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Tony Mobily's picture
By Tony Mobily
Friday, April 15, 2011 - 15:27

This is who we are, and this is why we reach out to people

This entry is longer than expected. Feel free to read it if you want some insider's information about Apollo, the people behind it, and what goes on behind the scenes.

The short story:

  • We are here to make great software. Really great software
  • We are not here to sell out and make millions.
  • Apollo works thanks to Apollo's mastermind, Andrea.
  • We are pushing Apollo on our own (competitors, read this)

To know the long story, read on!

We are here to make great software. Really great software.

Apollo is a relatively new project. People who use it for the first time tend to think that we have been around for the last 5 years. The reason for that is that we have been developing Apollo for quite a long time. Before coming out in Beta, in July 2010, we had already spent incredible amounts of time designing, developing, polishing, developing more, etc. We don't know if this was the right choice to make from a marketing point of view -- most people say "release little, release often, release soon" and they are probably right. However, we -- as developers -- felt the need to do things right; to offer, from day one, a great product. Important features are indeed coming up (project templates, reply by mail, internationalisation, iCal, RSS feeds, and so on); but what's there is already plenty to make people's lives better. That's why we are here.

We are not here to sell out and make millions.

Applicom was doing well before Apollo. And it's still profitable while developing Apollo. Asking for funding, getting a dozen engineers with very cool desks and fancy offices in the right spot in town would have been the easy way: if you don't believe us, see how much money has been given in the last year or so to project management startups; look at how much it was paid for (the now defunct) Bantam live, or for Manymoon; look at how many new, VC-funded ones have come out. And then, there is us: we self-funded Apollo, and worked amazing hours (especially Andrea) to make it happen. We didn't get millions in advance -- we decided to maximise the chances of us succeeding without stressing about the next round of financing not coming, or without spending energy to make ourselves look good to possible buyers who would make our users miserable, and our VC fund very happy. Our main assets are our independence, and how much we love our jobs.

Apollo works thanks to Apollo's mastermind, Andrea.

If you wonder why Apollo works so well, and it's so amazing, the answer is simple: Andrea Di Clemente. I am his best friend (and, luckily, vice-versa); I can say that I have never seen anybody who could design software like him. One anecdote: in June 2010, just before releasing Apollo for public consumption, we realised that it had slowly become very unresponsive. We had been adding a small mountain of code to Apollo (that's Javascript code to run within the browser), and the speed problem had slowly crept in. How many thousands of lines of code could we pump into a browser before killing it? We didn't know. The problem was a 1 second lag between clicking on a select box, and actually seeing the available options (which were preloaded). While this happened, the CPU load would go up to 100%. The problem only happened in Firefox -- Chrome, Safari, even IE, had no problems. Still, it was a huge show-stopper: Apollo had to work well in Firefox. It was a long couple of weeks.

One night, Andrea decided that it was time to nail the problem (nobody else here managed). So, he read some 40000 lines of source code, all of Dojo (the Javascript library we use and love), in one night. He came to the office looking really tired. "I have been up all night looking for the problem" he said. There was no need to point out "what" problem, obviously. I said "Did you find it?" His answer: "No". Silence. Then he continued "But now I know it's not in Dojo. I read each one of the 40000 lines of code of it. So, if the problem is not in our 45000 lines of Javascript, and it's not in Dojo's 40000 lines of Javascript, the problem is in the CSS. I don't know CSS though". Our designer, who is absolutely fantastic, didn't seem to agree; mind you, Apollo pushes the UI to points that very few web designers ever dream of. Finding the problem wasn't easy. After three days (and some sleep), Andrea noticed that the problem was still there. So, he went home early one day, came back to the office in the morning looking as tired as he did after the Dojo-reading marathon, and said "I found the problem. Here is what we need to do". And he was right. The problem was in the way CSS were interpreted. Andrea had studied CSS in detail, found the root of the problem, and handed the solution over to our designer -- who then spent one month fixing it, rewriting several hundred cascading rules. So, if you ever wonder why Apollo works as well as it does, there is your answer: the person behind Apollo's design.

We are pushing Apollo on our own.

Unlike some of our competitors, who got their break on important web sites and gained thousands of users and huge visibility overnight, we had to do a lot of hard work to emerge. You can be the best project management and CRM software out there. If nobody knows who you are, you end up going from being the best on the Internet, to being the best kept secret on the Internet. I, Tony Mobily, am the person behind Apollo's visibility. I don't call it marketing, because I hate the term and because that's not really what I do. What I do, is simple: I spread the word about Apollo every day.

Every day, I read a huge number of tweets out there, and look for people who might possibly be interested in Apollo. Maybe somebody who tweets about looking for project management; maybe somebody who is unhappy with his or her product and is complaining about the lack of a feature that Apollo covers; maybe somebody complaining about price. I contact each person by hand and let them know, politely, about Apollo. This take an enormous amount of time and energy. It's a lot of hard work. I do make mistakes: sometimes I write to somebody who would clearly not be interested in Apollo. At least once, I proposed Apollo to a competitor (and it ended up with mutual smiles). However, most people read my message, try out Apollo, and then they might like it or not. I don't run automatic programs to scan for keywords, or use spamming tricks. I do everything by hand, and I send each message one by one (using Twitter's own interface, although I do use Hootsuite to keep an eye on the big picture!). Every 300 tweets, we receive one complaint -- we always respond to them, unless it's a disgruntled competitor asking us to stop marketing Apollo. Out of the other 299, some of them must simply ignore our tweet (or miss it altogether), and some others thank us, in private or publicly, for letting them know.

Every day, I look on the Internet for reviews of other products, and leave comments at the bottom. I do so without pretending to be a "random user" -- I do so with my own name. 99% of my comments are moderated, and then approved, because they are fully genuine and they are clearly a way to provide more information without pretending to be somebody else. At one point, a user who adored Apollo started doing the same thing -- and I ended up asking him not to do it too much, because I was afraid people might possibly think I was using Avatars. I do much more than that -- and I do it every day. It's tiring: waking up in the morning, with a few thousands tweet to read, gets a little tiring after one year, but I can swear, it never gets any less fun. The satisfaction of seeing a user from twitter to respond, sign up, and start using Apollo, is just incredible. (And mind you, again this is not about money: until Monday Apollo was free to all.

This is us. This is what we do. This is what we will keep on doing for a long time. I will personally consider Apollo finished when Apollo doesn't have any feature request tickets open. And yes, I know that's going to be "never".

We are one of a kind, and we are proud of it. If you have a problem with a small, self-funded startup creating something as incredible as Apollo, and if you are not happy with the way we promote Apollo, then that's great. We will keep on going, pushing even harder, because we are obviously doing something very much right.

We will keep up the good work.

Thank you everybody,


14 comments so far

Raphael's picture


Fri, 04/15/2011 - 16:24


Hi Team.

Thanks. I really liked the short time I've been using apollohq. So far this has been the best PM software, because it's the easiest and what I like most: It's fast.

I really like your philosphie. Thumbs up.

Markus's picture


Sat, 04/16/2011 - 04:07


I totally agree with Raphael. Apollo is great, and the ease of use combined with the slickness and responsiveness of the UI is what makes the difference.

I've tried a *lot* of PM solutions over the years, and also built a few (far less ambitious) ones myself, so I can say with some authority that Apollo is very promising indeed.

I'm going to switch to a paid plan soon.

Keep up the great work!

AMB's picture


Sat, 04/16/2011 - 06:15


Nice post, keep it up fellas!

Kevin Waterman's picture

Kevin Waterman

Sun, 04/17/2011 - 03:19


I'm a new user of Apollo who was lucky enough to see one of your tweets to someone else a week or so ago.

I've tried and I pay for a lot of other similar services but how well it works and feels really is quite impressive.

Even if you produced something with a fraction of the features you have in ApolloHQ the outstanding attitude you guys have and your attention to customers is really impressive.

It's really easy to be ordinary and do ordinary things but I think you have done something really outstanding and it's rare to see people who care so much about your product, I look forward to years of use with my payed plan.

Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Sun, 04/17/2011 - 09:52



Thank you for your encouraging words!


Ruan B's picture

Ruan B

Wed, 04/20/2011 - 01:57


Hi Tony,

Thanks for the honest post!

Just to let you know, I'm one of your "twitter targets", and after 4+ years with basecamp, I've moved my agency over to Apollo. (this week)
If it weren't for the import functionality, It would never have happened - just too much data to manually transfer.

Thank you and keep up the great work!

Stickmen Digital Marketing

Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Wed, 04/20/2011 - 10:15



Welcome onboard Ruan! :D


Christopher Hobbs's picture

Christopher Hobbs

Fri, 04/22/2011 - 02:18


Chiming in as another one of your target tweets. We were looking at project management tools and received a seemingly random tweet from Apollo. Within a week, we decided on the product and have been on board ever since.

I'm happy to see that you guys started charging, you deserve some income for all the hard work!

Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Fri, 04/22/2011 - 11:48


Hi Christopher,

I actually remember sending you the tweet -- I swear!
I am glad you read my tweet and didn't just press "delete" (oh... no wait, I am confusing tweet with email!

We are also impressed by your response -- and other people's as well. Knowing that you guys feel the urge to pay make us feel the urge to make Apollo even better every day!

Thank you, sincerely...


Jonathan Nicol's picture

Jonathan Nicol

Wed, 04/27/2011 - 09:33


Thanks Tony, for a look at the phiosophy that drives Apollo.

I've been mightily impressed by your willingness as a team to answer my questions in person, and to take my suggestions seriously. That gives me great confidence in your commitment to Apollo. It's obvious that you eat, drink, sleep, breathe, sweat and bleed this product!

I have been more than happy to evangelise about Apollo, and I'm sure your other customers feel the same way. I think that word of mouth is going to take Apollo a long way.

Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Wed, 04/27/2011 - 10:36



Thank you Jonathan!


Annon's picture


Tue, 06/07/2011 - 23:21


I think one think you missed to mention is your wife who actually does post as a "random" user and pimps out your software... and yeah you weren't featured in any big places, and you didn't get funding because your product is just another project management system... not much there. Wishing you the best, consider actually making a product that is different and unique.

Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 03:21


Hi Anonymous Poster,

(no, we don't have the 'anonymous coward' trigger)
Thanks for your comment!
No, as tempting as it sounds, there's no wife publishing "anonymous" comments out there. If you see, most if not all comments are well signed -- often by myself! I never hid the fact that I do my very best to spread the word about Apollo, and I do so signing my posts all the time.
We have been featured in major blogs, which is great. And no, we never ever looked for funding, mainly because we never ever needed it!
We consider Apollo something different and unique, a native-looking web application that integrates CRM, Project Management, and Calendar. We work very hard for it -- and people seem to notice!



Sable's picture


Sat, 08/06/2011 - 08:37


This is way more helpful than ayntihng else I've looked at.