I first met Jeremy Kraybill about five years ago when I needed some additional programming and architecture talent on a large client project. I have since had the great luck to work with him on several occassions, and I was personally very excited when he showed me an early iteration of Dashcord, the app his company just released on the AppExchange. Dashcord is a great example of the emerging Enterprise Apps story, so I asked Jeremy to share his entrepreneurial story.

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Let’s start off easy: tell us about your forthcoming app.

We make a 100% native Force.com marketing automation application called Dashcord. It’s an exciting time for us because our app fits perfectly between the traditional features of Sales Cloud, and where Salesforce is heading with Marketing Cloud. Dashcord focuses on making marketers’ lives easier within Salesforce. It gives them everything they need, integrated and working together: lead and deal scoring, campaign automation, customer lifecycle management.

Why did you decide to develop for the AppExchange?

I knew for a while that I wanted to build a company around Force.com products and had a number of ideas from my consulting days. I realized that an on-platform marketing solution made sense and that marketing was really an exploding software area. The more we spoke to customers the more we realized we were onto something big.

How has the feedback been during development and testing?

We had a 100% close rate for our beta program. We actually had to stop talking to prospects as the program filled up almost immediately.

When did you first start looking for beta customers?

We started talking to customers way before we had anything resembling a product. You can learn a lot from just chatting, even if you don’t have a mockup or presentation yet. We try to follow the Steve Blank / Eric Ries “customer development” process.

Do you code yourself or do you outsource it?

We do all our development in house. It’s possible that we’ll do some outsourcing in the future – I’ve done plenty of it in the past – but for now, as a young company, we get a lot of advantages by being able to speak to customers, and then design and prototype right away without having to write detailed specs to be sent to someone we’ve never met before. Outsourcing can allow you to scale up bandwidth quickly at low cost, but you also introduce drag when you specialize and you lose some of the collaborative aspects that I think you need to produce great software.

When you’re developing and run into a problem that you can’t solve on your own, how do you figure it out?

salesforce.stackexchange.com and the developer boards. It’s really rare to find an unsolvable problem.

How would you describe your development methodology?

Pretty lightweight Agile-style development. Lots of paper mockups, lots of iterations and customer feedback, Github for issue and source control, tons of automated tests.

What have you found is the best way to meet customers?

Word of mouth is always the best for us. We meet lots of people in person, but have also made solid contacts online through social media and Salesforce chat boards.

What was your first exposure to salesforce.com?

I first ran into salesforce.com with an enterprise software company I worked for back in the very early days of salesforce.com, when most of our customers used Siebel (yeah, it was that long ago!). I became a salesforce.com customer in 2006 when I was CIO of a promotional products startup. During that time, we moved most of our company operations – not just sales, but back office processing, HR, marketing, and finance – onto the platform while we grew revenue from $4m to $30m+. I fell in love with how much we could do on the platform, and how it scaled with our needs. Between then and Dashcord I’ve worked as an independent Salesforce consultant, helping dozens of companies get the most out of the platform.

What was the first app you ever wrote for production use in a Salesforce org? Is it still in use?

Almost all of the stuff I did in the early days is still in use, apparently. It’s cool to see that it’s stood the test of time, which is a credit to how the platform has continued to evolve to stay relevant to customers. I also wrote an AppExchange customer choice winner for a client that is still one of the top apps on the AppExchange several years later.

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