Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Ray. So, where are you based?
I am in Chicago, IL.
Love the place. My favorite hot wings in the world are there: Jake Melnicks! Okay… enough about me. Tell us a little about yourself.
Serial entrepreneur in the tech field. Open source CRM for the past 5 years. I will admit that I’m not a developer, but I can program the most fabulous “Hello World” message that you will ever see…
Hey. Not everyone is a developer and a startup needs more than developers. What were you doing before Zurmo?
I’m sort of still doing what I was doing before starting Zurmo (that was harder to articulate than I expected). I co-own another CRM company, Intelestream, which focuses on developing and customizing open source CRM applications. We work mostly with SugarCRM and the different derivatives. We created our own fork of SugarCRM called Intelecrm in 2009. Two years ago, we decided to create our own CRM application on our own code base, which is where Zurmo came from. Before starting Intelestream, my partner and I started a telecommunications company that provided wireless Internet access to areas in the Chicagoland suburbs that did not have high speed internet. We sold the company in 2004.
Okay. I can see where the serial part of comes from. So tell us a little about the app you have running on Jelastic.
Zurmo is a highly sophisticated open source CRM project that is written in PHP utilizing JQuery, Yii, and RedBeanPHP and relies heavily on test driven development.
Right now, we have 1000+ unit tests running across eight server configurations. Zurmo is developed using an agile method, so tests play a very important role in development. Without them, it would be very difficult to develop an application of this complexity and be sure that everything works correctly.
We have unit tests (with code coverage of about 85%), functional tests, and walkthrough tests (a mix between unit and functional tests, used to test if controller actions are executed correctly). We developed our custom continuous integration environment (http://build.zurmo.com/), which covers unit tests, functional tests, code violation, checking for missing translation messages, performance, and more.
With an almost religious zeal for testing, you will find that our obsession with Test Driven Development (TDD) means a more stable application. Gone are the days of ‘upgrade and pray’. Now it is ‘upgrade and test’. With the testing infrastructure in place, you can create and maintain a custom-built CRM system with the assurance that future updates are not going to break your installation.
I love that line about almost religious zeal. Reminds me of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition skit! So, what do you think about Jelastic?
The ease of deployment is what stands out. With such a complex app and strict install requirements, we are looking for ways to make it easier for our users to get the system up and running.
What are your plans for the future?
We are on the cusp of publishing our 1.0 release (GA) so it is madness over here. We learned a ton from the hundreds of open source CRM implementations over the years and realize how challenging it can be for a company to embrace a centralized database. Traditionally, CRM systems have failed end users. User adoption is the #1 cause of project failure so we have been building functionality that creates more intrinsic motivation for users to actually use the system.
Gamification and socialCRM are a few innovative development arcs we have focused on and will continue to build around in our upcoming releases. We focused heavily on the UI and will continue to do so in order to create a user friendly experience that will lead to solid usage. The end goal is to transition CRM from a dull system that sales/marketing people view as “the data entry thing” to an engaging, enchanting, and fun system that end users enjoy using.
Alright. So, what do you do when you aren’t busy working? Any favorite hobbies?
Sweet. I haven’t been to Florence yet, but I want to.
Do you have any advice for people in startups?
I can speak to two things about startups. First, get ready to make mistakes and embrace them since that is the most powerful way of learning. With a start-up, it’s chaos, If you are not putting yourself in a position to make mistakes, then you are probably not pushing hard enough. Second, hire people that are smarter than you. The fact that I have owned 3 tech start-ups without knowing a lick of programing and never studied anything computer science related is a testament to this. If you are the brightest person in your company, you have a problem. Find people like Daniel and hire them (http://blog.jelastic.com/2012/06/29/the-jelastic-spotlight-legos-robots-java-and-daniel-johns/). Judah, do you mind putting a good word in for me?
I’ll ask him! He is a pretty good web developer now and he and his (and my) younger brother, David, are pretty set on creating builder robots right now… maybe I can convince them to take a break and do some work to save up money for that project.
Thanks for your time, Ray. It’s been a pleasure.
If you want to learn more about Ray’s startup, check it out! Zurmo.org