Happy 10th Anniversary Aha! — A Decade of Bootstrapped Success

Aha! team at the 2022 winter onsite | Photo by Jodi B Photography

April 3, 2023

Happy 10th Anniversary Aha! — A Decade of Bootstrapped Success

by Brian de Haaff

10 years. Aha! grew a lot in that time. As individuals and a team we learned that gratitude is fuel for success. Although we never listed it as one of our core values, today it shines brightest: Gratitude. Taking a moment to slow down to notice the good fortune that you have in the moment is how we maintain stamina for future achievement. Expressing gratitude is a positive practice (one that we try to do daily at Aha!). Today I have much for which to be thankful.

It is with the deepest gratitude that we celebrate another Aha! milestone — 10 years of bootstrapped success.

Aha! began with a bold idea for how we could help people build products and be happy doing it. People told my co-founder Dr. Chris Waters and me that in the big universe of software development, roadmapping was a niche concept that would never amount to anything meaningful. We smiled and suggested that our experience showed us that the vast majority of companies needed a more disciplined way to connect business and product strategy to what they actually built. There had been too much software waste for a very long time.

(Side note: When someone tells you that they think your solution solves a niche problem? Go for it! All great companies start by solving one problem first. In our case, we ended up defining a new category of technology — roadmap software.)

Chris and I knew we could make an impact if we shared what we had learned and did it with a care for people. Between the two of us we had founded several companies, two of which were acquired by Aruba Networks and Citrix, respectively. This time, we wanted to do it our way — 100 percent bootstrapped, entirely remote, with no sales team, and no drama. Hire the best and set folks free to achieve. Treat our customers the way that we would like to be treated. In many ways, it was a back-to-basics approach: Create a great product and a great place to work with few distractions.

There are so many moments that brought us from where we started to where we are now. Crafting the abridged timeline below brought back a flood of memories — many happy and some bittersweet too. We have worked incredibly hard with amazing people along the way. Looking back on the company’s history and all we have accomplished together is truly humbling. These are just a few of the highlights:

A decade is a long time (a tenth of your life if you are lucky). But a decade is also relatively short when you think of lasting businesses. Looking ahead, we are more energized than ever about the idea of daring to deliver — for our customers, for our colleagues, and for our communities.

Our vision remains the same as when we started the company: a world of lovable software. And our mission is to help people build it and delight in the work. We are thankful for the position we are in and commit to continue to do our best to make the future better tomorrow than it is today. We know that it cannot always be, and that there is inequity in business and the world, but we will continue to learn and do our part.

Leading Aha! is a joy and privilege for Chris and me. We are reminded of this every day — from major product launches to meaningful interactions with customers to the little moments with teammates in between.

Over the last few months, many folks have asked me what will happen with Aha! in the next 10 years. My answer has been consistent: “I am not sure.” Who can predict the future? It is really hard to know what the next 12 months will bring. All we can do is continue to honor our values and pursue our goals with integrity. We hope for continued success and hopefully we will keep inspiring others to build high-growth businesses in more sustainable ways.

We will do what we think is right — no matter what way other companies or markets are leaning. We will look out beyond quarters at a world where digital experiences are increasingly essential to human advancement. We will provide a tightly integrated suite of product development software so people can build better products. And we will continue to breathe deeply and dedicate ourselves to the opportunity ahead.

We would be honored if you continue to join us on this remarkable adventure.

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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