New SaaS startup Aha! aims to make building great products easier

California-based startup Aha! today opened the doors of its new subscription-based product roadmap and feature definition software, ending a private beta period that began at the end of May.

Aha! is focussed on the 'why' and the 'what' of software development, according to the company's CEO Brian de Haaff.

"Setting good strategy for 'what we're going to build next' – what I call the 'why' – and then, underneath that, explaining what we are going to build is still really difficult," de Haaff said.

"To a certain degree it feels to me like we're still in the dark ages on that planning side of software development"

Aha! lets product managers map out the vision for a software product, including the business drivers, release tracking, and, in broad brushstrokes, the features that are going to be delivered to end users in each version.

In addition to drawing up product roadmaps and being the "system of record for features and requirements", Aha! can make product strategy visible for team members and management. Particular features of a product can be mapped against elements of the underlying strategy.

The system can then interface with bug tracking and revision control systems, letting product managers push requirements into third-party systems including GitHub and Atlassian's Jira. Aha's API also offers generic webhooks for integration into other VCSes.

Activity notifications in these systems can then be pushed back into Aha!, allowing product managers to monitor what's happening.

Aha! was founded by de Haaf, a former vice-president of product for Citrix's SaaS division, and former Citrix Online principal architect Chris Waters. It's the third cloud-based startup for the core team of Aha!

De Haaff and Waters joined Citrix after the company acquired their previous startup, Paglo, in 2010. The two left Citrix at the end of March, said de Haaff, who is Aha!'s CEO (Waters is the new startup's CTO).

"We were looking for something that was, one, in our sweet spot, that we knew a lot about, and, two, that we really were passionate about," he said.

"We sat back and said, 'Well we know the product development realm really well and why is it that we've never used anything for product strategy, roadmapping, feature definition? Why are we still using Word and Excel and PowerPoint and wikis and pieces of paper?'

"So we started taking a look at that and realised every company we'd ever been in had the same struggles. We know lots of folks who develop software, so we started talking to people and, low and behold, there's still a pretty nasty problem in that area."

The result is Aha!'s eponymous SaaS offering. Some 500 companies signed up for the beta, de Haaff said. Aha! is offering two forms of monthly subscriptions: Standard licences that cost US$59 per user per month and enterprise licences that cost $99 per user per month, but allows an unlimited number of people to view and comment on roadmaps.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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