from home to work.

                  Another challenge that I've tried to work around is the difficulty of transitioning from "home" to "work" and especially from "work" to "home" at the end of the day. To combat this I started taking a walk around the block before I start working and another walk around the block (in the other direction, of course) when I finish. I call this my "commute." Those few minutes can make a big difference and help me arrive back in a better state of mind than when I left.

                  Zooming Out

                  As for the broader picture, I tell people (ok, usually myself) that there will be times of low productivity. Days, weeks, or even longer. The first time this happens you might freak out ("I will never be productive again"), but after the 3rd or 4th bout you start to realize that it's an ebb and flow, that fighting it isn't the right response. You just gotta ride it out and know that it will end.

                  There will be times of low productivity. Ride them out.

                  One of the first articles on working from home that really resonated with me was David Tate's "How to work from home without going insane" and he has a section in it called "Crippling Depression – ride it like a wave." I return to this article at least once a year. That expression "ride it like a wave" has come back to me over and over and it helps me accept the state of things whenever I'm in a tough place with working from home.

                  How Balsamiq Deals with Working from Home

                  Balsamiq is optimized for working from home (more about that here). Even people in the office use our wiki and HipChat to communicate and keep people in the loop. This ensures that we really don't miss all that much from the office.

                  Even office employees use remote tools to communicate and keep people in the loop.

                  We also have two pages in our digital handbook: one called Managing Your Time and another with tips for working from home that contains a list of helpful articles about working from home.

                  Our Managing Your Time page starts by saying "With practice it should be possible to work fewer hours and get more done." We are not rewarded here for working long hours ("Pace, not Deadlines"), and we really value work-life balance, so this idea is something that feels right for us.

                  The page also lists some tips and tricks that reoccur in articles on getting things done, although it also acknowledges that what works for one person may not work for another.

                  Of course, we also find ways to see each other. We have monthly video calls with everybody to check in, encourage local get-togethers for people in the same region or time zone, and spend a week all together on our annual retreats!

                  The Lighter Side

                  Finally, working from home can be a great source of humor, especially when you can share it with your work-from-home colleagues.

                  timeImage credit: © The Oatmeal

                  You know you work from home when...

                  • You put "shower" on your to-do list
                  • Instead of wearing different clothes each day you wear the same shirt and pants for 3 days and then switch to a different set
                  • You laugh at yourself laughing to yourself
                  • Your friends think you're "trendy" because you have a beard, but really you just stopped shaving
                  • You lose track of time easily
                  • You actually miss your old commute sometimes (just for a minute)

                  Although some of us relish it more than others, I think that all of us "Balsamici" would agree that having the opportunity to work at home is a benefit to us and the company.

                  Do you work from home? Do you agree or disagree with any thoughts above? Have any tips to add? Feel free to reply in the comments!

                  - Leon

                    2015 Balsamiq Retreat in the Loire Valley

                    Since we are a remote, distributed team (9 from Italy, 5 from California, 1 from France, 1 from Germany, 1 from Netherlands, so far - and more are coming!), usually we see each other as two-dimensional people via webcam and, for many of us, just for a very short period during the day - what we call "Balsamiq Golden Hour" (8-9am PST / 5-6pm CET).

                    Our Annual Company Retreat is a great opportunity to spend a significant amount of time together in person, and it has a special meaning for the first-timers; I know that for sure, because this was my first Balsamiq retreat, and I loved it! :)

                    Our main goal for when we get together each year is to make shared memories. This means spending quality face time with each other, by cooking, eating, dancing, and doing different activities together. Basically the idea is to recharge our emotional batteries for the months ahead, when we each go back to our awesome but sometimes lonely home offices.

                    We also use the retreats to talk strategy as a team and have company-wide conversations if needed, but that's only a small part of the retreat, as it eats into the having fun time! :)

                    This was our sixth retreat together. Our previous retreat blog posts are here: 2010 (near Como, Italy), 2011 (near Recanati, Italy), 2012 (near New York, USA), 2013 (San Francisco, USA), 2014 (near Recanati, Italy).

                    This year we put every lesson learned from the previous retreats in a magic pot, et voilà, we had an incredibly amazing fairy tale week together!

                    Follow me, I'll show you everything.

                    2015 Company Retreat

                    The Location

                    We always try to avoid hotel accommodations; nothing against them, but we prefer to spend our retreats in a more comfy and relaxed space where we feel at home, with no outsiders around.

                    After a friendly competition between two different locations, the Chateau de Detilly, in Loire Valley won the contest.

                    Chateau de Detilly, Loire ValleyChateau de Detilly, Loire Valley

                    Can you imagine? A whole castle, all to ourselves. This was a big step forward, considering that during the previous retreats, we shared not only rooms, but also beds! We didn't mind, but we don't mind sleeping in fabulous rooms, as well!

                    Fab rooms at the ChateauFab rooms at the Chateau

                    We were split in two buildings, the Chateau and the Coach House. Most rooms were beautiful, but some of them were really amazing, with lots of luxurious extras. We randomly assigned rooms using


                    We loved the theme from 2014 "Learning From and About" where we had an overwhelming 25 workshops!

                    After that great success, we collected new ideas for this year's retreat. Everyone was invited to propose talks with the following characteristics:

                    • It's a group activity lead by one person.
                    • Participation is totally optional.
                    • Suggested duration: 1 hour.

                    Foldables workshopFoldables workshop

                    Here are the workshops we had in the Chateau (click to see Facebook photos of each):

                    It's amazing to see our colleagues leading a course and teach us how to do something. The best part is that in many cases, the workshop went beyond its hour and we kept talking and doing things even the days after. One example out of many is the knitting night led by Joy: it went viral and from that moment, every place and time were good for knitting!

                    Knitting everywhereKnitting all the things!

                    We also suspect that the Carlton dance that Mike taught us will come handy in many occasions. ;)

                    Other Group Activities

                    Doing things all together or in small teams is a real bonding experience. You can learn more about your workmates, both about their approach to challenges and goals, and how they cope with a project done as a real team. But more than that, it's great to have time to talk in person about this and that and deepen our relationships. For example, I will never forget the open conversations I had with a few Balsamici during our long Orienteering walk.

                    Here are a few of the group activities we did:

                    • 2CV Rally: in groups of three or four, we jumped in some classic Renault 2CVs and drove through the Loire Valley looking for places in a sort of treasure hunt.
                    • Breton dancing: led by a local enthusiasts of historic dance, we learned how to dance in perfect Breton style.
                    • Bike Tour: an afternoon biking on the Loire Valley's country roads.

                      Bike Tour

                    • Orienteering: three teams of five with a compass and a map, locating some games and challenges along the way.


                    • Golf: a group lesson with a golf pro: putting, swinging, and playing a few holes!
                    • Last but not least, 80's dancing! Check out the slow motion goodness below:

                    Discovering the Loire Valley

                    All countries have a lot to show: places, monuments, people, food... The Loire Valley in France is no exception. Early risers discovered the beautiful countryside around the chateau, with long walks and bike rides.

                    Discovering the Loire ValleyAn unexpected encounter

                    We toured a pair of places of interest: Fontevraud Abbey, a complex of religious buildings founded in 1101...

                    Fontevraud AbbeyFontevraud Abbey

                    ...and the city of Amboise, former home of the French royal court.

                    AmboiseAmboise seen from the castle

                    In Amboise Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years in the Chateau du Clos Luce, now restored, within Parc Leonardo da Vinci.

                    Chateau du Clos LuceChateau du Clos Luce

                    We also visited the city of Chinon, with its market and a Troglodyte village, where the houses are caves, carved in the limestone mountains rising up from the river.

                    Food, food, food...! (and wine, wine, wine!)

                    Being 17 people means that it's not easy for us to deal with cooking, preparing, doing dishes everyday, so we decided to hire Monsieur Dupree, Chef of Le Pélican Restaurant and a member of his staff, Monsieur Alain, for almost every dinner during the retreat.

                    It was definitely worth it! Now we sampled a lot of French food, and are all pretty proud to be all about that bass now! ;)

                    We also had one lunch at La Table de Mestré in Fontevraud and an amazing fancy dinner at Château de Marçay.

                    Then on top of that, we were able to squeeze in two chocolate tastings, two wine tastings, and a large number of glasses on the dinner table every night.

                    GlassesFive glasses. Every dinner!

                    Monsieur Dupree had chosen four different types of wine for every meal, from the cocktail to the dessert wine. Good times indeed!


                    Dining together after a busy day, and having someone else taking care of us was definitely the right choice: we had the time to relax and talk each other, and a lot of fun. I clearly remember three times where my ears and cheeks were hurting because of too much laughing! We also played Thumper during some dinners, and it was hilarious.

                    What has worked well

                    • It was critical to have a small designated planning team; and BTW, Anna and Luis did a great job!
                    • We hired a local, Janet, our eyes on the ground who helped us plan outings, organize local transportation, and spoke English :).
                    • One month before the retreat, Anna and Luis traveled to the Chateau for an on-the-spot investigation with Janet. Having an advance team do a walk-through helped us know what to expect on site, check wifi strength, etc.
                    • Start with a "Day Zero" before the retreat so travelers from afar have a soft landing. For the same reason, don't plan anything for the first day of the retreat.
                    • The good balance between activities and free time allowed us to work in small groups, keep an eye on everything (sales, support, bugs...), nap, play tennis and enjoy the pool.
                    • As mentioned before, hiring a personal chef was great for us.

                    What needs to be improved and what's next

                    While this retreat was fabulous, we always practice Kaizen, continuous improvement.

                    Here are a few things we're considering for the future:

                    • Accommodations: try to find a place that fit all of us in the same building, and possibly with less "inequality" between the rooms.
                    • Balsamiq retreats usually last about a week. Are they too long?
                    • Currently we meet annually. Given than soon it will be too hard to find a week that works for everyone (we're just too many now), would twice a year be better?
                    • Do we need a better process for date picking? Last year, we used a data picker in Google docs, color-coding our availability (Green="ok with me"; Yellow="not my favorite week but I could make it"; Red="I would skip the retreat it happened during this week") and numbers (from 0="won't come" to 10="love it")
                    • Do we need a better process for location picking?
                    • Do we want adjustments to the schedule (more or fewer outings, more or fewer workshops)?

                    More Photos, and New Avatars!

                    You can see 100+ retreat's pictures on our Facebook Page.

                    Like we do each year, we took a new company picture for everyone; check them out on our Company page - and you may want to click on the framed picture of the team on the top for a little, Shakespearean surprise... ;)

                    I hope you liked this little journey to our 2015 company retreat.

                    Do you have some ideas to help us in the organizational process? Do you have any good experience of Company retreats? Let us know in the comments below!

                    Bye for now,

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