Q&A with Fridtjof Detzner about Scaling and Continuous Improvement at Jimdo
How can you make a company grow without sacrificing it’s culture? InfoQ talked with Fridtjof Detzner, co-founder of DIY website creator Jimdo, about how Jimdo started and scaled up using agile and why Jimdo uses kaizen and retrospectives to improve continuously.
InfoQ: What made you decide to start Jimdo together with the other founders?
Fridtjof: We realised that people need an easy DIY Website Builder with outstanding designs, but no coding necessary. Simply start creating an own website with just a few clicks.
In 2004 we founded NorthClick, the precursor to Jimdo, on an old farmhouse in northern Germany.
My co-founders, Matthias Henze and Christian Springub, moved in to my parents farm without any money. We developed an online software that now is the beating heart of Jimdo.
After a short while we won a business plan competition that awarded us $20,000. Combined with some early agreements and our first customers gave us enough money to move to Hamburg. We rent our first office - since that time, we've steadily expanded, moving into a bigger office and working with a steadily increasing number of customers and team members!
More and more of our friends asked us whether they could use our DIY Website Builder for personal sites. We were really deeply impressed by the cool websites they created! Some used Jimdo for pages about themselves. Some of our first Jimdo-User showed their sailing trip from Germany to Sydney, Australia. Other people used their websites to promote their bands...and the feedback was just awesome!
That's when the idea was born to give away what you now know as Jimdo - Pages to the People! Today 180 people work at Jimdo - it's great to collaborate on Jimdo with all these folks!
InfoQ: Jimdo is a bootstrapped company which has grown from own revenue. I'm assuming that this has influenced the way that company has scaled up?
Fridtjof: At Jimdo, we've built a rapidly growing business, which has garnered some interest from venture capital over the last few years. We've put it off because we never really had the feeling that money would make us any faster. But in 2012, we found an area where money might help us grow more quickly: online marketing. We gave our pitch and had a very good term sheet from a top-tier VC on the table. The valuation, investment amount (8 figures), and the rest of the terms were everything we could’ve asked for. The discussions were great; the investors really helped us understand our space better. On a personal level, we got along very well. We basically just needed to sign. But by taking a venture round, you basically commit to an exit. We're building this company for the long run.
We are very focused on agile to compensate for a smaller team. Further more we have highest standards of customer support to encourage word of mouth.
InfoQ: Some time ago I interviewed Magdalena Bethge about how a feel good manager can foster and grow culture. Can you explain in a few words how life looks at Jimdo?
Fridtjof: The offices are more like a living community. Actually, we have two: our headquarters in Hamburg and the US office in San Francisco. It’s very important for us to learn, help, and collaborate with each other. Teamwork isn't a buzzword, it's how we get things done more effectively. Since a picture is better than words, you can get an idea of what a day at Jimdo is like in this video of Jimdo or read more about why people love working at Jimdo.
InfoQ: In the InfoQ article culture is the true north Arne Roock talked about Kaizen and how Jimdo is continuously improving itself. How are the Jimdo founders involved in this?
Fridtjof: Matthias, Christian, and I are firm believers in Kaizen. We use it personally for our working processes and constantly notice how well it works for our teams. We have an open mind about feedback from our team, so we work closely with Arne on ways to improve the feedback loop and concept of Kaizen within Jimdo.
InfoQ: Agile retrospectives play an important role at Jimdo. Can you share some of of your personal experiences with retrospectives?
Fridtjof: The founders encourage our teams to do retrospectives on a regular basis because we feel it really brings forth our teams and individuals. Occasionally, one of us will be asked to join a retrospective when an issues arises that is cross-team or that requires larger system changes. When we do participate, we feel it’s important to take part but we never control the outcomes as retrospectives belong to the teams .
InfoQ: Do you expect that Jimdo will continue to grow? Will that impact the way that scaling is applied?
Fridtjof: At the moment, we’re not looking to increase the number of team members very strongly. We’ve hired a lot of great people in the past months, now it’s important for Jimdo to properly integrate them to maintain the unique atmosphere we’ve developed as a company. This sustainable growth enables us to build a high quality product.