<< Previous

Ryan Martens on Rally Software and Rally Foundation

Ryan Martens is constantly working to be and stay expert in helping companies adopt a methodology called Agile development and Lean Startup. These methods are loosely defined as methods for delivering small feature batches in quick cycles to speed learning and innovation. He founded Rally to help make a major impact in the technology industry by moving it from a slow, wasteful and burdensome product model to a fast, sustainable, high-impacting service model. You can read more about Ryan’s work at- www.rallydev.com/agileblog/

Here is, in Ryan’s words, how he pursued that vision.

To understand how I saw the opportunity of Rally, you have to understand a little about my belief system. First, my personal commitment is to incrementally improve my impact on society – what else can you plan for? Second, my years in Agile and Lean development have taught me to look at everything as an experiment. The trick is to make it safe to fail and to keep running, measuring, learning and trying new ones.

Before founding Rally, my last “experiment” – a self-funded, custom Java development firm called Avitek – was acquired by BEA. The acquisition was impactful to many employees, but only personally. After that fact, I didn’t feel good about not guiding more of my personal earnings, the company’s earnings and our employees’ earnings toward the social good. It was in general a greedy time and the booming economy was masking some fundamental social problems – the growing divide between rich and poor among them. What a missed opportunity.

At the same time, I realized waterfall-based, large-scale software development was bad for your health and the health of your teams. There’s a reason why big software releases are called a ‘death march’ – it isn’t a model where work creates joy, diversity and social justice. It was a perfect storm that drove my intentions to confront our for-profit company’s commitment to become a social enterprise and my hunches about how Agile and Lean methods could an effective, feasible, desirable and sustainable solution to these ills.

Rally became my next experiment with a purpose of changing the technology industry to be a more agile and sustainable model. Rally’s story is that of a venture-backed, enterprise SaaS company that put $70M to work to become a market leader in Agile portfolio and lifecycle management.

Our biggest challenge has been fulfilling the ‘social good’ part of my vision. Let’s face it – we are working against huge market forces. Many of us may never be Tom, or Ben or Jerry or the next creator of a social enterprise that impacts millions. But I believe we should all try and we can learn how to shape our existing businesses to get there. This is the same story in the adoption of Agile and Lean – it is the journey to become an expert.

In the case of our social and environmental ills, the scale is now global, so we all must work on local solutions to impact poverty, global warming, species extinction and the water crisis. I believe a Rallying cry can form around the net zero from Colin Beavan– making more of a positive impact than a negative one. Based on my experience, I estimate that it will take most for-profit companies at least 10,000 hours of focused calendar time to work up the expert curve from mere charity work to strategic alignment of social and commercial mission. The result can then be a net zero impact – daunting, yes, but completely possible and necessary to avoid catastrophic failures in our society.

Rally has essentially bootstrapped our social enterprise. In 2004, we set aside 1% of the series A equity of the company as a grant to the community – modeled after the great work by Marc Benioff and Suzanne DiBianca at Salesforce.com and the Salesforce.com Foundation. In 2007, along with other local investors and entrepreneurs, we parlayed the 1% pledge concept into an affiliate of the Entrepreneurs’ Foundation for Colorado (www.efcolorado.org). Exits by four of the over 30 EFCO member companies have donated over $100K to worthy causes, and employees from all member companies have contributed more than 5,000 hours into Colorado non-profits. The next step in this incremental effort will happen in Q1 of 2012, as our bootstrapped social enterprise will become much more public in helping spread the impact of Agile and Lean to social enterprises.

Social impact was not the first step for Rally, but we planted the seeds in our culture back in 2004. Now we are working to become a net zero business by the end of the decade.
All aspects of society must adapt for social good and business is too large a lever not to pull!

My friend Daniel Epstein, one of the founders of the Unreasonable Institute likes to call this – the finding your “unfortunate opportunity.”

My Notes:

Ryan’s story clearly demonstrates how his personal belief to create social impact was the driving force throughout his journey.

<< Previous