After 6+ wonderful years at Atlassian, I’ve made the decision to return to the startup world as a Co-Founder of LaunchNotes. It’s never easy leaving a successful company, a fulfilling job, and a great team, but I couldn’t be more excited to join Tyler and Tony in their mission to reduce the frustration associated with software release management.
I decided to join LaunchNotes for three reasons:
“Don’t start a business, solve a problem you’ve faced.” -every startup book ever
Each month at Atlassian my Product Marketing team gathered with the 30 Jira Product Managers we supported and spent a few hours reviewing upcoming product and feature releases. This monthly roadmap review was a great opportunity for our teams to get together in person, understand what was shipping when, and discuss launch plans and timelines. One of the main reasons for this meeting was to ensure no upcoming feature or functionality ever slipped under Product Marketing’s radar.
Earlier this year in one of these roadmap review meetings something happened that I hadn’t seen in over a decade of working in software: a high value, high impact feature was designed, built, and rolled to production before the Product Marketing team even knew the feature was in development. As our team watched a live demo of a feature that had been released a few days prior, we began looking at one another in disbelief. How could a feature we knew customers were going to be thrilled about have completely slipped by us? I was conflicted. Although half of me was devastated that we’d missed a potentially huge opportunity to please customers, drive engagement, and improve CSAT, the other half of me loved that our Product and Engineering teams were shipping value to customers so fast that we hadn’t kept up. After all, isn’t getting value into the hands of customers why we were all ultimately there?
Serendipitously, the week prior I’d met with Tyler and Tony and they’d described their goal of ensuring no internal teams or external users were ever surprised by upcoming product changes. As I watched a live demo of a feature that had shipped into our product and left me and my team very surprised, I was reminded of the LaunchNotes product pitch. And it was exciting. LaunchNotes solved this very problem. It wasn’t a new problem for us, per se. In fact, it was something my team and I had spent an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid day-in-and-day-out through monthly roadmap reviews, a series of weekly check-in meetings, and, of course, a handful of different tools. With all of checkpoints in place (and likely a bit of luck), we’d been successful in avoiding the problem… until we weren’t. Like so many other SaaS companies that were building and releasing faster each month, it finally caught up with us.
Here was an opportunity to help solve the problem; an opportunity to bring the solution to market.
“97% of organizations have reported adopting agile development practices and 63% of these organizations are experiencing faster delivery times as a result.”
-VersionOne’s 2019 State of Agile Survey
Over the past few years I had the privilege of leading GTM for Jira Software, the world’s #1 agile tool. In this role I traveled the world speaking with hundreds of different agile teams, seeing how they were using Jira to support their agile process, and hearing stories of their successes and failures. Above all else, I learned that agile software development is today’s defacto standard for high-performing software teams. The dream of delivering greater value to customers faster, and the ability to iterate evermore quickly, are what teams the world over are not only striving for, but achieving. And fast.
However, with this acceleration in value creation for users has come a series of other complications for internal teams. Faster release and delivery cycles mean more code being released more frequently, and often by smaller and more autonomous teams. Knowing what is shipping to users when is becoming harder and harder for the many teams that surround and support the software development process. And as a result, these teams are having a harder time communicating said changes in a meaningful way to users. The DevOps wave seeks to solve this problem between Dev and IT teams, but where does that leave the rest of these teams? Teams that are often the ones responsible for making product releases a hit and change management successful?
Having worked in the developer tools and collaboration space for a while, I’m not only passionate about finding ways that software engineering teams can work more effectively together, but also committed to addressing the downstream issues that trends like agile and DevOps are creating for the rest of an organization. LaunchNotes aims to be the solution to this problem, serving as the communication layer between development teams and every other team in the org that needs to be involved in the release process. From Product Marketing to Customer Support to Content Design, LaunchNotes ensures every team proactively receives the right information at the right time. And the end result? No product change will ever reach production without internal teams being well aware in advance and fully prepared to make the change a positive experience for end users.
“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will take care of itself.” -Tony Hsieh
I’ve always loved this quote. Admittedly it may gloss over a few things, but the spirit of it is spot on. The heartbeat of any successful company or organization is a great culture. And from everything I’ve seen and read, this seems to be especially true in the early days of a company, when so many things have yet to be determined and the vast majority of the canvas is blank and awaiting a first layer of paint.
When Tyler, Tony, and I first began discussing the potential of working together on LaunchNotes, we had a few working sessions to see how the three of us collaborated and problem-solved as a team. Then after each session we’d grab a beer and just spend some time together. We talked about pretty typical things like product/market fit and GTM strategies for LaunchNotes. But I also made a point to ask them things like when they'd last had a major disagreement and how it was resolved, where they saw themselves in 10 years, and what they each saw as their biggest potential areas for growth. They asked me similar questions. We also talked a lot about what we each saw as the most important early steps in building the foundation of a great company, and traded notes on what other products, companies, and people we looked up to.
While I was sold on the product and product vision early on, and I’d known both Tony and Tyler for many years, I wanted to be sure the three of us were aligned on the most important thing: the kind of company we not only wanted to work at every day, but also build over the long-term. What I found during these conversations was both an alignment of values and priorities among the three of us as well as a shared vision for the kind of company culture that each of us aspired to create. A company built on openness and trust, where we wouldn’t just build great products, but a lasting and sustainable business. Somewhere that valued urgency, but also respected work/life balance. An environment that celebrated a balance of short-term and long-term thinking, and also celebrated our customer. Most importantly, a place where each of us was excited to spend our waking hours every day.
While the road ahead of us is long, and who knows what twists and turns we’ll face along the way, I couldn’t be happier or more excited to embark on this journey: solving a challenge I’ve faced, in a space I care about, with two great guys who share the same vision I do for building not only a great product, but an amazing company and culture.
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