Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?.
My name is Vedran, I'm 33 years old and I've been a developer for the past 15 years. I started out with back-end development in PHP/MYSQL and progressed to learning HTML/CSS/JS as well as DevOps. I love writing great, efficient, and optimized code. Before starting our current startup, Treblle, I ran a development company for the past 10 years with clients all around the world.
With our development company, we completed over 100 projects and launched multiple products and startups for others. We managed to raise 1,4 million dollars in a Seed investment round led by Nauta Capital and at the moment we are serving more than 200 customers and growing daily. Considering we haven’t officially launched we are very happy with the results so far.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I ran a development agency and at one point we had like 50 APIs and apps live or in development. So my days were spent on providing integration support to other developers, writing documentation, jumping on calls trying to debug trivial things, trying to understand if there are problems on the APIs…so I started thinking that there must be a better way.
Let me give you an example: I work on an API and as I am ready to give this to other developers I have to spend hours, days writing documentation. With Treblle that is done for me as soon as I make one request. Another example would be a mobile app developer who starts working with the API and all of a sudden tells me something like this “I am trying to add this but something is working can you take a look”. This means 99% of the time I have to go jump on a call with that developer and together we try to see what he is sending, what he is getting, what might be wrong, and why.
I looked for weeks at what others were using, what solutions were available and quickly realized there isn’t a tool that does what I needed. Since then we started building Treblle and never looked back. Even early on, Treblle saved me and my team members hours upon hours every week so I’m super motivated to continue helping ourselves and others solve things that shouldn’t be as complicated and time-consuming. There is a saying that the best developers are the laziest and always try to come up with solutions to make their job faster and easier.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The origins of Treblle date back to 2017. when I found myself building a lot of ad-hoc logging tools to help me debug various weird edge cases with APIs. At one point we had so many projects in our previous development company that my days would be spent on providing integration support to other developers, helping them figure out what they sent wrong, what they were supposed to get...I thought there has to be a better way and started slowly working on our first PHP SDK for Treblle.
I was driven by a single idea about being able to view API requests as they were made, in real-time, and allow others to do the same. I also knew that to get others to even consider using such a product on their API it needed to be fast, like really fast, scalable, and secure. From early 2017 to early 2019 I've spent a lot of time trying to achieve the performance and scalability I wanted to see. I dropped the project multiple times because I simply wasn't happy with it. Finally, in April 2019., I got the idea of how I might solve the problem by randomly working on a client project and watching some AWS videos in the background.
From there, together with Tea, our mobile apps lead, we spent weeks shaping the early prototype that we gave Darko, our co-founder, to design - which he knocked out of the park. As time flew by and we got our MVP ready COVID happened. We lost a couple of clients in the tourism industry but at the same time, it allowed all 3 of us to spend more time working on Treblle. As we kept adding features and developing them further, Treblle also became part of our daily routine in the workplace. As we started bringing in other companies, developers, as well as our clients the feedback we were getting, was amazing.
Mobile developers were ecstatic about the fact that they see requests in real-time appearing on the project dashboard as they make them. Back-end developers enjoyed it because they didn’t have to write or update API docs and they were able to spot any API problems instantly. Less technical people would use Treblle for everything from tracking how their developers worked, how many errors they were making to using the system as a lead generation system based on user behavior and activity. We were thrilled with the feedback but we also wanted to put more eyes on it; both from developers we never met as well as the money guys.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We haven’t officially launched yet, we are working with a consulting agency that takes care of our marketing shoutout to Solveo. I can share some insights into getting our initial users.
The approach is simple: provide value first and then casually link your product. If your product is good enough to solve people’s problems, they will sign up and try it.
We were the first users of Treblle. Short and sweet. We built it for ourselves to help us with our daily problems. We used it for months on many projects in the background behind the scenes on many of our client projects. It made our daily job easier and we were also trying to test the scale.
Slowly our clients and their developers started noticing that we had answers ready to a lot of hard questions about APIs, bugs that happen, usage, and similar. So they started asking us if we could give them access to Treblle. We would onboard them, show them around and they were all interested in using it on all projects and being able to see it for themselves.
We came up with a pricing structure which was, I would say, symbolic— but still, they started paying for Treblle on top of what we were doing for them. Because a lot of the projects we worked on for our clients also involved a lot of their developers, we started seeing interest from them as well. They would reach out and ask us about Treblle and if they could use it on some side projects they had or even on real ones.
Slowly but surely those developers started spreading the word across places we didn’t even have clients like India, Ghana, Peru, etc. We were thrilled that real developers liked the product so much that they would recommend it to others. That was the bulk of our initial growth: a combination of existing clients in the tech space and a really good product that people love. To this day we still grow like that and I hope we will continue to do so.
Besides getting our initial users through our already established clients, what worked for us was getting involved in relevant online communities. We all know that Reddit is a great place for developers, and you can find subreddits for almost anything.
The approach is simple: provide value first and then casually link your product. If your product is good enough to solve people’s problems, they will sign up and try it. A few of our posts were among the 10 top posts of the month in subreddits like /entrepreneur /laravel and /api. This got us a good amount of traffic and a few signups. This approach applies to Hackenews and Quora as well.
Another approach that worked for us was recommendations and reviews. Being a developer myself, I’m always eager to test out new products if recommended by thought leaders in my space, so we also utilized this approach. We reached out to a few influential people in our community to give Treblle a try. If they liked it, they would share it on social media. Twitter is the channel that works excellent for this type of campaign.
Moving forward, we are focused on creating high-quality content on our blog and building relationships with blogs and online magazines geared towards API and app development. Hackernoon is one of the distribution channels we are using for our blog content. One of our blogs managed to get into the top 5 stories of the day and got featured in their newsletter.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The first thing we are doing is redesigning our current website. It was built before we knew what the product would look like at the end. After that, we plan to launch the Web Summit in November. In the meantime, we are also adding features that we set out to build. Some are small, some are requested by our clients but a lot of them are big and long-term features that will make the entire platform even better. Some of them include: building a universal iOS/iPadOS/MacOS app, allowing users to set up events on certain API requests, improved analytics, and similar.
Talking to people about your product, idea, technology, business, users, you’d be surprised how much you can learn from various people in various businesses just by talking and asking questions.
Our current product, even though it is fully complete and working, is still in the early stages of what we can and plan to do. Having spent so many years working with APIs we know exactly what we need to do and how we need to do it to make API development and management even better. Our focus for the future will be around complete automation.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Talking to people about your product, idea, technology, business, users, you’d be surprised how much you can learn from various people in various businesses just by talking and asking questions. We’ve asked our clients what they think about Treblle a million times.
Every time I speak to a developer who is using Treblle I ask him “how can we improve, what do you think, what do you need?”. I’ve talked to people that have nothing to do with technology and APIs about everything from running a business, scaling, hiring, life. You can learn from anyone you just need to know what to look for.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I love Trello. I can also talk about the tech stack behind Treblle. I’ve always been a PHP guy so our tech stack in some cases is conservative. On the front-end, I’ve used pure HTML/CSS/JS as much as I could, and to make my job easier we are using Bootstrap in some cases. I’m a huge fan of keeping the front-end code optimized and performant hence the minimal approach— and besides Bootstrap— frameworks like React, Angular or Vue.
On the back-end side, we are using Laravel. I’ve been developing with PHP/MYSQL for 15 years and I simply fell in love with Laravel. We’ve been able to achieve wonders with it and we plan to continue using it. Besides that, our cloud infrastructure of choice is AWS and we use a lot of services: S3, SQS, SES, RDS, Lambda, CloudFront, API Gateway, and so on.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and don’t be ashamed of your code. For so long I’ve been terrified of what people would think of the code I write, is it good enough, can I do it better, more efficiently. That’s good in a sense that pushed me to write even better code but also blocked me in so many ways. If someone tells you your code sucks don’t worry, you can make it better tomorrow. That’s the beauty of development.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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