Kristof Ringleff has been developing quality extensions for the Magento e-commerce platform since its inception and offers friendly, trusted advice on all things Magento. His current aim is to grow Fooman as a recognized provider of quality Magento extensions.
Karthik Chidambaram (KC) – Hi Kristof. Thank you for taking your time to interview with us. It’s a pleasure to have you (interviewed).
Kristof Ringleff from Fooman (KR) – My pleasure.
KC – Kristof, can you give us a little bit of background about who you are and I know you’re kind of very popular in the Magento community, especially in Australia and New Zealand market. People world over use your extensions, I hear. So, can you just tell me a little bit about yourself and the kind of business you do?
KR – Sure, so I’m always surprised at being able to go around the world and go to these events and people come up to me and say “Hey, you’re the Fooman” and I’m like, ‘how did this happen?’. But it’s very humbling and very awesome. I’ve been working with Magento since the early 1.0 days and ever since then we’ve been developing Magento extensions and selling those on the website as well as listing them on Connect and Marketplace. We pretty much put out extensions and support them and that’s our core business.
KC – How did you actually get started? How did you hear about Magento? What prompted you to actually work on extensions?
KR – Good question. I think in the early days, I was just playing around with the platform and I was quite into the whole open source type of thing. It started with the Speedster extension – I just put it up there because I felt that it would solve a need for other people as well, and that just went ballistic and I had so many people downloading, asking questions, and that was really the starting point of it all. And from there I felt OK, you know, we’ll try offering installation services as well as following up with our own commercial extensions. That has been going really well since then. We’re still in it and now we’re moving on to M2.
KC – Are there any other platforms you support or do you plan to support any other platforms in the future or is Magento the core thing and the only thing you are working on right now?
KR – Magento has been the one and only thing we’ve been focusing on exclusively and I think it has benefits because you know the platform inside and out and not all other companies can say the same.
KC – So you plan to keep it that way?
KR – Especially for the time being, yeah.
KC – (Smiles) And what are your thoughts on Magento 2?
KR – I do like working with the new platform and the new code base, it’s a paradigm shift. It’s awesome stuff – especially backed up with the testing frameworks which we as extension developers can make good use of. I think it’s all awesome stuff and it’s all stuff we will need to work in the future to be able to move forward in the e-commerce space. Obviously, it’s still early days in this, you know, a few niggling bits, but it’s good to hear that Magento comes out to these events and they listen. I’m hoping that what they are currently focusing on with the developer experience for the 2.2 release solves quite a few of the issues we’re seeing with the installation. So I think if that lays the groundwork then everyone can take that as a starting point to move forward on the new platform.
KC – There are a lot of our new extension developers in the market right and some of the oldbies. What is your advice to them? What do you think as a successful extension developer yourself, what is your advice to the new people in the market?
KR – Well, I always say writing the extension is the easy part. Backing it up with support is really where you see if someone is serious about the business of being an extension developer. Once your code is out there, you have to support it. Before people buy they have questions, once the installation process starts, they have questions, once it has been installed they might have questions around customizations, there might be troubleshooting support. So really, you write the code and then you need to back it up with technical support and support for new Magento releases as they come out. You need to be staying on top of those insights. You’ve got to be in it and you can’t do it part-time or be doing it on the side. You’ve got to be committed to seeing it through and doing what’s right for you and your customers.
KC – How do you manage support? I know you have a very nimble team and you’re very efficient and that’s what we hear talking to customers. It’s like a brand right. Go to Fooman and get their extension and you should be fine. I think that’s actually a good thing we heard in the marketplace. But then how do you actually handle support?
KR – I handle support a lot myself and while I’m training people up to help me out with it, I’ve written a lot of the code myself, so I know the code inside out. So for me it’s often quite easy to find where we need to get the answer from. So I do a lot of that myself and what has helped me a lot is professionalism. We’ve been at this for quite some time now and just having a professional ticketing system which supports your workflow has been great for us. We have a few people who have been helping me out on the support side as well and I wouldn’t want to be without them anymore.
KC – Can you share an experience where you have a customer who was really happy buying your extension and really thanked you enough. Do you have any stories like that to share with our audience?
KR – Yes, these are the stories that you live for and especially because quite a lot of our extensions are aimed at making the merchant’s life easier by saving them time and hassle. We have an integration with Xero , the accounting platform, and quite often, once we have that up and running, we get feedback from people that hey, this is going to save me so much time and going to make my life easier – no more mistakes bringing data over. One of our other extensions sort of in the same vein is Order Manager. It allows you to process ten orders at once where previously you had to click through individual orders. Then once people actually realize how much time they will save every day and every week you know they come back to us and let us know – that’s always great feedback to validate what you are working on is doing the trick.
KC – Can you also share with us some mistakes you have done or an unhappy customer who’s been frustrated and what did you learn from that?
KR – Sure. So that’s part of the package really that there will be unhappy customers from time to time. And as much as it’s painful at the time, I’ve come to the realization that those customers who do give you bad feedback, they help you make your product better. At the time you might be thinking – ‘Oh my God, why is it not working and what is this client doing differently?’. But taking the time to get to the bottom of it will help you in the long term because you end up with a better product out of it.
KC – I know you live in Auckland and you have also built a community of Magento around there. So, can you share a little bit about that experience and can you also talk a little bit about your family?
KR – Sure, so as you said I live in Auckland (New Zealand) and it’s a wonderful place in the world. Years and years ago, I was just starting up the business and I felt like I was working by myself and it would be great to get some external input. I’d been visiting quite a few different meetups and I was like ‘oh well, I’ll just give it a try to start my own Magento Meetup’. I was blown away by the quality of people that showed up – one of the early members Ashley Schroder is quite influential on Magento development, especially in those early days. We had Lero9 joining us . They are Magento solution partners in Auckland – it’s just amazing what a little country produces in terms of developers. So that has been really good and the highlight really is the barbecue meet up – we have it once a year, where we try to acknowledge that there’s more to it than just coding, and bring along partners and family.
I’ve got a young family and my daughter was born last year in August. So that has been quite an interesting year and it’s been a good ride.
KC – Congratulations and what’s her name?
KR – Adele
KC – One last question. You actually sell extensions mostly in the APAC market or do you have customers world over. I’m just curious.
KR – No that has always that been where Magento is popular, our extensions have been popular. Sure, we focused on New Zealand in the beginning of our Xero integration because Xero is a New Zealand based company and that’s where they started out, but they are currently worldwide and so are we with our sales as well.
KC – And where can customers find your extensions? Is it just on your website fooman.com or are there are any other places you sell the extension.
KR – It’s not fooman.com, it’s fooman.co.nz.
KC – Yeah Sure.
KR – And, it’s also on the Marketplace where we are listing more and more of our extensions there as well.
KC – Awesome. Thank you so much, Kristof. Thanks for your time and wish you the best of luck in your business in the years ahead.
KR – Same to you as well. Thank you very much.
Kristof is the founder of Fooman, a Magento Technology Partner and extension provider trusted by agencies and merchants in more than 160 countries. He’s been coding Magento since its first release and has developed 15+ free and commercial extensions to simplify administration, save time and money when using Magento.
Kristof is a certified Magento Developer Plus and enjoys contributing to community discussions, mostly via Twitter and Magento Stack Exchange. He runs the local Meetup group in Auckland, New Zealand.