Introducing Marco Botton, Balsamiq's 1st employee

Feeling a great mixture of excitement, pride and trepidation, it is my pleasure to introduce to you Marco Botton, Balsamiq's first full time employee.

marcodesk

How did this happen? A little bit of history

Warning: the following section reads a bit like the "how we met" section of a wedding website, you may skip it if you'd like. You have been warned. πŸ™‚

Not long after moving back to Italy I received an email that read something like this:

"Hi, my name is Marco Botton. You don't know me but I remember you from high school (I am 3 years younger than you), and I also spotted you around the CS buildings at the University of Bologna. I stumbled upon your Facebook page and then on your site, and I was left speechless. I just wanted to tell you that you are awesome. πŸ˜‰

A little bit about me: I have been working as a C/C++ programmer at company ##### and I am building an iPhone application in my spare time, we'll see where that takes me... If you ever need someone who's a fast learner, knows his stuff about coding, good UIs, knows how to work in an international environment, uses Unix and Mac, has good taste, solid work ethics and is not lacking a good amount of ambition...I'd be happy if you could get in touch with me.

In the meantime, congratulations again and best of luck.

Marco"

I was immediately impressed, and replied that while I didn't need anyone at the time, I was always happy to meet good people.

Marco and I met for lunch a little while later, and we immediately hit it off. One thing that I really enjoyed was having someone to chat about tech stuff with...I mean, my poor wife can only take so much talk about Twitter... πŸ™‚

We've been having lunch together once or twice a month since, and it's been great. With time, I started hoping to be able to hire Marco in the future, but I still couldn't afford to, nor was too overwhelmed.

At any rate, I hired him for a small little project, implementing the "sketch it" feature of Mockups 1.5. Since Marco had never done any Flash/Flex before, I had budgeted about two weeks' worth of work for it. Marco delivered it in 6 hours flat.

...

Around the beginning of 2009, things started to change: revenue shot up, as well as number of customers of course, which is wonderful, but also a bit overwhelming for me to manage alone (we passed 2500 customers last week, with about 150 new customers weekly). I noticed that during the week I had less and less time for coding, with email and customer service taking most of my time. Even if Mockups demands relatively little support, a single customer problem might sometimes take me 2 days to diagnose and fix, which meant that for those 2 days forward momentum had to stop completely. Other time consuming tasks are just part of running a business...sending out invoices, answering pre-sales questions, dealing with international taxation (I hope to write a whole series of blog posts on this hugely time consuming PITA topic one day), etc.

So I started using the week-ends for coding. Not sustainable, and not enough, especially with all that I have planned for 2009. I wasn't happy about the slow speed of updates, and I found myself getting frustrated at every new incoming email, definitely an alarm bell for me. I was feeling like I was stuck in second gear, and I hate that feeling. So one day at lunch I bit the bullet and "proposed"... πŸ˜‰

Now, unless you are Italian you may not understand the magnitude of my request. People here don't quit their jobs...ever. If you have a stable job you're pretty much set for life...you may not have a long corporate ladder to climb, but you're pretty much sure that you won't get fired either. Marco is leaving a good, stable and relatively high paying job to take a one-year contract with "some crazy guy who had it made in the US and decided to move back to Italy regardless". πŸ˜‰

We agreed to start with a 1-year contract because I was too afraid to do more (don't forget I'm a total rookie entrepreneur here), but I know for sure that I'll be able to pay him for this year (there's enough in the bank to cover it already). We'll see how things go this year, but I'm hopeful to be able to keep him on indefinitely starting in 2010.

In short, Marco is taking a big risk with me, and I really appreciate it.

Marco, being the classy guy he is, gave 6 weeks notice. His last day was on Friday, and today is already his first day at Balsamiq.

What's Marco role going to be?

Marco's job title, at least initially, is going to be "Tuttofare", which means "do-it-all" in Italian. In other words, with time I want him to be able to do anything that needs to be done around here, from bug fixing to blogging to UX design to IT administration to customer service and partner management, you name it.

Just to give you an idea, these are the first tasks he's going to work on:

  • IT: figure out if we should switch to SVN or GIT for our code repository (sorry Perforce, I have to say goodbye, $700 a person is just too expensive)
  • UX: design the "check for updates" feature
  • Client-Side Coding: code the "Open Recent" feature
  • Client-Server coding: build a proof-of-concept Flex app that loads and saves data from Google Docs
  • Website: add text and screenshot for the latest changes to the documentation
  • Website: change every "I" to a "we". πŸ™‚

What I love about Marco is that he's not afraid of any of it...in fact, he's eager and ready to tackle any challenge I throw at him. πŸ™‚

How does this change my role?

I'm not sure yet, I am pretty much going to continue doing what I'm doing, but with Marco moving us forward with the TODO list I'll be able to spend more time on longer-term items like finally putting together a reseller agreement, finally publishing some customer interviews on the blog, figuring out if AdWords is working or not, and all that other "soft stuff" that I just couldn't get to before. Oh, and I hope to be able to reach inbox zero a lot more often.

To close, here's a picture of Balsamiq's current Worldwide Headquarters...notice our new matching IKEA desks and chairs, the big whiteboard, the bookshelf and the printer. Not visible in the picture is the fact that Mariah shot this picture...from the bedroom of our apartment! πŸ™‚

headquarters

We will update the company page to reflect these new exciting changes as soon as we can get a good picture of Marco, Mariah and myself together.

Please join Mariah and I in welcoming Marco to the Balsamiq family, his email is marco@balsamiq.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @balsamiqmarco.

Onward!


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Comments (19)

  1. β€œTuttofare” I love it! That’s what I am, but my father stopped talking Italian when I was a toddler and my Italian grandmother died. πŸ™ So wish I could speak Italian!

  2. Good job guys, the product is ramping up. I wish in the future to have a similar product for designing backend mockups, I mean EAI and distributed systems, stuff with no UI. I’m especially proud to see Italians leaving the usual workplace-for-life and founding a new ISP, so I want to wish you all the best.
    For source code versioning I have found an affordable solution at http://beanstalkapp.com I’m testing the free version which is enough for now, looks pretty ok.

    Good luck

  3. Pingback: My First Month at Balsamiq Studios | The Balsamiq Blog

  4. Welcome Marco !

    A great first for Balsamiq ! I look forward to meeting you one of these days !

    Luis

  5. Hey Peldi,

    Congrats of the first hire! Marco seems like he will fit right in. It appears Marco has already completed his first feature implementation task, awesome.

    Ryan

    P.S. You can also use an svn centralized repository and git as a local repository. I have been using git for a bit on the client — it is really nice to be able to work with checkins locally (for work in progress) before committing them officially.

    Ryan Cunningham
  6. Hey Peldi, hey Marco

    we just took the step and switched from Subversion to Bazaar. Bazaar’s support for merging is a lot better and it gives us the flexibility we need in a collaborative process. It has Perforce import, too, as far as I know. Subversion is centralized like Perforce, GIT distributed. Bzr lets you choose your preferred workflow. Take a look at http://bazaar-vcs.org/Workflows

    Best
    Silvan

  7. Welcome aboard the good ship Balsamiq, Marco!

    WRT the Git or SVN discussion, take a look at http://bazaar-vcs.org/ It has a much nicer and conventional UI than Git, more like Subversion’s in a way, but is a cross-platform, written in Python, distributed VCS with performance that can readily cope with most projects. It’s an official GNU project and development is funded by Canonical (funders of Ubuntu) IIRC.

    Ralph Corderoy
  8. Congrats to Balsamiq on this next step. Thanks for writing up this great story. … and you should definitely switch to git.

  9. Congrats! I worked with Marco for 3 years, he his a great person both from the professional and human point of view.
    Good luck!

    Antonio

    Antonio
  10. Congratulations Peldi!
    It’s always been great to find such a talented-and-motivated individual like Marco.
    Look forward to meet both of you one day.

  11. Congratulations Peldi!
    I am a friend of Marco’s and all I can say is that he was one of the best men (not just programmers) in the company. You two will have great times since Marco is not just a good professional but he always has funny words and jokes to share: he is really amusing!

    I hope I will mange to meet you Balsamiq guys some day, in the meantime…
    in the mouth of the wolf!
    Paull
    (Marco’s ex desk-neighbour πŸ˜€ )

  12. Congratulations to you both. Another person to say hello to when I make my often thought of, but not yet planned, trip to Italy.

  13. Congratulations! That was an awesome introduction of an employee.

    Don’t lose momentum and focus Paldi. You have to have some people to support you.

    Good luck!

  14. Congrats guys. I hope you can soon add a zero to the one -> 10 years ;-).

  15. Congratulations! Please keep us informed how it speeds up your development.

  16. Wow, congrats!

  17. PS: your office is bigger than mine πŸ˜‰

  18. Marco, I envy you. I’m sure you will learn a ton from Peldi.

    Peldi, I envy you. Marco sounds like the type of employee every company tries to hire but seldomly finds.

    Onwards and upwards, no doubt.

  19. Congrats Peldi & Marco! πŸ™‚