By @SimonCocking. Interesting interview with the prolific and talented Jen Dewalt. Founder @zube_io. Tequila sipper. Maker of 180 websites in 180 days.

How did you get into doing what you’re doing now?

Before I started Zube I was working at an early stage startup where we were 10 developers. We were all working on different parts of a complicated system and we were having trouble keeping up with who was working on what. We tried some project management tools to fix this but none of them stuck.  The cost of constantly updating and maintaining the project management tool was just too high.

At the same time my co-founder was working at another small company and their dev team was having having similar issues. After chatting with other small and mid-sized startups we realized this was big pain point for a lot of engineering teams. There just wasn’t a good project management tool that fit into the developer workflow for teams at that size.

What are you working on now?

Zube (zube.io) is a project management platform for tech companies that love GitHub. Zube offers a kanban-like board with deep GitHub integration where teams can organize, prioritize and manage their tasks. Over the past few years, GitHub has become an essential part of the developer workflow at the majority of small and medium tech companies.  Existing project management solutions do not take this new developer workflow into account, but we do.  Zube was built from the ground up to support this new developer workflow and has the most complete GitHub integration on the market.

Why did you make 180 websites in 180 days? What did you learn from doing so?

I studied fine art in school and after I graduated I started getting involved in my friends tech projects doing graphic design, UX/UI and marketing. After a while I realized I wasn’t satisfied with staying on the mockup side of things; I wanted to actually build the products I was working on.

I had been wanting to learn to code for some time but never seemed to be able to stick to it. I’d pick up an online course or textbook, get a few chapters in and get frustrated, bored or just busy with life and abandon it. I decided that if I was ever going to learn to code, I’d need to do it seriously. So I quit my job and started trying to figure out how I was going to it. After mulling over a few project ideas, I stumbled onto the idea of making one website a day, every single day for 180 days.

It was a pretty crazy idea but it totally fit with my background in art and my working style. I was looking for a project that would let me start small, build things I could see and play with and would lead me to full stack development. Best of all, the project would force me to keep moving forward and not get hung up things that I found confusing or frustrating.

Through the project I was able to learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ruby on Rails, and a little Node.js. I made toys, games, tool, data visualization apps and real time communication apps. By the end of the project I was able to make the dynamic, interactive web apps I had originally set out to make.

How was last 12 months?

Awesome and a little crazy! The company I was previously working for (Wit.ai) was acquired in January of 2015 which is when I started thinking about starting Zube. My co-founder and I started working on Zube full time in March and since then we’ve built our product, gone through a private beta and launched Zube into public beta in October. It’s been a lot of fun working to help other developers communicate more efficiently and be more productive.

Top tips to startups for success?

Talk to your customers early and talk to them often. Getting your users’ insights and pain points will ensure that you’re actually solving their problems. That said, you shouldn’t follow user feedback blindly. Use feedback to uncover the root problems your users have and work from there to solve it.

And if you haven’t launched your product, launch! #jfdi

Is SF, CA a good place for startups? Why?

I think SF is an awesome place for startups. Obviously there is a lot of venture capital here but maybe more importantly is the community. There is so much energy here and a lot of support for startup founders. Starting a company can be very lonely at times, especially in the beginning and being surrounded by so many other people going through the same thing you are helps a lot.

What sort of startups would you invest in if you could?

I’m really excited about the developer tools space. Companies are relying more and more on technology to succeed. Tools that help engineering teams stay focused on their core products and be more productive are hugely valuable to companies.

I’m also stoked about the Internet of Things space. We’re still in the early days of IoT and there’s a lot of hype around consumer facing advancements there, but I think as more companies look to bring connected hardware to fields like enterprise, manufacturing and healthcare we’re going to see the space flourish.

Women in tech, if you had a magic wand, what would you change?

I’d love to see more women starting their own companies! Studies have shown that companies with female founders and executives are more capital efficient, bring in higher returns on investment and have a higher likelihood of success. But in the US, only about 10% of venture backed companies have a woman on the founding team.

Getting more women starting companies is a huge component of dealing with the diversity and inclusion in tech problem. The more women who are out there leading companies the more role models we have for women and girls considering a career in tech.

Strategies for managing online / offline, work / life challenge?

For better or for worse, I don’t have a lot of separation between work and life right now, but that’s just kind of how I am wired. When I’m working on a project, I get kind of obsessed. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are like this. If you have this tendency, it’s important to be aware of it and be on the lookout for signs of burnout and take action before you get there.

What are your favourite types of tequila?

My favorite tequila is Esperanto, particularly their extra anejo. It’s aged for 5 years so it’s really mellow but unlike a lot of extra aged tequilas you still get a lot of the ‘tequila’ flavor. I’m also a fan of the Tequila Ocho brand. They have 8 estates where they grow their agave and every year they release four types of tequila, each coming from a single estate.  Like wine, the different locations for the estates produce different tasting notes for the tequilas made there.

Have you been to Ireland, when are you coming over? What’s your impression from afar?

I haven’t but I really want to visit! I have Irish ancestry and I have a cousin who lives there. I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. It looks so beautiful and everyone I’ve ever met from Ireland has been very friendly.


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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