An Interview with Lawdan Shojaee, CEO, Axosoft
Axosoft is focused on building development tools that improve the lives of software developers. Their CEO, Lawdan Shojaee, is not only passionate about entrepreneurism and about her company’s products, but she is also very passionate about raising awareness – and ensuring the success - of more women in technology. We had the opportunity to talk to her about all of these topics.
HostAdvice: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background. I am especially curious to hear how someone who studied chemistry, physics, and biology and who has a Doctorate in physical therapy has ended up running a software development tool company.
Well it is a long story, but basically it starts with a girl meeting a boy. My husband has been a tech entrepreneur his entire adult life and I must say that the entrepreneurial bug bit me early on. Running a SaaS (Software as a Service) company is far sexier than being a practicing physical therapist.
HostAdvice: Please describe for us the Axosoft platform and what it offers developers.
Axosoft is an agile project management software tool that caters to software developers. We also have a product called GitKraken which is a cross platform Git client. Essentially, we make products to help developers create better software and ship faster.
HostAdvice: About 10 years ago, when I was running a software development company, we selected Axosoft to manage our development project. When preparing for this interview, I thought it would be a little like returning to an old friend who had undergone some changes since we last met. It looks like the product, especially the user interface, has been completely redone. What’s the story behind that?
Actually, a lot of the fundamentals, like the project tree, items, etc. are still identical to how they were 10 years ago. However, the user interface has been dramatically improved to accommodate a number of new features over the years that make the product much more valuable.
HostAdvice: How do you define your market? Who is your specific target audience within that market?
Our market is software developers regardless of industry.
HostAdvice: How many active customers do you have today? Where are they mainly located?
We have over 11,000 global customers.
HostAdvice: How would you describe your typical customer?
Project management teams looking to save development time and build better tools with less bugs. With our Git client, our customers are developers who are looking for a beautiful and visual Git GUI that smoothly takes away the pain of the command line.
HostAdvice: Who are some of your biggest customers?
Major organizaions using our software include: EMC, Vodacom , IBM, Cisco, and the Center for Disease Control.
HostAdvice: Who do you see as your biggest competitors?
We have a number of competitors who create products in the same space, but frankly, we don’t pay much attention to what they are doing. We are creating our own path which is hyper-focused on improving the productivity of software developers.
HostAdvice: How do you see your software as different and/or better than theirs?
Our software is built by developers for developers so we really understand the needs of a developer while catering to the needs of project managers.
HostAdvice: Customers have the option of either having the software hosted on-premises by themselves or having you host it for them. What is the approximate breakdown (in percentages) of where customers choose to host? What are the considerations that drive their decision?
Today the vast majority of new customers choose to go hosted with us, but because we’ve been around for a long time, we also still have a lot of customers who continue to enjoy the installed option.
HostAdvice: How do you see the software development tool market evolving in the coming years?
I think that universities all around the world are recognizing the importance of teaching more students about software development. As we get more graduates in the field of computer science, the need for software development tools will only continue to grow.
HostAdvice: How many employees do you have today? Where are they located?
We are a team of around 35 people and we are all located in Scottsdale, AZ. We do not have a single remote employee and we really like it that way.
HostAdvice: What are your future plans for Axosoft?
We will continue to grow and build amazing development tools that make the lives of software developers better.
HostAdvice: It seems that Axosoft doesn’t currently have support for what is called DevOps today. Is that correct? Is that being planned?
There are other companies currently focused in that space.
HostAdvice: In the past year you released a new product – GitKraken – which is a GUI client for Git. Why did you do that? Do we really need another Git client?
Despite the popularity of Git, there hasn’t been a great Git client out there. In fact, we released the only cross platform Git Client on the market today. We developed GitKraken because we feel that developers were thirsty for a Git client that doesn’t suck. Prior to using GitKraken, most of our users were just die hard command line users.
HostAdvice: You are very involved in promoting women in technology. You even have a link on the Axosoft web site to a project called #ItWasNeverADress. Please tell me about your involvement in this area in general and about this Axosoft sponsored project in particular.
We created the ItWasNeverADress campaign to shed light on the lack of females within the tech industry. It is a passion of mine to help get more females educated and in this arena. I feel that it is every female’s duty, including my own, who holds any type of leadership role to help pull up another female though mentorship.
HostAdvice: What advice would you offer to women who want to get ahead in the high-tech world today?
It’s like Sheryl Sandberg says, don’t be afraid to lean in, make your ideas heard and make sure your team takes the other half of the population’s view into consideration.
HostAdvice: How do you see the role of women in technology changing in the next few years?
Companies and teams will start to recognize that women’s views are needed and valuable in the workplace. Companies that embrace this fact will slowly get a competitive advantage.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you are not working?
I typically work 8-9 hours a day. When I am not working, I love to spend time gardening with my kids.
HostAdvice: If you were asked to give the graduation address to the class of 2016, what would be your message to them?
Make sure to dream big and not be to set back by your failures. It is easy to be discouraged and give up. But some of the most successful people in life fail more times than they can count.