My first lesson from my recent startup experiences is about the Cloud that trivialize the launch of a new startup. Basically all you need today to start a new development operation is simply a couple of great developers (You can also hire over the Cloud, but this worth another post), good laptops and fast Internet connections. No need for servers, no server room, no RAID disks, no backup devices, no switches, no hubs, no sysadmin, no firewall, no DevOps engineers, no production manager, no source control administrators, no clearcase VOBs

So let’s detail all what it takes to start a new startup operation.

Internet presence

First thing you need to buy a domain name from a domain registrars. This can cost a straight 10 dollars if you are creative enough to come with a new name. You can even buy your domain directly via Google apps. I’ve gone via Godaddy (note that I am not convinced this is the best one).

Then, you decide where to manage your DNS and to create your subdomains (for apps, www, blogs..). I’ve opted for AWS R53 that is very reliable even not easy to use. Later, you will likely need to issue SSL (and maybe code signing) certificate, and I’ve used GoDaddy and setup a Deluxe wildcard certificate. All this can be done in a couple of days, except the SSL certificate that will likely take some back and forth for the authentication process.

Email and basic apps…

Once you have a domain, you need set up emails, calendar, contacts and document collaboration for your team. I had no much hesitations and used Google app. For a $4 per user and per month, and with a minimal admin effort (still their admin console could be improved), you have email, calendar, and documents collaboration. I am myself not a fan of Google UX style so I am using the Apple apps on my macbook connected to Google mail, calendar and contacts. Some will prefer Office 365 but I so glad to not use Outlook again, so I did not even check it! Also Google docs are really just great in term of collaboration. Most of the dev team is on Linux and few on Windows, everyone picked up the right email and calendar clients for environment. No need to mention that Android and iPhone were seamlessly accessing the apps with no special setups.

Blog and static sites made trivial

When I decided to launch the corporate web site and a blog, I was first sure to go with Wordpress and I looked for an hosting offers, and I tried to select one of zillions of template available, to then setting up my WordPress environment with the help of a consultant and also paid some $50 yearly for hosting. Raphaël suggested me to use jekyll that together with the free Github hosting make it very convenient, completely autonomeaous and free solution. I fall in love with Jekyll and never met his Mr Hyde counter part.

Agile project management

Now we are all set, it was time to start working on some real development tasks. We selected Trello for our project management. Trello is basically a Kanban board, so simple that you would think it’s almost stupid. No mistake - Trello is a very powerful tool. The built-in collaboration functions, the ticket attachments, the checklists, the owners, the labels, give you a great and simple way to run your projects.

As a side remark for UX folks: The simplicity of Trello is inspiring me. Let’s have the users discovering the power as they use the product and search for more features. They should not overwhelmed with a bunch of powerful and complex features at start before they are ready to discover them.

We ran on the free version for more than one year, and then discovering the various power ups Trello is offering, I’ve switched the team to Trello business class. This way we have each development ticket connected to the github pull requests, our documentation board well integrated with Google docs, our Support tickets linked to the Salesforce case and there are many more…

Trello is really a masterpiece in our agile operation because of its simplicity. Thanks to its collaboration features, it makes it very easy to share project dynamics with different stake holders and to collaborate with external people. We succeed to work with teammates on 3 different continents and with up to 11 hours difference, in a very cohesive way.

Did I mention that their mobile app is just great and found myself answering questions from developers while walking to customer meetings.

Instant messaging and much more

I was using Skype for a while and a bit Google hangouts. Slack is going much beyond.

  • Like Skype and Hangouts, Slack enables you to instant message (direct message - DM) with your teammates and make it convenient to organize your contacts per organizations and teams. The facility to drag and drop media contents and have link preview make it a first class instant messaging. The recent beta of the voice (and hopefully soon video) calls makes it a leading communication tool.

  • Open channels are great, everyone can decide if to subscribe to an open channel. That is a significant change in the communication culture, where the sender do not have to decide who to include in his/her post but rather the potential audience decide if the topic is of interest. It’s a publisher-subscriber pattern versus point to points communication like emails and phone. So we are using slack channels, for topics such as design, back-end, IP, team events, … where each one can join or leave, it’s more open than a whatsapp group. Note you can also have private channels that are reserved to invited people for confidential topics.

  • But this is not all, we integrated Trello alerts, Logentries, NewRelic, Honeybadger, Circleci and all our DevOp, Development, and even sales systems alerts and notifications. Then within one tool, we had all our team communications aggregated and searchable. It makes ourselves much more efficient than reading generated emails… I see more and more people managing their meetings and communication around Slack and believe it is one of the most interesting change in communications since the failing attempt of Google Threads. Have a look to Trello public roadmap published via Trello

Bottom line, the new offering in cloud are changing the way we run operations, projects, cut the bill on tools and infrastructures and most important its improved our own user experience to create better products.

Note: I did not write about the sales operation, since we used that is expensive and not offering a great user experience. I’ve looked for a good, nice, simple and cheap CRM over the cloud with no clear findings. If you have a recommendation, please post it here.

In the next post, I will talk about the impact of the cloud on the development and the DevOp perspective.