First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Michal Simon: 2020 is a tough year, and I know many people and businesses are struggling. However, many people are also adapting their lifestyle, and businesses are innovating, which I am a big fan and supporter of. My family and I are trying to be in this group of people keeping up with these crazy times, learning new things, and also switching careers. By staying positive and keeping a forward-looking mindset, I am certain that we will all get through.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Codeac.io.
Michal Simon: After I finished university, I bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco and started searching for a job there. After around 25 interviews in a week, I ended up in a dating start-up as a developer. During the year that I spent there, I have learned one important thing: In the 19th century, there was the Golden rush. Not many things have changed since then, just the gold miners were replaced by developers. In the past, the most successful ones were not those who were looking for gold, but those who were selling shovels and strainers. We have, therefore, decided to create a gold strainer for developers and called it Codeac.io. This developer tool acts as a spell-check for programmers in the cloud that helps reduce issues in the code. These issues, also called technical debt, are a serious problem every IT project is facing, and we are helping teams fight against it as much as possible.
How does Codeac.io innovate?
Michal Simon: For us, innovation is a never-ending process; we found many dead ends and had to often start from scratch. Each time we reflected on what went wrong, and this kind of retrospective, along with the feedback from our customers, helped us form our service into its current state.
In addition, supporting developers with emerging technologies like Infrastructure as Code with our analyses is one of our biggest priorities as it allows us to stay on edge. We are also closely watching the leading communities around different programming languages and are also actively contributing to the best practices. Moreover, we are continuously observing the news in the technology world and reflecting current trends in our software.
Finally, educating the market by providing insightful content regarding best practices is crucial. We are also very active by being part of various technical meetups in Europe and are trying to help developers deliver high-quality software faster.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Michal Simon: Luckily, the pandemic hasn’t affected us too much because we have established the remote-first way of working right from the beginning. Thanks to this approach, we have set all the processes needed for app development and communication accordingly, and along with our independent team with great work ethics, we didn’t have to change almost anything.
As for the business, the situation is more complex. In the IT world, we see clients that slowed down and reduced their need for development. At the same time, there are also others that increased their demand for technical solutions as digitalization took over. These companies are currently experiencing many issues with technical debt, and we are in the perfect position to help them.
Our own business pretty much reflects this trend, too; we have a strong pipeline with promising deals, and a few of these are definitely thanks to the pandemic speeding things for us a little bit.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Michal Simon: Thankfully, I didn’t have to make any difficult choices so far; however, I have been part of some difficult decisions that our clients had to make. One of the patterns we see that keeps emerging during these unprecedented times is that companies with healthy codebases and best practices incorporated into their software development process can pivot and quickly adjust to the current situation. It is not a coincidence that these companies are often prioritizing strategically important tasks over the short term gains. For example, companies that invested in more robust and scalable cloud infrastructure are gaining an upper hand and becoming much more competitive in these times.
I am sure there are still many difficult choices ahead of us. I am learning as much as I can from those that are making them right now and hoping that the lessons will help me tackle the challenges that may come.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Michal Simon: My time-proven way to deal with stress and anxiety is to build resilience by getting out of my comfort zone. This is a long term process that I have been practicing ever since I went to San Francisco, and it helped me to deal with many difficult situations in the past. By stepping out of your comfort zone, especially during “safe” times, you get used to the feeling of uncertainty. That way, you won’t let fear cloud your judgment and create a correct mindset to deal with whatever is ahead of you. Honestly, try out as many things as possible, get used to the unknown, don’t be afraid, and few things will surprise you down the road.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Michal Simon: It is clear that the market for developer tools is growing faster than ever. We see evidence, for example, in the DevSecOps movement across the industry. Our competition can be defined as any automatic code review tool that is cloud-based, and the most well-known is, for example, SonarQube, Codacy, or Code Climate. Nevertheless, the industry’s main pain is not the competitors; there is enough space for all of us, but rather what technical debt is and the consequences of it. So although we are competitors, all of us are doing a great job in educating the market about this problem.
In our understanding, the goal of automatic code review tools is to provide clear information on the code quality and not be a barrier in fixing them. That is why we also focus on the developer experience, and this aspect is something that differentiates us from our competitors. Furthermore, we believe that focusing solely on the quality of application code and Infrastructure as Code provides a more holistic assessment of code quality, which is well appreciated among our cloud-based customers.
Your final thoughts?
Michal Simon: Innovation is not something that just suddenly happens; it is the result of a continuous cycle starting with the action that you can take (exploring dead ends, stepping out of comfort zone, educating and learning), reflecting on these actions (retrospective, continuous improvement) and finally identifying the opportunities (bigger picture, market trends, customer feedback).
It is said that the most innovative ideas are usually born during a crisis and for a good reason. These times are tough for many; however, though it might be controversial, I believe that the opportunities that are created by it will make us a better society and push us forward.