TechTalk with Zach Naimon from Arctype

Welcome to another tech talk where we’ll learn about what it’s like to develop a product in an early-stage startup, what it takes to pivot your solution the right way, why investing in software testing and QA is an absolute must these days, and what other experiences in life may help you succeed in your tech career, among other things. This tech talk is devoted to Arctype and the remarkable professionals behind it. Read on to find answers to these questions, tips and inspo!

What is Arctype?

Arctype is a collaborative SQL client and database management tool. It was initially designed for students, individual developers, and enterprise teams. Arctype allows writing queries faster with features like format and autocomplete SQL, helps visualize data and build beautiful charts in two clicks, and makes it easy to share your work with teammates through links to charts and queries. 

Arctype has a convenient search for effortless navigation through your workspace. Also, it allows editing your tables just like a spreadsheet.

Now Arctype is part of ClickHouse Cloud. Its benefits were translated into a new ClickHouse Cloud feature – an interactive SQL console, the fastest way to explore and query ClickHouse databases. 

QAwerk Contribution to Arctype

Arctype was an early-stage, rapidly growing startup, which means they needed to figure out how to achieve their goals with limited resources. Outsourcing is a tried-and-true way to strengthen your internal team and move forward with the desired pace of development. That’s where QAwerk comes in. 

We helped Arctype speed up software releases by 20% with the help of test automation. We also increased the test coverage by performing different types of testing, including functionality, regression, integration, installation, and smoke testing. 

Arctype leveraged our years-long, cross-industry testing expertise to achieve their quality goals and increase their valuation. We are also happy to know that we’ve contributed to Arctype’s acquisition by ClickHouse. You can learn more about that here.

Meet Zach!

We invited Zach Naimon, Product Manager at Arctype, to learn more about Arctype’s growth and development, product pivots, finding product-market fit, and working as a remote and fully distributed team. We’ll also touch upon Arctype’s collaboration with QAwerk and unveil Zach’s experiences that shaped him into the incredible tech professional he is right now. Let’s go!

Please introduce yourself.

Hi, my name is Zack Naimon, and I am the Product Manager here at Arctype. I’m 26 years old, from Washington, D.C. originally. I spent some of my high school career in Beijing, and then I guess more recently I’ve lived for two years in Kyrgyzstan in a small village while I did Peace Corps service. I guess that brings us up basically until I started working for Arctype.

What inspired you to cross the world by motorcycle?

Yeah, so actually over the course of kind of my contract, I took a few motorcycle trips. The initial trip was just from Beijing over to the western end of China in Kashgar. And I embarked on that trip primarily because I wanted to explore and do something different. And I was feeling a little bit lost in general, didn’t really know what I wanted to do with myself.

And a mentor of mine kind of suggested taking a long trip. So I kind of added the motorcycle aspect of it as the twist. Unfortunately, that first trip ended quite badly. I had gotten a pretty nasty wreck on the last day, and I spent three weeks in the hospital. And actually The China Daily, like the largest newspaper in China, wrote a cover page story about it called ‘16,000 Reasons for Breaking a Leg’ and I guess while I was in the hospital, I was, you know, reading all these blogs by people who had, you know, who were also doing long-distance motorcycle trips.

And it made me want to actually complete one. So I decided I’d do another trip from Beijing to London the following summer. And I spent about nine months planning it, figuring out the logistics. I got some sponsors, and I kind of arranged a partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association in order to raise money for charity along the way. So I embarked on that trip in 2016 in the summer, left from Beijing and arrived in London about three months later.

I guess if I had to answer how did this impact my professional life, I’d say more than anything else. Embarking on a project of that size, you know, which takes months and months of planning, in addition to kind of actually months and months of execution, you really learn how to make sure that, you know, plan everything out in advance and in great detail.

But more importantly, when you’re working on a large project, progress isn’t necessarily visible every single day. When I would look at the map every evening after riding for 16 hours, 17 hours, I’d see you zoomed out, of course, that my progress wasn’t super huge as compared with, you know, the end result. But you just have to keep showing up every single day.

Just keep moving the ball forward, little bit by little bit. So, yes, the main thing that I’ve learned from this trip was incremental progress is key to completing big projects.

Why did you decide to join Arctype specifically?

So, I actually have like a long background in technology. When I was in high school, I founded and ran a web design company, and I also worked for a few startups located in D.C. and in Beijing.

And I took a break from tech in college. But, you know, one thing that I took with me from all my experiences was basically there has always been a lack of adequately, you know, high-quality tools for developers to use when developing applications, specifically web applications. And this is an issue that’s just starting to get addressed.

The developer tools sector / bases is super high growth right now. But for many years, especially when I was first getting started, there really weren’t any high-quality tools, particularly databases in general. You know, I found that working with any sort of MySQL or Postgres database was incredibly difficult, and it was kind of hard to learn how to interact with the database, and the tools provided, primarily phpMyAdmin and MySQL Workbench, for example, really didn’t do much to help.

And so when I found Arctype initially, I just kind of had this light bulb moment. I downloaded it and tried it out on some of my own databases. And immediately the only thing I could think was like, I wish I’d had this tool ten years ago when I was, you know, actively developing websites for customers. And so I sent Justin an email basically saying that, and that’s how I got involved.

So yeah, I guess what it really boils down to is it’s a product that I really, really, truly identify with.

What is the idea behind Arctype?

So Arctype in particular tries to solve a couple of problems. First of all, there are very few tools that provide a consolidated interface for all different kinds of data, relational databases, in particular. Some tools do exist. I mean, you’ve got DBeaver, Sequel Pro, and a couple of others. But I mean, basically, one of our primary goals is to provide this consolidated interface.

Another of our goals is to bridge the gap on teams between technical and non-technical users, specifically for non-technical users who still need access to data for their daily workflows in their roles. So, for example, if you’re a product person, or a salesperson, or even a less technical founder on a small to midsize team, you probably don’t want to pay for any of the higher-end data visualization and analytics tools.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need kind of visibility on the database. And it also doesn’t mean that you don’t need to use a database as a source of truth. So what we wanted to do with Arctype was kind of building all of these collaboration features, such that it would be easy for technical members of teams to create a connection, write and save a couple of queries or dashboards that can then be accessed again, and again, and again by non-technical users as part of their daily workflows.

Describe Arctype’s product evolution.

So before I joined Arctype, Justin and Kevin, the two original members of the team, Justin being the founder, they initially started building Arctype as a more general internal tooling platform. So even once Arctype pivoted to, you know, more specifically focused on databases, a lot of the legacy internal tooling functionality remained.

So in earlier iterations of Arctype, you could add scripts, and automations, and actions and all kinds of things that are a little bit more conducive to an internal tooling platform than to a database client. Over time, we have kind of slimmed down and narrowed our focus to be specifically SQL databases. So I guess that’s basically how Arctype has evolved.

How did you decide on what databases to support?

Yeah. So obviously we started with the big three, in terms of relational SQL databases. Those would be MySQL, Postgres, and SQLite, primarily because those are the databases that, you know, the bulk of developers that we talk to and that we know, and just in general these are the most widely adopted and used databases for kind of production web applications and the like. So we started with those and then we formed partnerships with various serverless database companies to build integrations for their different flavors of SQL databases as well.

The reason why we chose to partner with these serverless database companies in particular, as opposed to developing, for example, a Redshift integration or a Microsoft SQL integration is because we strongly believe that serverless databases are the future of the database space. And more than any other type of database. These particular pieces of software do not have any existing interfaces which support connecting.

What makes Arctype a recession-proof startup?

Well, I think that really boils down to the sector in which we operate, right? Which is, more broadly, it’s the technology space, which obviously is not recession-proof as a whole, but we are very specifically, you know, in the database niche. And as you know, even during economic downturns, the demand for data storage and databases only continues to grow. Every single day there’s more data being stored and there’s more need for powerful tools to interact with this data. So I think that our tech is kind of uniquely recession-proof because of that.

How to determine product-market fit?

When trying to determine product-market fit, the most important thing you can possibly do is actually talk to users who fit into the user profile for which you are trying to develop your product. When you’re asking these questions to these users in order to determine a product-market fit, it’s really important to make sure that confirmation bias doesn’t play a role in the answers they give.

So, for example, if you ask a potential user of your product, ‘Would you be interested in a product that does X?’ Or for example, ‘Would you be interested in a product that solves X problem that you might have?’ Or even, ‘Do you have X problem and is it big enough that you would pay for a solution to X problem?’ Any of these questions really lend themselves to confirmation bias. Users are more likely than not just going to answer, ‘Yes’; this will easily validate your idea, but won’t actually help you determine product-market fit.

Did the pandemic influence your business?

The pandemic did not drastically influence our business. Our model is fully remote and our team is fully distributed. So whether or not people were meeting in person really didn’t affect our kind of day-to-day workflows. As far as user adoption goes, I also don’t think that the pandemic really played a big factor.

How do you tackle talent shortage at Arctype?

Yeah. So talent shortage is a real problem that a lot of, especially small startups, struggle with. Small startups, especially early-stage startups, are by nature very risky. And especially with a lot of less risky options in the job market, it’s very difficult to attract talent. That being said, with small teams what’s most important is mitigating turnover.

So basically the best way to tackle the talent shortage issue is actually just to retain the talent that you have, whether that means paying talent more or making their kind of, you know, work-life balance a little bit better. Or any number of things that basically make employees happier to work for your team.

Name things you do in-house and outsource.

Yeah. So we are fully distributed. Our founder, Justin, is in San Francisco. I’m in Washington, D.C. Our lead engineer is in New York City, and our three other engineers are in Virginia, Portugal and India respectively. So as I say, we’re fully distributed. As far as outsourcing goes, because we’re a small team and we’re primarily product engineering focused, we basically outsource everything else.

So, for example, all of the operations work, HR work, legal work, all of that stuff is outsourced. And I guess more easily delegated. In addition to that, we obviously outsource all of our QA work as well.

 Does investing in QA help retain users?

The primary source of churn, as we’ve discovered with Arctype, but I think even more broadly  for almost any software-as-a-service product, the largest source of churn is by far when users encounter bugs and, you know, kind of stability and performance issues in an application. So anything you can do to mitigate the number of bugs and issues that make their way into production deploy will have a direct impact on adoption and retention of users, which is an immense needle mover, especially for an early startup. For that reason, investing in QA absolutely is a value-add for us.

Why did you turn to QAwerk?

As our app became more and more complicated with more and more potential user flows, it became impossible for us to test it all internally and also conduct adequate automated testing for each build. There are just so many different features, and so many different UI elements, so many different moving parts that all need to be tested to make sure that there’s no regressions and there’s no bugs being introduced with new features. So I think that’s why we turned to QAwerk in the first place. 

I guess our primary milestones were trying to achieve a weekly deploy cadence with as few errors making their way into production as possible.

What results have you attained with QAwerk?

With the help of QAwerk, we have really managed to reduce the number of bugs in production builds to almost zero. Every single build gets tested rigorously a couple of times, any bugs are identified and then triaged along the way. And as a result, we’ve been able to achieve a one-week, like a weekly deploy cadence with minimal churn due to stability and performance issues as well as bugs. 

Your first thoughts on russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine?

Shock and horror. I can’t imagine how tough it must be for the Ukrainian people, and I can’t understand why one country would choose to attack its neighbor and its cousins even more so. To me, it’s an absolutely tragic situation and should be stopped immediately.

Did the war affect QAwerk’s ability to deliver?

Absolutely not. The war has not at all affected QAwerk’s ability to deliver, which to me is actually very surprising. When the war first broke out in February, we were very concerned for all the members of the QAwerk team, and you know, we figured that they would probably prefer to take a break from doing our weekly QA runs until the conflict was resolved.

That being said, we were very shocked when the following Monday all of the QAwerk team members showed up ready to work and in fact enthusiastic to work. And as a result, we’ve continued our relationship with QAwerk, and we’ve been very, very satisfied with what all of them have done despite the horrendous circumstances in Ukraine at the moment.

Should businesses fear war-associated risks?

 I would say that they should disregard any of the war-associated risks. I found that Ukrainian people are in general incredibly hard-working and strong-willed and also very passionate about supporting their country during these difficult times. So if anything, businesses should hire more Ukrainian QA engineers.

How did Arctype support Ukraine?

At the outset of the war, we shifted all of our QA testing business over exclusively to QAwerk. We stopped contracting with other vendors entirely so that we could support QAwerk up to the maximum capacity. In addition to that, I think we have sent over one or two cash bonuses to help the QAwerk team to cope with the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

What is the best part about working with the QAwerk team?

I think one favorite part is hard to say because there are so many. I’ve got a few. So first and foremost, I really like working with every member of the QAwerk team. Everybody is super friendly and responsive. They’re very flexible and they work with us even when a lot of moving pieces are up in the air.

When we need last-minute test runs, they’re always happy to accommodate us. In addition to that, we really like the attention to detail that the QAwerk team applies when they’re conducting these test runs. Our test suite contains almost 300 test cases at this point and it takes about 8 hours to run through a single QA test run. That being said, obviously it’s very important that there’s a concerted effort to make sure that even the smallest bugs are identified, and the QAwerk team does a fantastic job.

Who would you recommend QAwerk to and why?

I’d recommend QAwerk to any startup working on a software project that has a user interface, anything that you know requires more than just a set of automated tests integrated into the CI. For any software project like that, I’d recommend QAwerk.

What inspires you to move on with your project?

The most interesting problem that I think Arctype tackles or is in the midst of tackling is handling large amounts of data at scale. So, obviously Arctype is a web application and as a result, there are a lot of interesting problems that have to be tackled when dealing with incredibly large databases and large datasets. Because things have to be loaded into memory, there’s all kinds of local storage idiosyncrasies across browsers and systems, and these are kind of like the primary challenges that I find really, really interesting and inspire me to come and bring my A-game to work every single day.

Work with Ukraine

Arctype is an example of brave and forward-thinking businesses that continue their partnerships with Ukrainian vendors despite the war in Ukraine. They don’t let media sensationalism take over their sound judgment; instead, they look at the quality of the work done and, based on that, create opportunities for IT services agencies like QAwerk. 

We are proud to have clients who understand that their partnership with a Ukrainian vendor translates into dozens of opportunities for average Ukrainians who are motivated to work to support their country’s economy, support their defenders, support local sellers and communities in need.

Have a look at what other businesses say about cooperating with QAwerk. If you’re looking for a trusted QA advisor who’ll go above and beyond to help you succeed as a product, now is the best time to contact us.

Stand with Ukraine by working with Ukraine!

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