An update from the CEO

A little over a year ago, I sat down and wrote a blog post about “the future of BugHerd”. It seemed like a good idea at the time and we had some grand hopes and visions for what we wanted this new direction to be. Unfortunately, a year later, I have to put my hand up and say we got it wrong. The future of our company isn’t in three or more different applications, it’s in one app. That app is called BugHerd (except now with a lower case H).

I won’t go too much into the backstory of how this all came to be, you can check the previous post about that. But I do want to dive into the reasons why we’re refocusing now. We tried to take on more than we could handle. We tackled problems we didn’t understand. We tried to compete in areas we could never hope to compete in (not with our limited resources). Most importantly, we lost focus on what makes us “us”.

The first mistake we made was taking one well known brand (BugHerd) and trying to turn that into 4 brands (Bugherd, Stack, Brief and Macropod). It’s hard enough as a startup to try and launch one successful product, trying to launch 3 was idiocy. The disappointing thing for me is that we had no shortage of people telling us exactly that (esp Paul, Niki, Bardia, Rick, Chris, Alan!) . At Bugherd we’ve historically suffered from building our way out of problems, and this was just another example of that. We failed to resist the temptation to build a new solution to a problem we’d actually already solved. We didn’t need to reinvent ourselves, we just needed to keep doing what we were already doing. Perhaps if we had a team of 100, rather than a team of 10 we could have achieved it. But it was, in hindsight, a fool’s errand to try what we were trying.

The second mistake we made was tackling a problem space we really didn’t understand, or arguably have a passion for.  The digital agency space, whilst one of our biggest customer groups, is not a space we understand well enough to launch an entirely new product into. Yet, with Brief, that’s exactly what we tried to do. We confused understanding our value to a market with understanding that market as a whole. We understand contextual feedback, we don’t understand how agencies do “all the things”. The fact that we had to bring in external knowledge in the form of advisors/contractors to help deliver the product should’ve rung alarm bells. In the end, we spent 6 months building a product that, once complete, had very little in common with Bugherd or anything else in our business. Not only did it not capitalise on the technology we’d developed over the years, but it also made zero use of the knowledge we’d accumulated as a team. We failed to make use of our best assets, and instead worked to deliver something we were ultimately ill equipped to deliver.

Thirdly, we tried to compete in markets we simply didn’t have the resources to compete in. As a startup, your one advantage is your ability to target a niche and deliver more value to that niche than a larger, better funded company can. You achieve that by being hyper-focused on a particular problem, without worrying about all the “edge cases”. You solve a problem for 1 person, instead of solving it for everyone. With Bugherd we were solving a very specific problem felt by a very specific set of people. That wasn’t a weakness, that was a strength. Releasing a standalone bug tracker (Stack) was a mistake. By trying to go head to head with Trello or JIRA as a plain old bug tracker, we pitched our very limited resources against giants with an unassailable market lead. David might beat Goliath, but he didn’t do it by going to toe to toe. We may be able to do that one day, but it’s not going to happen today.

Finally, we lost focus on what made us great. When you go back and look at our testimonials, or talk to our customers, you’ll see that they don’t think we have the best bug tracker and they don’t think we help agencies better manage projects. They love Bugherd for getting feedback. Simple as that. The person giving feedback may change (developer, designer, client or user), but the core value is as simple as “hey, can you please make this button blue”. Anything that is not improving that conversation is really just a distraction.

So what can we do better? What can we deliver that is more in line with our core value?

Our customers have already told us. And whilst we got it very wrong with our choice of implementation, we certainly had the right idea.

We need to be able to provide better feedback options to our customers. Instead of just websites, we need to be able to let users give feedback on designs, wireframes and mobile apps. We need to be able to allow more people to give feedback. That means better guest management, better end-user feedback and easier installation options for non technical users. Finally, we need to help resolve those feedback requests faster and more easily. That means, custom columns, due dates, better search and easier task resolution.

All of those things are Bugherd. They’re not Stack or Brief or some other brand name that didn’t yet see the light of day. That’s the Bugherd you know and love… but better.

There’s still a lot more work to be done of course. But I’m extremely optimistic about our future. We have thousands of happy customers that keep us fed and employed. We have an amazing team that is constantly growing. We live in the most livable city in the most amazing country in the world. What we were lacking, we’ve now found, which is focus on what makes Bugherd great. All of our efforts are now focused on improving that and delivering more of what you already love.

Finally, our team loves to hear from our customers. It’s what gets us out of bed every morning. I’d love for you to share with us in the comments what you love about Bugherd. Let’s celebrate the things we’ve done well, and work together to make the next version even better.

Thanks to all of our customers that have loved and supported us so far!

CEO and Co-founder

About Alan - Alan Downie has been working in web for over 20 years. Alan was the founder of Fivesecondtest, UsabilityHub and BugHerd. He participated in the Startmate (Australia) and 500 Startups (US) accelerator programs, before becoming a mentor at partner at Startmate. He recently launched Splitrock Studio, a startup studio based in Melbourne, Australia.


  • Gio says:

    Hi Alan
    Thank you for sharing this insides.

    I’m also CEO of a startup and understand you exactly.

    Anyhow better to do something wring than to do nothing!

    I wish you all the best.

    Greets from Switzerland


  • Good post. Bugherd (original) has been a cornerstone of our workflow for several years now. It’s incredibly helpful for Quality Assurance internally and final testing/feedback from clients.

    For us, Budgherd is not used for “make the button blue” sort of suggestions. I believe making those sorts of changes once code has already been written means that the project was not properly planned at an earlier stage. We like to use Sketch + InVision for creating a clickable image-based prototype before we even write a line of code. Of course, there are always things that need fine tuned (especially mobile and cross-browsers) once the site is actually written into code. That’s where Bugherd comes in for us.

    My suggestion is to be careful not to loose the excellent developer focused features as you move into Bugherd 2.0. In my initial tests, I still like Bugherd original even though the new version looks prettier.

    Looking forward to seeing what future iterations look like.

  • Kate says:

    I’m sure it has been a hard lesson to learn, but to ‘fess up to it like this is truly admirable.

    I will admit to being disappointed when you announced that you were splitting BugHerd into a bunch of tools, and we’ve pulled back from using it for several reasons, but this was certainly one of them. (The others are that we don’t get enough day-to-day development projects any longer to justify the spend, and our government client experiences huge issues accessing the reporting capabilities.)

    I personally find using BugHerd great. I hope that I’ll be able to bring it back into our suite of tools within the dev environment here.

  • Joel says:

    One thing I appreciated from the goal was splitting bugherd out to just being a feedback engine that could integrate directly with other project management tools. Bugherd as it has been doesn’t have a good workflow and doesn’t integrate well with existing workflows. I hope that goal isn’t lost as I’d like to use bugherd as the UI with which our stakeholders can provide project and user feedback.

  • Andy Males says:

    It’s really refreshing to read such an open, honest critique of a business from one of its owners, without all the corporate bull.