Nerds on noodles
Wellington-based tech developer and exporter Raygun is an inspirational example of how global success comes through having a strong vision, a great product and, yes, an appetite for two-minute noodles. Like most raging tech-export success stories, this one has humble beginnings. When John Daniel Trask (JD) and Jeremy Boyd met while working for Wellington IT […]
Wellington-based tech developer and exporter Raygun is an inspirational example of how global success comes through having a strong vision, a great product and, yes, an appetite for two-minute noodles.
Like most raging tech-export success stories, this one has humble beginnings. When John Daniel Trask (JD) and Jeremy Boyd met while working for Wellington IT company Intergen they already shared a track record for computer coding from a very young age. They also quickly acknowledged and respected each other’s coding skills.
When JD had the crazy idea of launching Mindscape in 2007 – a software developer tools company situated above a drug and alcohol rehab clinic – they stocked the shoebox-sized office with two-minute noodles with the aim of, in JD’s words, “running the company super lean and pulling in all-nighters on projects, because that’s what I thought business people did back then.”
Jeremy was the ideal choice for a business partner, which nowadays serves to remind JD of the John D. Rockefeller quote: “Better a friendship born of business, than a business born of friendship.”
“Thinking back, the biggest measure of wanting to go into business with Jeremy was his level of integrity. He has always been honest to the core.”
The fact that 12 years later they’re still in business together speaks volumes for the strength of the relationship, he says.
With the venture boot-strapped from day one, in the early days they gained equity in a number of companies, effectively becoming their technical arm before exiting. An example is Givealittle.
But in 2012 the two founders decided to focus on building just one solid product, which at the time was Raygun Crash Reporting.
Launched the following year, along with a company name change to Raygun, Crash Reporting is a SaaS product that reports the faults in client’s software. JD describes it as “a black box flight recorder for your code” – helping you proactively find, diagnose and fix software errors and performance problems.
“Whenever something goes wrong with the code, Raygun automatically collects meta-data on what was happening at the time of the error. So software teams can quickly see how many problems there are, how many customers were impacted, and how it can be quickly fixed.”
Subsequently they expanded the Raygun suite to include a pioneering APM (application performance monitoring) platform, which monitors customers’ load times and experience with software, as well as what’s happening on client servers.
“Raygun is a holistic, integrated view of the health of a client’s software,” explains JD.
He says the addressable market for the APM product is huge – essentially any company around the world that’s building software.
“APM’s a $7 billion a year category and according to Gartner is growing at 12 percent a year. The spread of overseas customers is also very broad – from Asia to Europe, to the Americas.”
According to JD all of this is the direct result of the macro-shift from software services-only companies to software product companies.
People are also wising up to the fact that if they’re spending multiple millions developing software then they should also be monitoring it and trying to improve it, he adds. “It’s not a one-off cost.”
He admits he gets great satisfaction from building and refining products that are downloaded all around the world. And it’s nice that they’re now making money while they sleep – a fact JD says his mother teases him on.
Today there is also an increasing focus on the quality of software and what he refers to as ‘continuous integration and deployment’. “Because nobody likes dealing with software bugs.
“Code is constantly being built, tested and then pushed into production,” he says. “For example, our software [updates] now get pushed out to production up to 50 times a day.”
Sleepless in Seattle
Raygun has been export-led from day one. “We’ve rapidly acquired customers from all over the world,” says JD. In the early days customers came through word of mouth, as well as an influencer-blogger in the software industry. “Just off one blog-post we generated 100-plus customers a month.”
Today, he says they actively sponsor events worldwide, and in the local Wellington community. A lot of business is driven to their website through free-trials, and there are a range of other marketing initiatives including podcasts and AdWords. “It’s all very targeted to the technical audience that we sell to.”
Although headquartered in Wellington, with the bulk of its 35 staff located there, JD also spent three years helping set up Raygun’s presence in Seattle and experimenting in the US market. One reason he chose that city was to be nearer Microsoft, whom they already enjoy a close relationship with.
“Our Seattle office is also located right across the road from Amazon’s headquarters – which I found both motivating and inspiring!” he says.
“The biggest thing I took away from that whole experience is that we have an absolutely world-class team here in New Zealand – across both engineering and marketing. We do our best work out of Wellington,” he says. “In fact, I spoke to plenty of US companies who were trying to borrow our ideas.”
Although JD and Jeremy own 85 percent of the business, Raygun has enjoyed the support of local investors. With revenues taking off and the books cashflow positive, late last year they announced that $15 million will be invested into the Wellington operation over 24 months – adding another 70 people to the payroll.
“It sounds a little unusual for a tech company, but I like to think we’ve always worked hard to do things our way, and not follow the pack,” says JD.
He says nothing gives him greater pleasure than to look out over the team in their Wellington workspace and see how the business is enhancing their lives and the lives of their families, and to appreciate how their people are instrumental in the success of Raygun.
“It’s a proud moment for me when I pause and think that all of this is the result of a couple of kids daring to strike out and do something.”