Many startups offer a product or a service in the form of a web or mobile app, but DevOpsGuys is a fledgling business looking to provide consultancy services for the management of web applications. The idea is to help organisations develop and integrate software more frequently and reliably.
DevOpsGuys was founded by James Smith (right) and Steven Thair in 2013, and has grown to employ 35 people across multiple locations. The HQ is in Cardiff.
We fired our spotlight questions at Smith to find out more about his consultancy startup.
Why did you set up DevOpsGuys?
In this digital age, there is a real need for businesses to innovate and respond quickly to market changes. IT now moves at such a pace that many organisations are struggling to react and are at risk as a consequence.
DevOpsGuys was established to help organisations revolutionise their approach to launching new IT and web services, ensuring they are always at the forefront of the market.
Tell us how you got the business off the ground.
Steve and I had both read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and identified a lot with his view on how to get a startup going, so to begin with we took our ideas to market as a blog, to gain some early feedback.
The response was phenomenal, so we quickly translated some of these ideas into actual products, and DevOpsGuys was born. Our first service offerings were aimed at figuring out the problem our customers had and we developed a minimum viable product to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible.
Within a few months, we'd started delivering services across a range of small and medium sized businesses and within months we hired our first permanent employee.
What technology do you use?
We use a number of different technologies to deliver our services. We have identified a toolset of best of breed applications that allow the automation of software delivery and we have strategic partnerships in place with these vendors. We also use cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure as the basis for our ongoing managed services.
What level of funding have you received so far?
What challenges have you encountered to date?
When you're the founder of a startup you quickly realise a few things. The first is that in the early days you have to do everything in the business yourself: accounting, marketing, service delivery, hiring.
There's an expectation that overnight you become an expert in every field. It's simply not true. We've spent a lot of time figuring out how to hire people around us who are far better at these areas than we are, so that we can focus on the vision and culture of our business.
The second thing you learn as a founder is that no matter how many other founders you listen to, and how much advice they give you, which is almost always right, you won't truly understand that advice until you've been through the same thing. Most of the time, that means making the same mistakes, as we have discovered.
People always talk about the importance of 'hiring the right people', but it has taken us some time to work out who the right people for our company actually are and to understand how each individual has an impact on your culture. When you hire someone who doesn't quite fit, especially in the early stages, it becomes obvious pretty quickly and we have found dealing with that tough.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business?
We now work with well-known brands such as Vodafone, Fitness First and ASOS and are therefore gaining recognition from some big players in the industry. Being quoted by Gartner, sitting on the DevOps advisory board for Microsoft, there are many!
However, the amazing support from the Welsh business community and the Welsh government continues to be a highlight.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
We have a gathering every last Thursday of the month, where we get the team together from across the country and simply go out for food and beers. It gives everyone a chance to meet up, share stories and understand what everyone is working on within the business.
What did you do before starting up?
I've worked in the software industry for over 15 years and have been lucky enough to work with some amazing people.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
Favourite: the excitement of taking something new and innovative to market and seeing the resulting positive effect that this service has on the organisations that we deal with.
Worst: sometimes, there just aren't enough hours in the day. It takes time to realise that you simply can't do everything. So having an awesome team around you, who proactively deal with their areas of expertise, is certainly key to our success.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
Atlassian: a startup built in Australia and likely to be the first Australian company to IPO at over $1bn. Their ethos and outlook on how to treat people, with decency and respect, and commitment to delivering unsurpassed customer experience is one I admire.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
We have our own office space right in the heart of Cardiff, which I think is important, but our team is distributed all over the UK. We even have team members in Canada. Having a distributed workforce is just the norm in a modern startup.
Smart or casual?
Casual. We like to keep things informal and as relaxed as possible.
Coffee shop of choice?
Taylor St in London and Coffee #1 in Cardiff.
Beverage of choice?
DevHops. That's our own branded beer that we have through a local craft brewery called Pipes.
The BrewDog. Lots of different local ales and beers and it has Dog in the name!
Slack: we use this in the company and with our customers. It's a great way to instantly share information and communicate.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Most definitely. It's a superb way to meet great people, share experiences and get advice. Of course, it's also good for business.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
More can always be done, but I have to say that we have had a huge amount of support and guidance from the Welsh government which has been invaluable in helping us grow and move in the right direction.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from IoT wireless network firm Nwave Technologies and e-commerce and augmented reality firm GoInStore, online currency exchange platform FreemarketFX and website and app monitoring firm RapidSpike.
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