How to Succeed In Building Developer Tooling with Peter Pezaris
As so often, I start by asking Peter what brought him to where he is today. Because, when you look at Peter's CV, you see that he graduated in Computer Science, but that instead of building software, Peter started out building whole software companies.
Peter gives me a quite surprising answer. He says he was it was a dream of wealth and money. Yes, Peter wanted to become a founder, because he thought this is how he becomes rich and can live a good life. Peter does not completely answer my question, whether he managed to realize this dream, but listening to him, there is no doubt anymore that he found the right path for him. And yes, Peter's companies are successful.
Which intrigues me. So, I want to know how he decided to start CodeStream, his current startup. CodeStream is a collaboration software for developers. It allows developers to connect and talk about different artifacts right within the IDE.
Since Peter builds tech businesses for over 25 years, I wanted to know how their software development processes have changed over time. For example, I imagine that for the first startup he probably had a waterfall-based software process. And I guess that now they follow more agile processes.
Peter explains to me that indeed some of the processes were more sequential at the beginning and one time they spend months developing a feature that really hurt their company's success. They only realized that after releasing it and it took them months to recover from that problem. Nowadays, CodeStream is very agile. He pushes code to production or test environments several times a day.
CodeStream is a system that integrates with many other software systems, such as different IDEs, issue trackers, or planning software. So, I really want to know how they handle all the different integration points. How much of the software is universal, and how much is customized for each integration system?
Peter says, that they knew from the beginning that they will have to integrate with so many different systems. They knew this ability will define their success. So, they spend a lot of time making sure the architecture is well-designed for that job. The main challenges come from integrating with the different IDEs, because the IDEs are rapidly evolving.
But what about the team culture? How does he make sure the company as a whole is successful? Peter says openness and transparency are what defines his success. He heavily promotes the social aspect of working together. People should not only build software, but they should also know they are part of something bigger.
Even though CodeStream is quite remote, Peter makes sure that the team comes together a lot to socialize and stay in connection. They spend the money that they save by not having office, on travel.
I also heard the CodeStream is going to be open-sourced. So, I want to know what motivates Peter to go along that path.
Peter says, that, well quite frankly, this is what is popular right now. But also, open-sourcing gives them the ability to stay closer to their customers and the developer community. So, by open-sourcing their system, people get the opportunity to collaborate with them and learn from their software system.
Another motivating factor is transparency. Peter says, as they are newcomers and a startup, businesses do not trust them yet. By open-sourcing people can see what the system looks like behind the scenes, what happens to the data that is shared, and how does the process really work. This helps them to earn the trust of their users.
Another thing that interest me is how did Peter get funding for this idea?
He says, that before this startup, getting funding was a soul-destroying activity. Because, when you are going to look for funding, 90% of the time, people will say know, Peter says. But Peter also explains that this does not say something about your startup or idea. Most of the time it says something about the portfolio of the investor. And a "no" mostly reflects that your type of company does not fit into that portfolio.
But, Peter also tells me that by being part of the Y Combinator made a big difference. Looking for funding after having a YC badge, made this experience so much more enjoyable and looking for funding was much easier.
I end this show by asking Peter for advice he would give to new founders.
First of all, he says, that if you think about becoming a founder - just do it. It's the best thing in the world. Yes, when Peter talks I can clearly hear that he made the right choice and that he is very happy with his path.
But, I also know many founders that are going through rough times, especially at the beginning, Times in which nobody seems to be interested in their product. Times that it's hard to come up with the right pivot of your systems. Times in which you doubt everything. So, what does Peter have to say to those people?
Peter says, that he learned that most companies are initially having a hard time. They fail, and fail, and fail until at one point they succeed. Even companies like Airbnb were close to shutting down several times at the start. But, it's all about not giving up and working your way towards success. Peter says, if you haven't found product-market fit yet, then you have to do only two things: talk to customers and build product. Don't focus on marketing. Don't think about hiring.
Talk to customers and build product.
Yes, I agree. And we close the interviews here.
I hope you enjoyed it.