Scottsdale-based Axosoft is a Small Tech Company with Big Culture - AZ Tech Beat
Like his company, CEO Hamid Shojaee packs a bigger punch that he lets on. Standing next to him, you get the impression that his ideas are probably much bigger than he is, and that’s just fine for companies like Verifone, Lego, 3M and even NASA. That’s because these companies use Axosoft OnTime to plan and develop their own world-class products and services. Seeing the scale of the companies that trust Axosoft’s scrum software, it’s safe to say that the company’s future is looking bright.
What is Scrum?
Scrum started in 1986 with a paper by Harvard professor Hirotake Takeuchi. In it, he proposed a new and agile product development methodology that questioned the supremacy of command-and-control management. Scrum is about getting your product from idea to market using a collaborative approach. One dev team handles all phases of project development from top to bottom, start to finish. Professor Takeuchi described it succinctly 26 years ago, “Go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back and forth.”
Building Software for Software Development
Scrum is about organization, efficiency, and teamwork. Obviously, its employees should be tightly-wound, oily-haired, bowtie-wearing, nerds, right? Well, apparently not – at least, not in Axosoft’s case.
Axosoft is not a run-of-the-mill company. For example, Shojaee rides to work on a Segway PT, he shares his workspace with 5 other employees, and he’s the type of boss that would goad a software engineer into a pushup contest before yelling at him for missing a deadline. Axosoft embodies the core ideals of scrum: teamwork, efficiency, and leadership. “We are software engineers to the core,” Shojaee explains.
Stepping into Axosoft’s corporate offices feels like crossing the plane from what typical office reality is, into how things should be. There are no cubicles and the employees work in team workrooms designed for 6 people each. People are welcomed into these through floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors. Each room is named after an important historical figure in science or engineering. Nobody has an office.
Instead of breaks, the engineers have Nerf battles with each other (which they later post on YouTube). Company meetings are often held in a kitchen with a dining area that is comfortable, inviting, and often the hub of interesting conversations. By all measures, Axosoft focuses as much on cultivating its own culture as it does on building world-class software.
That’s not bad for a company that started as a single-employee outfit in a home office just 10 years ago. Even more impressive is the fact that Axosoft has grown, organically and profitably, into a 30-employee organization without any outside funding.
In an open letter written to mark Axosoft’s ten-year anniversary, Shojaee had no qualms about honestly assessing its state of affairs. “Our pricing is confusing and not exceptionally cheap,” he confessed in March, 2012. “In the past, OnTime’s user interface was not fast or easy.” Shojaee explained how this realization allowed the company to reinvent the product and release its latest software addressing these issues.
Shojaee had no incentive to offer constructive criticism of his own product – when the letter was written, sales were still at record levels and Axosoft was continuing on a growth path, but he was being pragmatic about the company’s future.
It was also in this letter that Shojaee proposed the company’s simple $7 plan for all its SaaS offerings. This, he said, made pricing, “exceptionally attractive and simple.” The idea is that each SaaS product (Scrum & bug tracking, Help Desk, and Team Wiki), would be $7 per user, per month, per product (with an even more attractive price point for small teams of 10 or fewer members).
Since the announcement of its $7 plan in April of this year, Axosoft’s new customer rate has grown by more than 400%! Yes, Shojaee’s gamble to reinvent the company and lower its pricing drastically has yielded impressive results.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
In addition to showing the nimbleness of a startup with its change in pricing strategy, Axosoft continues to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive in other ways:
30-Day Projects – Every year, after a major release of OnTime, the Axosoft dev team turns their attention working on new products that help them learn new technologies. The devlopers choose their own projects and go at it. When they return to working on OnTime, they report having renewed focus and energy for their flagship product and they bring with them some new knowledge to add to their tool bag. This year they are doing things slightly differently and have already announced one of the products.
TransferBigFiles – What started as a weekend project eventually turned into a file transfer service with thousands of customers and over 20,000 Facebook fans, so far.
AZ Disruptors – In an attempt to provide another spark-point for the Arizona software community, Shojaee and a few Axosoft employees started AZDisruptors as a YC-style accelerator that provides funding, workspace and mentoring.
AZ Tech Beat – This blog is another way that Axosoft is giving back to the tech community, and attempting to shine a light on the amazing software startups and resources we have all around us.
More About Axosoft
As Axosoft evolves, Shojaee expects that the company will maintain its focus: design great products that are easy to use and cheap. He calls it the “Sweet Spot” of product development.
# of employees: 30
Funding: Self-funded, no outside investments to date
Founder: Hamid Shojaee (@hamids)
Websites: axosoft.com • ontimenow.com • transferbigfiles.com
Phone: (800) 653-0024 • (480) 362-1900
Headquarters: 13835 N Northsight Blvd • Suite 205 • Scottsdale AZ 85260
Disclosure: We thought it noteworthy to mention that Axosoft is the financial backer of AZTechBeat.com.