Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with founder Basil Shkara from Bee.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
Bee is an issue tracker for Mac. It connects to your existing JIRA, FogBugz and GitHub accounts to seamlessly manage your projects together in the one app. It’s native too, which means it’s fast, responsive and slick.
I found traditional issue trackers to be focused too much towards project managers rather than the people on the ground: the developers and designers who actually use the tool to get things done. So I spent several years designing and developing a more focused UI to allow individuals to communicate effectively with their teammates. As a developer in a corporate environment, we had to use JIRA — and the UI was challenging to say the least. Bee is the opposite: it’s fast, minimal and doesn’t get in your way.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
To date, I’ve relied on word-of-mouth. The development community is very well connected and incredibly vocal when they find a product they love, so it has grown thanks to tweets and recommendations.
I’ve also tried some podcast advertisements with varying levels of success. As the sole developer, support person and marketing guy, Bee was a labour of love designed and developed over the last three years in between contract jobs. I’ve been the one touting its benefits and I’m lucky that the development community loves it too! It’s bootstrapped now, and I’ve been able to work full-time on Bee this year.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?
It can be tricky supporting countless server configurations across the 3 issue trackers Bee connects to at the moment. I’m proud to say that Bee works with any JIRA server running JIRA v5 and above. It took quite a bit of effort to support such a massive tracker with all of its workflow and custom field configurations, but I did it! FogBugz servers running v8.1 and above are also well supported, as well as all GitHub:Enterprise servers and the public GitHub website.
Aside from that, adding support for other issue trackers is tough and slow-going at the moment due to balancing existing features and fixes for the current shipping version, and the upcoming Yosemite release. Compatibility with other issue trackers is definitely close on the horizon though.
How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?
Bee is the only Mac app which connects to multiple issue trackers. This means you can combine multiple projects from different issue trackers into the one location.
Bee also provides a great time tracking UI which lets you easily start and stop tasks and synchronises your timesheet with the server (JIRA and FogBugz).
Aside from this, listening to what Bee’s users need is vital. So many of today’s feature-set are a result of what existing users have asked for.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Vim. I’ve been using Vim as my text editor for more than 10 years now. Bee was written using Vim, and I’m also writing the answer to this question in Vim. Anything involving text goes into Vim simply because at this point, it’s like an extension of my thoughts. I can type and edit as fast as I can think.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to outsource. Your time can be spent on your own core competencies, and finding the right people to do what they know best for your company pays off in buckets.
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