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Harvest New Founders Interview: Hashrocket

Hashrocket has emerged as one of the premier Ruby on Rails shops in the world in a very short period of time. They have developed a strict methodology that ensures every client is getting the best code possible in the least amount of time. We had a chance to speak with Hashrocket about how they came to be, how they’ve gotten so successful, their unique product offerings and where they are headed in the future.

How did Hashrocket start? More importantly, how have you managed to thrive and prosper as a company so quickly?

Obie, the Hashrocket head honcho, launched The Rails Way, and was looking for a way to capture the energy generated by the book.  He partnered up with his employer at the time, and presented his idea: a premium Ruby on Rails shop that was leveraging the years of XP and Agile experience that he and the rest of the team had. As a former member of ThoughtWorks, Obie built their Rails practice from the ground up, and wanted to use that experience to start his own company.

Obie enlisted the help of four developers and started Hashrocket. Success was immediate and explosive. We leveraged our connections to start solving the enviable problem of having too much success, and not enough capacity to handle it. Hashrocket experienced 400% growth in just a few months, and by November we realized that we needed to slow down and concentrate on our processes and making certain that we were reliably developing the best software possible.

Hashrocket doesn’t offer traditional development services. Instead you have two products: “3-2-1 launch” and “Rescue Mission”. How is this working out so far? Do you miss out on longer term projects, and do clients ask you for continuing maintenance and service?

The 3-2-1 Launch offering came out of the core team participating in the Rails Rumble. Building an application in 48 hours was exhilarating and made us apply many of the Getting Real principals, which were something we used already. We wanted to make an offering that embraced those constraints with an eye towards people under tight time restrictions, like entrepreneurs who need to get their businesses up and running fast.

We wanted to offer a way to counter-act some of the ghetto-like coding that was happening. Our answer was to create a product based on the the concept that if you had a failing project, Hashrocket could get it fixed and back on the right path by having its developers use “The Rails Way”.

We do offer longer term consulting, and it is our main money maker. Often the 3-2-1’s will lead into a longer term project, as the 3-2-1 will just be the first release, which allows the company to go out and raise money, while we keep our heads down and continue to work on the next release.

Maintenance is another major offering that we provide on a retainer basis for those sites that have slowed down on full scale development, and only need emergency help or small fixes here and there.

3-2-1 launch promises a lot to customers. What processes allow you to get so much work done in so short a period of time?

The short answer: Rails.

We also only hire top talent. We don’t interview. We come make them pair with an actual project for a week. The original hires all came and worked for free before an offer was made. Anyone can fake an interview but nobody can fake a week of pair programming with 2 or 3 other top developers. Obie pairs with everyone also, as it is ultimately his brand to maintain.

The other key aspect to meeting this goal is to help our clients learn how to release just their core app initially. In other words, teach them how to “Get Real”.

Where do you hope to see Hashrocket in 5 years?

We hope to continue to refine our processes and methodologies over the next year, and then begin to franchise this special sauce to make sure that shops with the Hashrocket name are following the core set of processes that make up The Hashrocket Way. We are in fact releasing a free web app shortly that will help the Rails community define what the best practices are for top Rails shops. Keep an eye out for it.

What’s the story behind your participation in Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Wisconsin?

Several of the rocketeers volunteer and donate their time to worthy causes. This particular event was chosen as three of our developers are transplants from the Madison area. Having participated in the event in the past the goal was to drag unsuspecting Floridians to the great white north and bathe them in frozen goodness. Lark and Tiger will be jumping alone.

We’ve heard rumors of a Hashrocket tattoo conspiracy? What’s the scoop?

After drinking one night, our new Director of Client Services, Sal, who has quite a few tats already, talked one of our developers, Veez, into getting his first tattoo, so they both went and got the Hashrocket logo on their calves. A few weeks later, Obie and Tim Pope were down in Miami at a client site, and the designer offered to get the logo added to his existing collection.

What are 5 things Hashrocket has consumed lately?

At Hashrocket we’ve been enjoying the Secrets of Consulting, RMM – The Rails Maturity Model that Obie has proposed, good Cuban Food, some Patron Silver and the view from our new office.

We’re ecstatic to welcome Hashrocket to the Harvest New Founders Program and we’d like to take a second to say ‘Thanks’ for taking time away from changing the Rails world to have a chat with us. We’re impressed with all the great ideas coming out of that office.

To help companies get on their feet, The Harvest New Founders Program gives one year’s subscription of Harvest time tracking service to a new company each month. Think you might be a good fit for our New Founders Program? Learn more and apply.

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