Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jason Cohen of SmartBear Talks about His Company

Jason Cohen of SmartBear Talks about His Company

Where are you from originally?

Austin, TX! One of the few natives.

What university did you go to?

UT here in town, a BA in CS.

What brought you to Austin?

Mom. :-) See? You assumed...

What is the idea behind your startup?

Smart Bear makes Code Collaborator-- the first and most popular tool for peer code review.

What need does it fulfill?

Just as authors have editors, software developers review each other's work
too. Developers have special needs -- integration with tools like version
control and IDEs, working with people who might be 12 time zones away, and
bosses who want metrics and reports.

Our software removes the drudgery from code review process and paperwork.

What exactly does your product do?

Code Collaborator removes pain from code review in several specific ways.

First, it integrates with version control systems, so you can say "review code I haven't checked in" or "review changelist 1234" with a click of a

Second, it organizes threaded discussions in-line with the code in an web-based interface. Because the chatter and code is displayed together, you don't get massive emails or meeting notes with phrases like "on line 1534 of //depot/foo/bar....".

Third, it tracks the defects you find in code review. You can either fix them on the spot or transfer them to your issue tracker for later.

Fourth, it collects metrics automatically, so it takes no time to get all the data and reports managers want. Some organizations are under contracts that require code review (e.g. medial devices and DoD contracts), and Code Collaborator produces the reports you need.

Who is it for?

Anyone who writes code! Any language, any platform, any IDE.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up a business?

Psychology. When you're bootstrapping alone there's no one to share the
work, share the burden, share the worries or share the decisions. There's no one who can buck up your spirits or give you a pep talk when you need it. No one to agree that the big decisions are good and well thought-out.

What is the next step for you and your startup?

We just had a big new v5.0 release where we added document, image, and URL
reviews to our existing text-file code reviews. That opens up new markets and new customers so that will keep us busy for a while.

I'm a fan of "do one thing and do it well," so although we're branching out
to new people we'll always stick to our core competency, which is people
reviewing each others' work.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Be honest with yourself and with your customers.

Admit to yourself when something's not working and change it. Don't be a
slave to any one idea if there's evidence that it's wrong. Proceed as if
you're right about everything, but be ready to change your mind about
anything, including your entire business
Have strong opinions, weakly held.
There will be rough times, but that's normal. so don't get discouraged.

What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?

Networking events where you actually meet new people. There's all sorts of
amazing people in Austin, many of whom are happy to give advice over a cup
of coffee; the trick is meeting them.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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