Leantime · Gloria (Smith) Folaron

Project management for the non-project manager

March 13, 2023
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Table of contents

  • Leantime
  • Gloria (Smith) Folaron
  • North Carolina, United States
  • Started in 2019
  • 2 employees
  • Bootstrapped
  • leantime.io

Gloria, what's your backstory?

I'm originally from California. On my mother's side, I come from a Hispanic/Latinx background. My great great grandmother immigrated to the states in the early 1900s. My mom tells me stories of how she came and only spoke her Native American language.

While we had plenty of good times, we were not strangers to hardship. My dad was laid off from his job, and we basically had to start over. He worked while he went to night school, and I got to see what picking yourself up by your bootstraps really looked like.

Growing up, my brother had a rare health condition that made him really sick growing up. My mother later developed a rare brain condition that required brain surgery. We were in and out of the hospital for much of my youth as a result.

It's these experiences and my naturally empathetic personality that I ended up at the University of Arizona working on my Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

I'm the first female in my immediate family on that side to have obtained a bachelor's degree. I later went back to school for an MBA.

As a nurse, I realized I also loved solving problems. I started in the ER. The more I worked, though, the more I saw problems that I couldn't solve in my 12-hour shift. Things like 3-day-olds coming into the ER at 3am during flu season because they hadn't had a bowel movement. Totally normal for them, but somewhere there was a disconnect happening.

This led me down a path into a startup weekend, where we spent the weekend and built out Video My Doc Pediatrics. This was before telemedicine became what it is today and wasn't covered by insurance.

At that time, I had started working in project management and started helping build MVP's (minimal viable products) for startups in the community.

I've since had varying stages of startups, with varying levels of success. Some with unfortunate and unexpected ends. We even became alpaca farmers through it all. I've taught myself photography, branding, how to weave on a floor loom, and dye yarn. It's been a wild ride, but there's no failure in any of it. It's all been learning.

What is Leantime?

Leantime is project management for the non-project manager. It's built for the person who manages projects as part of their work but didn't intend to be a project manager.

It's focused on using the best practices of project management but done so simply so that you don't have the same hurdles you do in the current systems. As easy as Trello but nowhere near as overwhelming as Jira.

How did you come up with Leantime?

The company name came from our experience during a startup weekend. After the program, we went through a Lean Launchpad course while building Video My Doc.

Lean Startup was popular at the time, and we wanted to apply its principles to project management. We aimed to put lean into project management and to use the lean canvas to track our progress.

Another important factor was my non-traditional background in tech and product management. Despite completing my MBA, I still approached things as a nurse.

I started as a non-project manager, and my partner and I quickly learned about the communication and thinking differences between my "human first" perspective and his engineering and program management mindset.

There wasn't a project management system that aligned with my way of thinking - the available options were either too basic or too complex/technical.

How did you go about building and launching Leantime?

We built a website and launched the application that my partner had built. To promote our launch, we used resources like Betalist, Product Hunt, and even applied to Geekwire and pitched there.

Currently, our focus is on content creation and community building in the open source space.

How have you grown the business?

To land our first few customers for the open-source version, we benefited from having our website up for some time and gaining some SEO. We also shared our product in the active open-source community on Reddit.

For the hosted version, we primarily use content and SEO building as our primary lead generation method and combine this with announcements on social media platforms.

We're also starting to expand into local outreach. To grow our open-source user base, we use similar tactics, including content and SEO building and sharing about our product on Reddit.

Since we launched the hosted version in mid-November, we've had 1.3k instances created/trialled.

The majority of our active accounts are currently free, as we're still focusing on growing our open-source and enterprise user base. As of now, our total instances (hosted + open-source) are at 8.3k.

What's your biggest selling product?

Our company offers two versions of our product: a self-hosted platform that can be downloaded from our website and a hosted platform we provide as a service. Currently, our self-hosted platform is our most active offering. However, our hosted platform is starting to catch up and gain more traction.

Any big failures and learnings?

My biggest failures were actually in other startups I've built up.

With 'Video My Doc', I learned the value of timing and filtering advice. When I was younger, many people told me the idea was bad and it was expensive to start. With the government not requiring insurance to pay for it, there was a big question about who would pay for it.

However, today telemedicine is second nature and looking back, I realize it would have become a game of sustaining enough funds to make it through regulations catching up.

For another startup, I learned about balance and partnerships. At Purple Alpaca, we were growing much faster than we could handle while our business partner was out of the country and kept extending their trips to help.

I ended up throwing more of myself in than I had to give, and when our business partner finally arrived, it ended up being too much, resulting in them leaving within six weeks, during our busiest period.

This forced us to scale back, and my body shut down due to my own rare health issues as we tried to keep up.

With Leantime in the early days, we were in a very competitive and saturated space, with CPC (cost per click) up to 20-30 in the commercial space. This was a learning experience in market differentiation, identifying resources, and looking at alternatives to scale.

What's next for you and your business?

We surpassed over 7000 installs recently and are growing every week. We're currently working on plugins in the open-source space.

We also just launched a new pricing plan for our hosted platform. Knowing the costs for SaaS are so high.

This pricing approach allows the users to select what saves them the most money. Our plans are a choose-your-own-adventure. You either pay per project per month or per user per month. Either way, you get one free project or one free user, depending on which you pick. You can change as you grow.

Your go to digital tools?

Leantime -no bias, of course ;)

Zoom and Google Hangouts

Slack for advisor communities

Discord for our own open source community

Sender.net for email workflows


Google workspace

Any inspiring founder books you recommend?

Range by David Epstein

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Made to Stick by Chip Heath

Managing Humans by Michael Loop

Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff (as a female founder, this was particularly insightful)

The Data Detective by Tim Hartford

I'm currently listening to Thank you for Arguing by Jay Heinrich and it's shaping up to be interesting already.

Any resources that have helped you in your journey?

LinkedIn has been a really valuable tool for me. I've met some amazing people through the platform, both in our local community and beyond, who work in product marketing and product management.

Any quotes you live by?

A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.

You'll find this one tattooed to my calf.

What do you love + hate about being a founder?

I find the most satisfaction as a founder when I'm innovating, solving problems, and making a positive impact on people's lives. For me, being a founder is a way to pursue that goal.

However, one of the challenges is that the risks and rewards don't just affect me, but also my family. This means that there's a higher financial threshold to commit to the startup full-time, which can be difficult to navigate.

Any advice for other founders?

To be yourself, to be transparent. Not afraid to look at reality and to set boundaries.

Your details, socials etc.


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