Founders, Travel and Epic Beards: What Happens After Envato

By Jordan McNamara, Community Builder, Gamer, Kitten-lover.

Ex-Envato'ers have gone on to become startup founders, world travelers, and to work at some of Sillicon Valley's brightest companies. Though we're based out of Melbourne, Australia, our people have a decisive impact around the globe.

Seeing our alumni succeed lets us know that we're hiring great people and developing their skills to world-class levels. Of course, we think Envato is an awesome place to work. When staff do move on, we hope to see them pursuing incredible opportunities and childhood dreams.

Jeff Bezos said it best in this quote about his decision to take a leap of faith and start Amazon:

"I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn't regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried."

In this post, we celebrate eight Envato alumni who've made us proud.

Keith Pitt, founder of Buildbox

Keith is formerly a Senior Developer on the Envato Studio team. He left to found Buildbox, a self-hosted continuous integration and deployment tool.

Keith came up with the idea for Buildbox through his experiences at Envato:

While I was at Envato, I learned how important it was to know where your code is at all times. We were using a cloud based CI solution at the time, which meant we had to give a third-party full access to our codebase. A lot of software companies do this, but Envato takes security very seriously, so we decided that cloud based CI services weren't going to work for us.

I went looking for an alternative. Our only option at the time was to use a self-hosted solution, but that meant spending hours managing the tooling that runs the CI server, and not building features for our customers. It was then that I realised that I wanted to build Buildbox.

Continuous Integration (CI) is the term used to describe the practice of running these tests on a shared computer, commonly known as the "CI server". If a developer writes some code that breaks an automated test, the whole team knows about it before the code is ever deployed to production systems.

Below, Keith talks about the limitations of existing CI servers, and how Buildbox aims to overcome these:

There are 2 approaches to managing the CI server:

Cloud Based: The CI server is hosted in the cloud, along with the tools. This approach generally has performance and security problems. It also makes it hard to debug failing tests because you can't physically access the machine running the tests.

Self Hosted: You manage the CI server and the tooling yourself. This approach gives you the benefit of security, performance and flexibility, however setting up the tooling is a cumbersome task.

Buildbox is my attempt at a middle-ground between these two approaches. The tooling is hosted in the cloud, and you can still run the tests on your own server.

Buildbox’s subscriber base is growing and it is getting rave reviews from developers all over the world:

We’re really proud of Keith and his early success with Buildbox.

Lucas Parry, Nomad

Lucas is formerly a Senior Developer on the Envato Marketplaces team. He left to pursue a lifelong dream of traveling the globe. Here are a few of the amazing things Lucas has experienced on his travels so far:

  • Crawled through the Củ Chi tunnels in Vietnam.
  • Explored Angkor Wat on a mountain bike in Cambodia.
  • Cage dived with great white sharks off Cape Town South Africa.
  • Scuba dived in Thailand.
  • Floated down the Ganges past the crematory ghats, laundry ghats and bathing ghats in India.
  • Camped in the unfenced camp ground of the Serengeti, before going on a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the park in Tanzania.
  • Flew over Victoria Falls in a helicopter in Zimbabwe.
  • Observed rhinos charging one another over food in Botswana.
  • Watched lions and cheetahs hunt at the Masai Mara in Kenya.
  • Grew a lumberjack worthy beard, shaved it down to an over-the-top handlebar moustache, then went clean shaven with a growing urge to re-beard.

We asked Lucas to tell us about his favorite moment so far:

Spending time with the gorillas in Rwanda. They're my favourite animal, I could watch them for hours at the zoo. To see them out in the wild, not at all bothered by my presence was amazing. I even had a mother gorilla brush right past me with a baby riding on her back!

Lucas is still exploring the world and recently celebrated one full year of traveling. We're proud of Lucas and excited to see where his travels will take him next.

Jack "Chendo" Chen, creator of Shortcat

Chendo is formerly a Developer on the Envato Marketplaces team. While at Envato, Chendo launched Shortcat, a keyboard productivity app for the Mac that aims to replace the mouse.

Chendo says:

For most programmers, our day to day tasks can be accomplished with just the keyboard. It's the highest bandwidth input method we have. However, when we leave the comfort of our editors/terminal, we generally have to use the mouse. Moving your hand to the mouse, performing a click and moving it back is easily 2-3 seconds of movement. I realized there had to be a better way. That day I went home and stayed up till 3am working on a prototype, and thus Shortcat was born.

Shortcat has been featured on TUAW, Lifehacker and Macworld, and its cohort of dedicated users is growing.

Chendo says that his time at Envato gave him knowledge that helped make Shortcat possible:

During my time at Envato, I learned about what it takes to create a product. A product isn't necessarily just the software itself; it's everything from branding to functionality to support and everything in between. I applied what I learned about user experience at Envato to Shortcat where I could, and it's fair to say it's had a significant impact on the app.

Shortcat is available in beta for free. You can also purchase a license for $18. We're excited for the future of the app and proud of the product Chendo has created.

Matthieu Aussaguel, founder of Fliplingo

Matthieu is formerly a Full Stack Developer at Envato Studio. He left to found Fliplingo, a service that allows you to schedule and translate tweets using expert translators.

Matthieu talks about the inspiration for Fliplingo:

Only a third of worldwide tweets are in English. There's so much going on in countries like Japan, Indonesia or Brazil, but there's no natural way to communicate with these communities, aside from spending thousands of hours learning their language. We think it’s possible and Twitter is just a start.

That's where Fliplingo comes into play. It brings human-powered translation where you need it without having to worry about how to get good translations in a short time. We believe Fliplingo will help people and businesses communicate in different languages the easiest way possible, without changing their habits.

Fliplingo recently passed 1,000 human translated tweets and its growth shows no signs of stopping.

We asked Matthieu about how his time at Envato has shaped Fliplingo:

Before I left, I gave a presentation on why working at Envato was my dream job (it truly was!), and listed 20 things I learned while working at Envato. If had to pick three things from that list, I'd go with these:

Culture is key. No matter how good your employees are individually, work quality will vary hugely depending on how much they enjoy their work. When coming to work in the morning, it was obvious that everyone was having fun working. It was simply fascinating watching how our CEO Collis was maintaining this culture while the company was rapidly scaling.

There's no such thing as a good or bad programmer. When I joined the marketplace team of 7 super smart talented developers, I was the only junior developer. I didn't know anything about backend development, and was really, really scared. It was obvious I think, everyone noticed it. But from day one, I was never seen as 'the junior developer of the team'. Three days later I was shipping code to one of the company's most popular products (ThemeForest). Unbelievable! The team trusted me and when something went wrong I always had someone next to me to help fix it.

Code quality matters. Lots of people are surprised that I was able to build Fliplingo by myself. I always tell them: I've been to the best school, I'm just lucky. At Envato I learned to program in Ruby and improved my frontend skills; but most importantly I learned why investing the time to write good code now will save me you time in the future. Today I still use the same practices I was taught at Envato and I'm consistently very happy with the results.

We're very proud of Matthieu and the company he has founded, and can't wait to see what's next for Fliplingo.

Matthieu (far left) at work in Punspace, Chiang Mai.

John Barton & Glen Maddern, co-founders of Goodfilms

John is formerly the Development Manager at the Envato Marketplaces, and Glen is formerly a Senior Developer on the same team. They left to co-found Goodfilms, a social film discovery and recommendation service.

Glen describes Goodfilms in 50 words or less below:

If you ever find yourself stuck for something to watch, or wanting to share a particularly good or bad experience with a film, Goodfilms is for you. Keep a queue of films to watch, and find inspiration from what your friends are up to.

John describes the most important things he and Glen learned while working at Envato:

The most important thing I learned is how important a vibrant user community is to a software project's success. There's no point having a rapid "feedback" cycle if there isn't any actual feedback in the loop. While I'd spent my fair amount of time cursing forum members when they'd give the team a hard time, I think that having devs and users talk to each other made for a much healthier (and successful) set of marketplaces.

The other big thing was learning how to make smart tradeoffs between time and money, and how to stretch your budget pretty far. During the early bootstrap days before Envato was even Envato (the company was originally called Eden) things were often tight, and it was an excellent learning experience on how to keep growing a business while maintaining super tight financial discipline.

Goodfilms received funding from Melbourne-based startup accelerator AngelCube and pulls data from an incredible 1.9 million reviews. Many Envato staff are users of the service. We're really impressed by John and Glen's work on Goodfilms.

Jeffrey Way, founder of Laracasts

Jeffrey is formerly the web development editor of Tuts+. He left to start Laracasts, a Laravel screencasts subscription.

Jeffrey talks about why he created Laracasts:

The things that I've always enjoyed the most are coding, writing, and teaching. Creating Laracasts gave me a portal to do all three of those things every single day.

Beyond those selfish reasons, I also wanted the Laravel and PHP communities to have a dedicated home to advance their skills. PHP often gets a bad name, but the truth is that the last few years have been incredibly good to it. For a language that dominates the web (it's used on 80% of all sites), well: that's a really good position to be in. Equally, Laracasts is in a great position to help evangelize and nurture this new modern PHP movement.

Jeffrey explains how his time at Envato has helped him to make Laracasts a success:

The one thing, above all else, that I learned and took from Envato is the belief that goodness supersedes everything - including the bottom line. I participated in countless meetings and discussions that centered around how we (Envato) might better improve the lives of both our authors and readers. While many companies may advertise such things, at Envato, it's undeniably the truth. I will carry that business philosophy with me for the rest of my life. What's best for the community is best for the business. Always.

We're proud of Jeffrey's work with Laracasts and within the wider Laravel community. You can also view more of Jeffrey's Laravel screencasts on Tuts+.

Charlie Somerville, Systems at GitHub

Charlie started his web development career at Envato, doing an internship with Tuts+ and eventually becoming a Developer on the Envato Marketplaces team. He left to join the Systems team at GitHub, one of the most ubiquitous services in the web development industry - an amazing achievement for someone not yet old enough to drink in the US. Charlie is also the creator of the wildly popular Better Errors gem.

Charlie gets to work on a lot of cool stuff at GitHub:

I work on the systems team at GitHub. This means I get to dive right in to our entire stack - working on the Rails app, the Ruby VM, etc. I spend a lot of my time working on performance stuff - tuning MySQL queries, profiling and fixing slow code in our app and libraries we use, etc.

He says that his time at Envato helped prepare him to work on large, complex codebases:

Working on the marketplaces at Envato was a great way to learn how to work on large, legacy codebases and busy websites. I really like the challenge of working with a complex system where it’s impossible to know in great detail how the whole thing works. You spend a lot of your time reading code and trying to understand how things tie together.

We're proud of Charlie's achievements and the role Envato has played in his development as a world-class programmer.

A Final Word

We love to see Envato alumni doing great things, whether it's founding a company or traveling the world. This lets us know that we're hiring the best people and teaching them best practices that will serve them well in the years to come. We are always eager to work with ambitious, talented people, whether Envato provides long-term fulfillment or serves as a stepping stone to long-held dreams.

If you live in or are interested in relocating to Melbourne, Australia, we are always hiring for a variety of roles. We also have several positions open to remote applicants.

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