How to Win at Atlassian App Development

by | Aug 5, 2021 | Business, SaaS Founders

Embarrassing tech errors have become engrained in public discourse since the start of the pandemic. Accidentally unmuting microphones during Zoom calls, and the increased likelihood of messaging the wrong person on workplace messaging apps has increased exponentially due to remote working. However, these accidental broadcasts can take a serious toll on businesses, especially when they take place between employees and their customers. If messages designed to remain internal are accidentally broadcast due to technical mishaps, the consequences can be soured business relationships, terminated contracts, increased workloads, or worse.  

It was with this in mind that CEO of Accxia, Volker Schulze, built Doublecheck for JIRA Service management. JIRA Service Desk is the first port of call for employees and customers looking for help in over 65,000 companies worldwide, however, the tool has always defaulted to “respond to customer” whenever comments are added to projects.  Doublecheck solves this issue by prompting users to confirm that comments are sent to customers.  

SaaS Mag had a chat with Volker to learn about his journey and to see if he has any tips for entrepreneurs looking to create their own apps for the Atlassian Marketplace.  

Working with Atlassian 

SaaS Mag: How has Atlassian been to work with? 

Volker: We produce pieces of software that make life easier for users who are not interested in developing themselves. Atlassian is pretty easy to work with. And it’s a very transparent company. That’s the ethos of Atlassian, the two founders, they said “we want collaboration, teamwork, transparency.” It’s good. 

The Challenges of Building an App 

SaaS Mag: What were some of the challenges of building an app?  

Volker: JIRA is unique. You need to know the software, so you need to know JIRA inside out. And you need to make sure that when you produce an app, that it doesn’t disturb the way JIRA works. You also need to be careful that you don’t make JIRA slower. In some cases we’ve seen apps that fail because they produce errors and get JIRA to do things it shouldn’t do. So, for example, in JIRA you get email notifications, so if you change something, and that person wants a stakeholder to get notified, they get an email. That’s all fine, but if suddenly your app notices this and sends out hundreds of thousands of emails to the same person, you have a problem.  

So, you need to make sure you’re not disturbing the actual life of the software. And for that, you need to understand how JIRA works and you need to test your software appropriately and thoroughly. Everything goes through a certification process. Because of my team’s experience, usually our software goes through relatively quickly. 

The Learning Curve 

SaaS Mag: What do you wish you had known when you were building Doublecheck that would have prepared you for your sale? 

Volker: We didn’t think of selling Doublecheck, but it’s a good question. If we had built it to actually sell it, after three years or so we would have pushed the marketing harder. We relied on organic. 

At the beginning, the price they charged for Doublecheck was very low. Over time the prices went up and we could have accelerated the price increase if we studied the market and shifted our course. What we sold for $50 at first is now sold for $3,000. 

It’s going up. Here’s another thing: Atlassian has three deployments: Data Center, Atlassian Cloud and Service. At first we only produced the app for server and it took us quite a while to get this certified for Data Center as well. The audience for Data Center is broader. By developing for Data Center, you can sell to banks and security conscious organizations, which is more valuable, so that took us a while. 

Also, we still don’t have a cloud version. It’s very hard to produce a cloud version. It can be done. But to be honest, we didn’t know that the cloud was coming. I mean, we could have maybe anticipated it, but when we produced the app, there was no cloud option for JIRA. 

Advice for SaaS Entrepreneurs 

SaaS Mag: What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to start to build an app or get into the SaaS business? 

Volker: My advice is don’t despair. It will take a while, there is competition on the Atlassian marketplace and if your product is good, the audience will come. 

It will take time, about two years or so. And as I said, you might be able to accelerate the timeline by doing a great deal of marketing. You have to decide whether to spend your money on marketing or to spend your money on developing, so it’s a bit of a trade off if you’re a startup company, when all your resources are constrained. 

That’s what you’ll think about but don’t despair. It will happen. It’s like a rolling a snowball. It gets bigger and bigger. The more it rolls, the bigger it gets. So stay at it, and make sure that your app is always the latest version. Atlassian always issues new versions and it’s critical that you keep up. Sometimes there is an update every few days. These are just security patches, but every six, eight, ten weeks they issue new functionality. This is why you have to make sure your apps are aligned with these developments. 

SaaS Mag: What advice do you have for someone looking to scale? 

Volker: There are two strategies when it comes to scaling as an app vendor. One strategy is volume. So you say, let’s produce as many assets as we can. That’s what we do. The functionality of these apps is more limited. We keep it simple, but we are producing 20 or 30 apps. On the other hand, there’s complexity, which is riskier. If you spend a lot of time and it turns out no one wants your app then you’re wasting lots of resources. It comes down to your team and the depth of your pockets. And if you embark on the latter strategy, my advice would be to do your research. Make sure you know the market. 

Volker’s knowledge of his market and his focus on creating simple, foolproof apps has led him to success in the Atlassian Marketplace. It’s not just strong ideas and technical ability that leads to SaaS success, but long-term commitment and the ability to learn from one’s mistakes. If you remain focused and carefully balance your development and marketing budgets, you might scale quicker than you expected. 

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