Samuel Kaufman – Founder and CTO of BugReplay

Read everything related to what you do and keep a very open mind. Find people smarter than you in various fields and listen to their advice.

Sam Kaufman is the founder and CTO of BugReplay, a provider of an innovative set of web browser tools that make reporting bugs faster and fixing them easier. BugReplay enables its users to quickly and accurately submit detailed bug reports about web applications – reducing the time to complete the task of bug reporting of up to an hour or more to less than a minute – by creating a synchronized screen recording of a user’s actions, network traffic, JavaScript logs and other key environmental data.

Sam taught himself how to write computer programs at the age of 14 and has worked as a Flash video developer and application development manager for; Takkle, a social network for connecting high school athletes with college coaches (acquired by Alloy Media + Marketing); and Dow Jones. He is also the current CTO for SocialFlow, a software company that increases distribution of owned and earned content across social media platforms.

Where did the idea for BugReplay come from?

As a web developer for over a decade, I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking to people about bugs, and trying to find out enough information about a problem so I can get it fixed. One thing I’ve learned about the process is that writing a useful bug report is really hard and really frustrating. The user knows something’s broken, they’re looking right at it, but expecting them to take the time to document the problem in a helpful way is asking more from your users than they should have to do.

In a meeting with a coworker who was trying to describe an issue a user was seeing, we started talking about how awesome it would be if we could just see a video of their screen along with all the network calls. I started working on a prototype and quickly realized that it would be possible to build the software without requiring the user to do anything more than install a browser extension. After months and months of development and testing, we launched BugReplay, in late 2015.

We imagined BugReplay appealing to anyone who has a vested interest in a website functioning properly, especially businesses with a significant online presence. By using our BugReplay browser extension (for either Google Chrome or Firefox), it now takes less time than other methods of reporting the problem while delivering all the information needed by the developer.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I usually wake up each day with my kids, have some coffee, answer some emails, and check (HackerNews). Then, I spend some time on Slack talking to my colleagues, and then figure out what the most important thing for me to work on that day is.

I’ll generally pick what to do based on an ad-hoc priority system, taking into account things like how many people it will unblock by getting it done, or if there is a hard deadline. Because I work on product development at the same time as product maintenance (bug fixes, small features, etc), I try to pick two or three maximum tasks I’m going to get done in the space of a day to finish up. By focusing on them one at a time rather than task switching, my day is a lot more productive; I end up with two or three completed things rather than ten things I worked on a little bit.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The first stage of bringing an idea to life for me is thinking about it as I go about my life doing other stuff. I tend to work out the mechanics of the ideal way I’d want something to fit together while walking from work to the gym or sitting on the train. Then I try to get together a proof of concept by doing the bare minimum product development to prove that the idea can work.

If it holds up, I’ll evaluate what works and doesn’t work about the proof of concept and start working on building it into a real product. I’ll talk to users and colleagues to get their feedback on whether I’m solving a real problem or just an imaginary issue.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The world of data security is pretty interesting to me. The trend seems to be that the general public is becoming more security and privacy conscious, mostly as a result of breaches like with Equifax.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m pretty addicted to the practice of developing software. I love seeing things come to life, from the tiny engineering puzzles inside individual files to scaling solutions when your software starts to strain with 100 times as many clients as you had last year. When I really love what I do, it allows me to be much more productive than if it were just a job I didn’t care about.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t take hard work for granted. Natural ability is important but you won’t get far without working at the thing you want to achieve. Also, don’t take other people’s hard work for granted. If something looks really easy to do, oftentimes it’s because the person doing it is amazing at it.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Perl is an awesome programming language that is fun to read and write.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read everything related to what you do and keep a very open mind. Find people smarter than you in various fields and listen to their advice.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Blogging about use cases and demos for BugReplay has been our best channel for winning more customers. We saw early on that showing someone how BugReplay works with a fun demo of something like a web vulnerability of a well-known site is way better than just telling them how it worked.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I wasted a lot of time trying to reach out on my own to people on social media trying to get them to try BugReplay. It wasn’t a good use of my time or resources, so we decided instead to hire experts in social media. I could learn how to use social media effectively, but I’m not going to better than someone who lives and breathes it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Desktop software for the not so computer savvy that would make it safer to browse the web. It should have an ad blocking component, as well as having a live chat option that you can just click to get an IT expert checking out your screen to help you out with whatever you’re trying to do.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent about $100-$150 bucks recently on protective gear (shin guards, helmet, mouth guard, cup) for sparring at my Muay Thai class. You build up a lot of nervous energy when your job is staring at a screen all day, so getting to the gym and sparring or kicking the crap out of some pads helps me mentally and physically unwind. Plus, I love learning new stuff, so I get to challenge myself in a completely different way.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Between Trello, Github and Slack, it’s hard to pick my favorite web service. I’d really have to go with Google App Engine, which has transformed how I write web applications. With it, I can launch and test new front ends for a site without all the time spent creating and securing new servers and worrying about scaling them.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I loved Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, which is about an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a huge crisis. It’s a great read, and the idea of intellectuals being locked away reading pure theory really resonates with me.

What is your favorite quote?

“I know I’m cooking this for everyone; but everyone is not cooking this.”
– My friend Eddie Martinez

Key Learnings

• Don’t take your own hard work for granted; also, don’t take other people’s hard work for granted
• Read everything you can related to what you do and keep a very open mind
• Forget multi-tasking; each day, choose to do two or three things and do them really well
• Find people smarter than you and listen to what they have to say
• If something looks really easy to do, oftentimes it’s not because it’s easy but because the person doing it is amazing


Samuel Kaufman on Twitter: @edibleEnergy
Samuel Kaufman on LinkedIn:
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