There are many ways to launch a startup, and none of them are particularly easy. There’s a huge element of risk involved for all concerned. However, as the importance of startups finally becomes apparent to the powers-that-be, the tools and opportunities available to tech entrepreneurs in countries like Ireland is taking some of the fear out of it.
This is no doubt a good thing, but perhaps some of these startups are living in an artificial cocoon of funding, incubation, mentoring, games rooms, and lattes in the common area. The fear of losing everything isn’t always as strong a motivating factor as it once was.
The good folk behind Application Metrics-as-a-Service provider, MetricFire, have decided to do it the hard way.
Dave Concannon has worked with a number of successful startups over the years (including mobile security developers YouGetItBack), while co-founder Charlie Von Metzradt had been working with Demonware in Dublin.
“I decided it was time for me to finally step out and do something for myself,” recalls Dave. Charlie, he says, was the obvious choice for a partner, “I’ve worked with him before, I can trust him – I know he’s very, very smart”. The two took what they both had in the bank, enough to last a year, and they’ve bootstrapped their way from idea to market.
The idea for Metricfire came from their past experiences as software engineers, such as Charlie’s time at Demonware, where he saw first-hand the need to be able to track huge amounts of metrics coming from systems. “There’s a lot of mission critical stuff,” says Dave, “so it’s absolutely critical that you know when things are slowing down and be able to eliminate all the bottlenecks”.
The pair felt that, while many companies offer solutions to one or more of the problems presented by application metrics, none was comprehensive enough to make outsourcing worthwhile.
“There are a lot of solutions that do individual parts; you can measure things, you can alert things; but connecting them all together is a real pain. We want to be the one-stop shop for measuring everything inside an application and then letting people know when something’s gone wrong. Basically, it’s a way to measure everything that’s out there,” says Dave.
“We allow people to quickly and easily measure anything that’s coming out of their application, be that how quickly things are responding or the number of times something happens, or maybe you just want to know how many users are using a particular area of your app.”
Charlie remains in Dublin, while Dave is out in California. An American presence is important, they felt. Even if they are not quite at the stage where it has begun to make a difference, it projects a message of intent.
“It’s not even just to have an American presence, but almost to have a presence in the Bay Area,” says Dave. He recalls an anecdote where an acquaintance could not secure funding from VCs until he moved from San Diego to San Francisco, whereupon the investors began to take him seriously, “It’s that odd perception of having to be at the hub, I suppose, around the Bay Area, which is a little bit strange”.
For a two-man operation, the eight-hour time difference between Dave and Charlie might have been an issue, but Dave notes that Charlie, “tends to keep odd hours so he’s more on my time zone”.
“It works out pretty well because our days overlap probably 80-85 per cent so we’re online at the same time, which works out very well. We get a lot done; it feels like he’s just down the road,” he says.
Metricfire was in a beta program for four months, “Gradually letting more and more people in, getting feedback on what they like, what they’d like changed, how the interface works, how it suits them”, and has just this month launched its first pricing plans.
They are hopeful that companies will see the benefit of purchasing this software as a service, rather than devoting programmers’ and engineers’ time and effort towards resolving these issues in-house.
“Would you rather have your developers writing code for you, or would you rather have them fixing a thing that lets you know when something else has gone wrong?
“The comparison we’d make is; you can take one of your developers, have him spend the day figuring out what the different options are – install one of those – then he has to find out the next part of the chain – install that – connect them all; that’s another couple of days’ work. And then eventually, maybe six months down the line, something goes wrong, and he has to fix it, or maybe he’s left the company or he’s too busy, so someone else has to do it, so you’re looking at all these days accumulated,” explains Dave with all the exasperation of someone who’s been in this situation before, and resolved not to repeat the experience.
“The way we’re doing it is, you have a hosted service, we take care of it all and make sure it can grow and scale. We have people here who can take care of it for you, so you’re not wasting your time when you could be doing something that’s more core to your business.”
Metricfire is, explains Dave, “Kind of language agnostic”, and can cater for almost any application out there, big or small. They also plan to offer free projects to open-source developers and students.
“We have libraries for Python and PHP, and we’re adding more, with Ruby, Java and Node JS on the way, but we have a HTTP API that lets anyone that wants to either build their own native client or just wants to connect quickly. But our plan is support as many languages as we can, and we’re gradually just building them up based on customer requests that we’ve seen.”
While they have bootstrapped so far, they are hopeful that the connections of David Smith and Enterprise Ireland will prove, “A pretty good resource for what we’re doing,” and open some doors for Metricfire in Silicon Valley.
Angels and VCs constantly harp on about wanting more than just talented people with good ideas; they want to know that their money is in safe hands. Having eschewed all outside help and crafted a viable business across two continents, Dave and Charlie will hope to show investors that Metricfire is as safe a pair of hands as any in these uncertain times.