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Email, Key Lookup, Bounced Check

· Posted by Val in Company · 1 Comment

After our company met in Italy on July 1, I stayed abroad until my recent return to the Bay Area, and since I got back, every day has been an action-packed festival of learning. I feel like I could write about a million things, so, to pace myself , I will limit this to three topics: communication (email -vs- Skype); why Peldi coded a little self-serve app to look up lost activation keys; and finally, share the laughs about our first-ever bounced check.

To communicate, email still rules.

I was away from my laptop and called balsamiqNatalie on our Skype-in line. Sadly, our phone just rang and rang, and Natalie never picked up. Worse, it didn't roll to voicemail. My call wasn't urgent, so I sent her a short email, and she called me back immediately.

In an ephemeral burp in service, Skype never rang on her computer. 🙁

How many customers have tried to call us and been frustrated by not getting an answer or way to leave us a voicemail, and we didn't even know? Likely this was just a random blip, but should it happen to you, please accept our apologies and send an email to

We're not just saying it, email really is best to reach us.

It's a bit of a disappointment to come to that conclusion, as I do genuinely like talking to customers on the phone. We have an extremely varied install base, and I am naturally curious about how people use our little tool. Many of our customers are rogue app developers and freelance studios, but at the same time, a large number of are in-house at interesting midsize and large companies As such, we get to talk to people in all kinds of industries!

Answering the phone is like being on a quiz show, being asked the $64,000 technology riddle. When Skype rings, I adjust my headset and prepare to answer the call while my mind dances through different customer scenarios. Will this be a sales inquiry? A EULA question? Or, has a customer upgraded the OS but not backed up software license records?

Give us a chance to answer your questions, but if you don't get an answer, ping us on or

Can't find your keys?

Our company is heavily European, so it was not an unexpected coincidence that all of us wanted to take vacation in August. In Italy, it seems the whole country goes on vacation in August. I often heard, "the butcher is in ferie," or "the baker is in ferie." It was such common parlance that my daughter thought ferie must be a wonderful place and wondered if we could go there, too!

But in our small company, how should we decide who takes full vacation and who works while on vacation? Some companies have the "First on the Calendar" rule or approve vacation requests by ranking employees by seniority. Other employers have official ranking by union card. At Balsamiq, poop runs uphill, and it was Peldi who stepped in to cover while Natalie, Luis, Marco and I all took vacation with our families.

We really do have a great boss. Never mind that he, a real European, was trying to be in ferie with his own family. He just did his best, taking care of the fires, and putting on hold what could wait until the rest of us got back. Thanks, Peldi. You did a great job! I hope you enjoyed strolling down memory lane, back to the days when you did all of this all the time! It really wasn't that long ago!

A consistent request is to look up and re-send license information so a customer can install Balsamiq Mockups on a repaved or new machine. It just takes a few minutes for us to find and send it, and we are happy to do it.

In an episode that reminds me of a Fog Creek technique where Dev engineers answer tech support calls because they can actually fix the problem instead of giving a work-around, Peldi took action. He threw together a sweet little Lost Key retrieval app. If ever you can't find your key, simply request it here:

This little app helps the customer get up and running with minimal lag time. It helps us because we can do the other stuff to keep the show humming. With all the time zones we service, it's a Win-win. Win!

Our first-ever bounced check

It was inevitable. This week, Balsamiq Studios received our first-ever bounced check. But, in true Balsamiq Studios style, it wasn't an ordinary check, it was from a US federal agency! Clearly, there was a mistake somewhere: either our bank incorrectly processed it, or the Federal agency was sending money from the wrong account. But clearly, a mistake had been made.

Since the customer was paying on a PO, initial contact had already been made. I simply called up our customer, told her what had happened, and we both not only got things squared away quickly, I scored a good dinner table story and a several good laughs, too.

It was easy to remedy: I called our bank, they are sending us the "rubber" check, and balsamiqMalcolm will simply deposit it again. I am confident it will go through, no problem. (I know for certain the US government has some money: we just paid our quarterly tax advance! 😉

And the cost of a bounced check is less than I expected! Our bank charges us six bucks to process a bad check. That's nearly a bargain in the realm of managing money today.

So that's your peek behind the curtain at how we do what we do in the Wow! Division. I'd love your comments about what you've enjoyed in this post, what you'd like to hear more about, and what you could skip next time. I write this for myself, but it's fun to know folks are reading it.

Be well, do well,

PS: Hello Manuela!

Val for the Balsamiq Team

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Comments (1)

  1. Val, just wanted to say thanks for leaving a comment on the blog the other day, it means a lot and encourages me to continue to pursue it even though I’m not very experienced in the blog arena! Looks like you’ve gotten to the blogging as well, which is a great thing 🙂

    Love the new website, it really compliments your software and I love the new layout. Screenshots look great, and it’s more interactive than ever before…I hope it brings you even more success! My best.