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LIVE! AMA with Vitalii Zurian on his Marketplace app success story

Hello Atlassian Community! My name is Vitalii Zurian, founder of Lizard Brain, and I am excited to share my experience building a successful Atlassian Marketplace app with you.

Here’s a quick recap of my story: I was working as a software developer for a German tech company when I recognized a gap in agile estimation functionality within Jira Cloud. I decided to build the solution myself using Atlassian’s APIs. It worked pretty well, so I listed it on the Atlassian Marketplace as Planning Poker, just for fun initially. As this side project gained traction, I developed several more apps and ultimately left my job to pursue app development full time in 2016. My company, Lizard Brain, reached $1 million in lifetime revenue in 2019. (You can hear the longer version in this YouTube video.)

I will be LIVE on the Atlassian Community on August 15th from 10AM-12PM PDT, answering your questions about all things Marketplace app development! 

Talk to you soon!

Vitalii

23 comments

Hey Vit, is there a link where I can join your live session?

Hey @Yassin  I will post the link here. 

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@Vit Zurian : Amazing story! I love reading about success stories of Atlassian Vendors! 
Here's my questions:
(I listed them 1 for 1 so they're easier to answer/follow...)

1. At what point in the Product Life Cycle of your App, did you realise you had to stop it as a side-project and take it on full-time?

2. What percentage of your time/focus/energy is spent on Support?

3. Do you use JIRA SD for support? (Trick question! Of course you do... right??)

4. I know nothing about Lizard Brain... tell me more ! ! Is it just you, or are you an organisation, how many apps in total, link to your Vendor page on Marketplace, etc. etc. ! (Want to come to Rotterdam to give a talk at an Atlassian Community Event!?!?)

5. Building a successful app is tough! What is the number one lesson you would love to share with enthusiastic new Vendors that want to follow in your footsteps!?

6. The Atlassian landscape is changing... more DC's.... more Cloud.... quite some migration from Sever/DC to Cloud. Will this impact your success? Have you had to take any severe measures to mitigate risks??

(That is all... for now 😵)

Hey @Andy Barker - TWNKLS AR thanks for the great questions! Here we go.

 

At what point in the Product Life Cycle of your App, did you realise you had to stop it as a side-project and take it on full-time?

I took it full-time not because of necessity but rather because of the opportunity (i.e. could but didn't have to). What I mean is that I could have easily continued working in the office and doing the Atlassian Marketplace apps development/support simultaneously as before. But the idea of being an independent developer was quite lucrative, so I decided that I will quit the day job as soon as certain revenue criteria are met.

The formula was simple — it had to be about 20% above my salary. Back then it was about $10k MRR (by MRR is refer to the vendor profit after the Atlassian's cut), so that's when I thought it was safe to quit the day job.

Like Andy Barker - TWNKLS AR likes this

What percentage of your time/focus/energy is spent on Support?

In my experience, customer support is tightly related to the product development. I use customer feedback to fix and improve the products, therefore in most of the cases a support request turns into a feature request turns into a feature development and subsequent release.

Given that, I spend around my 3/4 of time on maintaining existing products (fixes and new features) and the rest — on the new products (within or outside of the Atlassian Marketplace). Naturally, the more products you have the more time consuming it becomes to maintain them, but luckily since January 2019 I was able to take a very talented developer on board.

Like Andy Barker - TWNKLS AR likes this

Do you use JIRA SD for support? (Trick question! Of course you do... right??)

Yes, I do use Jira Service Desk!

Big shout out to the JSD Widget team, as it was only after the widget release when I switched to using JSD instead of zendesk or zoho. But it is a much better user experience when using JSD widget, as it looks and feels more integrated.

Like Andy Barker - TWNKLS AR likes this

I know nothing about Lizard Brain... tell me more ! ! Is it just you, or are you an organisation, how many apps in total, link to your Vendor page on Marketplace, etc. etc. ! (Want to come to Rotterdam to give a talk at an Atlassian Community Event!?!?)

We are an organisation! Specifically, an organisation of 2 people lately (a good friend of mine and a very talented developer had joined Lizard Brain in January 2019 on the good partnership conditions). 

I came up with the name randomly.

I was reading a book by Seth Godin back then ("Linchpin"), and the author was describing the concept of the reptilian brain the we humans have. There is no deep reasoning behind the name honestly, I just liked how it sounded (and it is also kind of funny when German authorities have pronounce it within a serious setting, e.g. when discussing a tax declaration or some other legal aspects).

Here is our listing:

https://marketplace.atlassian.com/vendors/1211528/lizard-brain-ug

Looks like nowadays we have about 10 apps, wow! I guess we'll have 11 by the end of 2019.

Rotterdam sounds beautiful and I would love to come one day!

Like Andy Barker - TWNKLS AR likes this

Building a successful app is tough! What is the number one lesson you would love to share with enthusiastic new Vendors that want to follow in your footsteps!?

I think we as developers spend too much time being obsessed with picking the right technology and trying to perfect our solution, while missing another important variable in the equation — the customer need. It is important to understand that by spending your time on perfecting that app you are increasing the potential loss of the invested time if the app does is not needed.

For example, you're building a Google calendar integration. You spend 50% of your time putting together the code required for integration (which simply creates a time entry in the calendar which links back to the Jira issue), and the other 50% of your time is spent on polishing the features (the user should be able to change the title, to add assignees, oh and the dropdowns for the assignees should have the native Atlassian look and feel, oh and reminders should be configurable, oh and it would be nice to use react or angular so the user doesn't have to reload the page) etc.

My suggestion is to go for the first 50% of the solution and start working on another app, while waiting for the customer feedback. If someone requests those features — go for them immediately, but if they don't — you have just saved a lot of time and invested it into new app. You'll also get your first 4-star review for implementing the feedback quickly ;)

I hope it makes sense

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The Atlassian landscape is changing... more DC's.... more Cloud.... quite some migration from Sever/DC to Cloud. Will this impact your success? Have you had to take any severe measures to mitigate risks??

We are a Cloud-first vendor so Server to Cloud migrations are very welcome! However, we have some Server/DC listings too, but those are they contribute about 10-15% to our revenue.

Server apps normally require much more customer support, therefore if you are a fresh developer I would recommend to start with the Cloud, as Cloud apps are technology agnostic. You don't have to know Java (good if you do!) to make a Cloud app. It could be done in JavaScript or PHP or Ruby or Python or even in bash for that matter! 

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Sharing answers to the questions from LinkedIn too

You've built Toggl and Clockify Jira integrations. It was your initiative or you somehow partnered with tool owners? Revenue sharing?

It was our idea. I believe back then there was no Toggl integration for Cloud, so I decided to take the niche. Naturally after that I started exploring other time trackers, and realised that Clockify has a very similar API so it was quite easy to replicate the integration.

Any legal issues with them RE using their brand? No issues with Atlasssian legal dep.?

No, not yet! :D

Honestly, it causes a lot of confusion for the Toggl users, but Toggl team is kind enough to forward customer support requests to me when customers confuse the integration app with the Toggl app itself, and I do the same when customers are asking Toggl related questions. Cheers Rico from Toggl!

We didn't have any similar experience with Clockify yet though.

Do you know how to get "staff pick" badge? Any article you can point me to?

I believe we have never been featured in the staff pick, so I don't know.

Any cons of being Jira "Top Vendor"?

I don't have the numbers, but I believe that if you have competition on the Atlassian Marketplace, it is better to have the Top Vendor badge. You never know :)

No cons though, only pros!

Can we get "Top Vendor" status while offering some product completely free? What do you think?

To my best knowledge only paid via Atlassian apps are qualified for the Top Vendor program

@Vit Zurian : Awesome answers ! Thank you sooooo much.

If it works out you are always welcome in Rotterdam to give a talk at our AUG. 

For my lesson learnt question --> YES! It made perfect sense. THANK YOU !

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