Silver Sponsor • FreshBooks

Mike McDerment, CEO FreshBooks

Mike McDerment, CEO FreshBooks

Tell me about you and your cofounders. How did you meet? How did you decide to found FreshBooks?

I have two co-founders, Joe and Levi. I met Joe on a dark and cold Canadian night, playing disc golf in January. Joe opened up the door to do some work together and I ended up calling him a week later to do some contract work for my design firm. He introduced me to Levi and, about a year later, Levi quit his job and he and I basically did FreshBooks full time.

What other companies have you founded? How did that experience help you at FreshBooks?

I started a few other businesses, including a small sports league - a truly ambitious sporting event that ran annually. I've run a design consultancy, and after founding FreshBooks, a conference called Mesh.

The consulting business is the one that impacted FreshBooks the most because that’s where I learned how to do internet marketing. It also taught me how to work in a sustainable way because, left to my own devices, I would not stop working. I had to teach myself the importance of taking breaks and separating my work life and my personal life, and that’s proved invaluable in the ten years that we’ve been doing FreshBooks because I could have easily burnt myself out a long time ago.

Why did you choose to start a company in Toronto?

We started FreshBooks in Toronto because that’s where we're living. My family’s here. It’s a great place to be; there are lots of universities and lots of smart people.


In your own words, what is FreshBooks's mission?

I’m going to give you both a vision and a mission. Our vision is to execute on extraordinary experiences every day for small business owners because they deserve it and we believe it’s the right thing to do.

Our mission is that all small business owners everywhere use FreshBooks to run their business better so they can focus on what they love to do. In the process, we are going to build a world class global technology from Toronto.

Tell us a bit about the technologies / platform you're using now.

FreshBooks is built on a mix of PHP, Python and Javascript, using open-source frameworks like Flask, Pylons, JQuery and Twig. We have a custom data access layer built in Python that operates via HTTP and we use a RabbitMQ messaging queue for asynchronous operations. Our database is MySQL/Percona and the whole thing runs on Linux.

What do you see as your biggest technological challenges in the next 1-2 years?

Hiring. FreshBooks is a rapidly growing company in Toronto. We have figured out how to do things, like process 10 million events in a day, through our technology and now our challenge is how to continue to hire world-class engineers. The fact is, the best people only want to work with the best people, so we want to continue finding the best people and have them join the team. That’s really hard, but really rewarding when we find them and exciting for the people who get to join FreshBooks.

Why did you choose to sponsor PyCon Canada?

It’s really important for FreshBooks to give back to the community. We’ve had this wonderful opportunity to build our business on these amazing open source technologies, of which Python is one. FreshBooks recognizes this amazing open source opportunity and we want to ensure that the Python community remains strong and that the technologies advance for the good of everyone.

We’ve made various contributions to Python and this is our fourth year at PyCon. We find that attending PyCon and meeting people to be extremely rewarding. We at FreshBooks are grateful to be able to help sponsor PyCon Canada because we believe in supporting, developing and contributing to open source projects. Python is a big part of our future and we’re comitted to our continuing support of Python and its communities.

What other things are you passionate about besides your mission at FreshBooks?

I’m quite passionate about seeing Canada – more specifically Toronto - in order to be better recognized as technology leaders and to put Canada on the technology world stage. That’s been my whole reason for co-founding the Mesh Conference. The point of Mesh is to get smart people together and get them organized around what’s next. FreshBooks is aiming to be a pillar in the community and leading example of how to build a global technology company in Toronto.