Every once in a while I get asked to tell the story of why and how K15t Software got started. I've finally gotten around to writing it down, and I thought I'd share it here for anyone who's interested in following our journey.
The story begins in 2002, a time when Bugzilla was still king of the bug trackers, and two young blokes in Sydney had started a small software company to change that.
The young Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes
2002: 'Bug tracking' is now called 'issue management'
I had just finished University and was working for a big company on an internal software project for which we needed a good bug tracker. Luckily, a colleague of mine found Jira on the internet, and that was when we first learned that 'bug tracking' had now become something called 'issue tracking'. We started using Jira and everyone on the team loved it. It had everything we were looking for, and was so simple to use. I'm not sure if first time Jira users would agree with that these days, but that's another story . . .
JIRA 1.4 just released: The Atlassian website in 2002
Unfortunately, the users of the software that my team developed did not love our software as much. In fact, they didn't even like it. For me as a young software developer, this was pretty disappointing. But after two more jobs and seven years in corporate IT, I learned that this feeling is kind of the standard in big companies. If you've worked for any large, multi-national corporations, you probably know what I'm talking about: limited resources, changing requirements, politics, etc.
2005–2010: Escape from the IT Department
So, what could I do? I knew I wanted to build software that people would like and actually want to use, but at the time I couldn't name many examples of business software that had (and had earned) such users; at least outside of Atlassian's Jira and Confluence.
I actually considered applying for a job at Atlassian and moving to Sydney, but my partner had just started a great job in Stuttgart, Germany – and who knows in retrospect if Scott and Mike would even have hired me. So instead, I started developing a Confluence add-on as a side project. This add-on would later become the Scroll Exporter for Confluence.
A bit later I met my co-founder Tobias, who joined the project with a lot of energy, and together we founded K15t Software in 2009/2010.
"We called it K15t Software because when we presented our Scroll Exporter for the first time at an Atlassian User Group, they insisted on a company name. We didn't have one, but since Stefan had started the project, we decided to call ourselves K15t (an abbreviation of Stefan's lengthy last name – Kleineikenscheidt) & Friends, which was later turned into K15t Software."
– Tobias Anstett
With the Scroll Exporter, we set out to help people use Confluence for documentation and content management. We named our product "Scroll" after the format used by some of the first content managers in history: monks who recorded the knowledge and traditions of humanity on scrolls.
2010: Bootstrapping the company
We started the business, and soon found out that in order to make our users happy, we also needed to give them help with our products and with the other Atlassian tools. To be honest, some of them weren't actually interested in our add-ons, but only wanted us to support them with their Atlassian toolset. Not only were we were happy to help, but we were also able to use the money from those projects to bootstrap the company and keep us growing.
We eventually had luck convincing some of our customers to use our products. But even when they didn't, we would still collect fresh ideas and use them to build new products and solutions. We eventually became an Atlassian Expert in May 2010, and would grow to become Enterprise and Platinum Experts some time later. Today, we continue to be a Platinum Solution Partner with most of our customers located in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
2018: Fast forward to 50 employees
Team lunch at Kulturwerk
So where are we now? Today K15t Software is a team of about 50 colleagues, 20 of whom help our customers run Atlassian Software and 30 others who design, create, and support apps for the Jira and Confluence platforms. I'll save the story of how exactly K15t got to this point for another day, but for now I hope you've enjoyed learning a little about how – and why – K15t Software began.