This week Adam is joined by Christine Yen, co-founder and CEO of Honeycomb. Christine and Adam recorded this show late last year, just after their Series C funding round. They talk about the superpower of observability for developers, how she and Charity Majors got to the place to found Honeycomb, the state of their platform today, what exactly observability is, and their goals for the future of Honeycomb.
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Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧
Christine, welcome to Founders Talk. I’ve been very excited to talk with you, probably more than I should be, honestly. I’ve been a fan of yours since you came on the Changelog a couple of years ago. You had that talk at Strange Loop, Observability Superpowers, all that good stuff… And I’ve just been such a fan of you, personally, and the company you run with Charity and the rest of the team, also called Bees, which I think is a super cool name for the cast that makes up your company, but… Welcome to Founders Talk. Thanks for coming.
Thanks for saying that. And thank you for having me. I am likewise a fan of yours, and at the risk of listeners being grossed out by the mutual love happening here, I am really excited to be a part of this podcast.
Yeah. We can’t start the show without mentioning this large duffel bag you just got. So $50 million in Series C… What I think is uniquely interesting was that all the existing investors from your Series B round joined this round too, which I think is telling about the direction of your company. But let’s open up there. Let’s talk about, I guess, just the journey to a Series C. What did it take to get here?
[03:50] Well, Charity’s Twitter thread on the Series C yesterday, Wednesday, was full of sort of doom and gloom, right? It was like, “Oh we have staved off our obliteration for another period of time. And unless we tried really hard, we probably won’t fail at this point.” And I was talking to our director of customer engineering, and he was like, “Oh, that felt like a morbid joke, because I can’t remember when Honeycomb was ever like that.” And I looked at him and I was like, “Ah, you sweet summer child.” We’ve gone through some dark times. The journey to this point is one of fraught, and full of late nights and gray hairs, and I think that it is also a journey that - cliché as it sounds, through which we’ve learned a lot and wouldn’t trade for anything.
I think a defining characteristic of Charity and I, our personalities, is that we are two of the most stubborn individuals you will meet. And breaking into this space, especially in late 2015, early 2016 - there were so many people who were ready to be like, “Why are you even doing this? Datadog exists. This space is done. There’s nothing new that can be done in this problem of understanding our software systems.” And we were just like, “No, you’re wrong.” People telling us we were too early, too late, everything in between. And it really feels like an artificial form of validation, but validation nonetheless, to have crossed this milestone.
When I think of being at this stage, I don’t think of receiving the large duffle bag of money, although that is also nice and I am glad our investors are backing us… I think about how much it meant to see customers replying to our tweets on Wednesday, expressing gladness that we are who we are. I think about the many people who are like, “Your content taught me about observability.” That is the meaningful change we want to see in the world. The funding announcement is just an artifact of that.
Yeah, definitely true. A funding announcement is a necessary piece to this timeframe, right? You can’t get a Series C and then not announce it and share all the things around it and have the Charity tweet where it might be doom or gloom… But I think that – you’d mentioned the sweet summer child in terms of, I forget who the person was particularly, but just this aspect of being removed. When you’re a founder or a CEO or a CTO or in leadership of a – you were in the early stage, and now Series C crossed the line. Now you’re in a high-growth stage, or at least in a growth stage, hopefully high-growth, soon to come. I think we’ll tell, but I think that’s very possible.
But there’s this stage of removal, and it’s not like it’s bad or good. It’s just this removal. In fact, you and Charity in particular get to see parts of the business that no one else gets to see, that you can’t quite share, not because you are not transparent or not real, but because it’s just something they shouldn’t have to worry about… Like you mentioned, the late nights and the gray hairs and the different things that come along with just the trials and tribulations of getting to here. And I think that’s a unique life experience as a founder. And one thing I love about this show is talking about those details. So wherever you want to take us, share more of those details; that removal, the journey only you and Charity can know, or only someone in your positions and other startups might be able to know.
Yeah. The moment that this immediately brought to mind is Charity and I met working together at a startup in 2019. We continued to work together through that company getting acquired in 2013, and then working together at the acquired company - or acquiring company - for a couple years after that. And we learned a lot about how we as employees wanted to be – the part that we wanted to play in that company’s success, how we wanted to feel about the leadership and the team composition and how it’s getting built. And when we started off, yes, we wanted to bring this cool product vision into real life. Yes, we knew we wanted to build a strong, sustainable business in order to hang onto that integrity of vision, because staying independent is the only way that you get to really execute on what you want to build.
[08:19] There was always this third piece of, we really want to build a company people are proud of being a part of. All those three things are tied together. You can’t separate them out. And a piece of that has always been trying to figure out how to be as transparent as leaders as we would’ve wanted our leaders to be as an employee, without necessarily bringing people along the entire rollercoaster with us.
Yeah, because it’s scary.
It’s scary. So when I think about those dark times, we had to strike this balance of being able to be real with the company… “Hey, this is our zero cash date. This is what we’re up against. This is what a company our stage “should be” displaying. And this is what we can show instead.” Being real about all of that and bringing them into a world where they’re aware of what is really around us, and how it’s not just sunshine and roses all the time, without jerking folks around. And that has been something that has been really interesting to navigate. This feeling of, “We got you. These are the choppy waters, but this is why our current heading is right, our current trajectory is right.” I’ve been watching a lot of Vikings, so there’s going to be a lot of nautical references here.
Okay. [laughs] Nautical references abound.
Yeah. “And this is why there will be land on the other side of this journey. We’ll be okay.”
Gotcha. Yeah. So it’s one thing to say you want to build a form of company that people are proud to be a part of, but what are some of the ways that you – aside from that one point there where you have transparency and security without full disclosure, for obvious reasons… What are some other ways you achieve that? Is it vacation days? Is it paternity and maternity leave? Is it benefits? Is it culture? What is culture? How do you particularly execute that, between you and Charity? How do you do it?
There were a couple things that– and I won’t say how did we do it, because it is an ongoing thing that keeps evolving, as what works for five people doesn’t work for 50, and eventually 500. There were two things that jump to mind immediately from the early days. The first two full-time employees we brought on after myself and Charity were new dads. One had I think like a five-month-old, one had a one-and-a-half-year-old. And at the time, Charity and I, our working hours were like–
Yeah, 10:30 AM until like 4:00 AM. It was not sustainable, not good. But new dads are not going to work that; we had no interest in asking that. And so having them be the first two people who are not us really helped us establish from the beginning, “Look, we’re not here to keep your butts in the seats. We don’t want to create a culture where people hang out at the office after work and go out to drink together. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we want you to put your lives into your work. We want you to love what you do and then get to go home.”
In some cases, it was, “Go home at four o’clock, send back on at some point, do what you need to do.” But it was very, “We trust you. You’re an adult. We trust you to be an adult and figure it out for yourself how to manage your time.”
The second thing is, as I sort of alluded to, the company Charity and I met at, Parse, built something that people loved, but struggled to build that supporting business behind it. So from day one, Charity and I came into this being like, okay, it’s not enough to build something people love. It’s got to be a real problem, that people are willing to pay real money for to support continued development and continue growing with that customer. For every engineer for a long time – we may still do this, I don’t know. I don’t interview engineers anymore. But every engineer that we interviewed, we would sit them down and make sure they understood both of these sides are important to building a business. We are not just here for the cool tech. We are here to make something really valuable and solve hard problems and get money in exchange for that. And I’m really proud of the early team that we built, and concretely, really proud of this moment…
[12:31] I remember like a year and a half or two years in when our first salesperson would do these deal reviews, which was, at the time, essentially running through a spreadsheet of just the conversations that were in flight. And this salesperson who invited the whole company, of like 12 people, of which everyone was optional, but everyone showed up, because everyone cared about, “Oh, this customer, or this prospect - this is what they did want to use us for. And they’re going to run into this problem…” And it was like full engagement in the commercial side of the tech. And I love that.
I think being very real about this is what is important to the company, this is what we hope that you will care about as a person or as a prospective employee… And if it’s not a fit for you, then let’s be clear about that up front so you can self-select out. I think those are two things that established who we are and how we want to engage with the market from the very early days.
Yeah. I like the moment you mentioned where someone was hyping you and Charity up - this is early days - and they said that this could be a billion-dollar company. Give me some retrospect on that, because I think now you’re closer than ever to being a billion-dollar company, if not already. I don’t know what your valuation actually is. I know your raise was $50 million. It tends to be some multiple of that, so I would say you’re near a billion-dollar valuation. So tell me, are you a unicorn? Take me back to those days. Take me back to that day when it was very – you laughed at the moment, but now it’s very real. This is right around the corner for you, if you keep going the right direction.
Yeah. I’ve been thinking a lot about that moment in the last year, so as it has firmly slid from the, “Oh, wasn’t that funny, when someone said that in 2016?”, to “I can see the path to this point. It is no longer hypothetical. It is real.”
When Charity and I started off, despite these words about building a business and really – as two engineers, we didn’t really have an idea of the building blocks and the various phases of building a good market engine that would actually get us to that point. We were just like, “Look, we know this is a real problem. We know many of our smart friends have struggled to solve this problem with the current tools that they have., and we’re just going to–”, again, stubborn, “We’re just going to charge ahead and we’re going to do this thing, and assume that it will all come together.”
I still remember in the early days, Charity would go into investor meetings and be like, “Oh yeah, this might still fail. But we figure, if it fails, we’ll open source this.” And you could watch investor faces just–
…closing slowly over time… [laughs[ And we were like, “Okay, we can’t say that.” We think that, yes, this is a real commercial concern”, which we did believe; just natural engineer tendencies of being cynical about what was in front of us. I won’t speak to specific valuations, because all of that is market and perception, and who knows the real alchemy behind how valuations are produced. But I can say I ground everything in real customers, and real stories, and real people, and real outages they were able to either resolve or prevent because of the use of Honeycomb. And with that, each time there’s a new story I get to add to my mental cache of “This is how we really helped these people.” That feeling attached to that billion-dollar valuation, that is reinforced every day.
[16:02] Well, the reason why I think the perceived marketplaces or perceived value on the status is, one, of celebration and then, two, of arrival of some sort, or possibility. You had said in the announcement that observability, the future is now, and that the market is white-hot. It’s been an incredible ride this year alone. And then you talk about the competition in regards to the generous free tier that you’ll probably talk about here soon enough with me, but these different things that happen. There’s definitely a high competition space. You got told that back in the day, basically with “You’re not going to do it” phase, which is, “Datadog exists. Stop.” But that’s not true. You didn’t stop. You kept going. And then you’ve got Grafana, and you’ve got InfluxDB, which isn’t quite the same, but it can do observability, but it doesn’t only do observability. There’s a lot of even error tracking startups that are pivoting or just changing their language. You all coined the term almost six years ago, if not more now, the term observability. I’m curious how many times in your life you’ve said observability, and if you’re tired of saying it.
So many. [laughs]
But speak to not so much the valuation, but the space, the action in the space. How cutthroat is it? Is it cutthroat? What’s the space like now? What can people listening to the show take away for understanding about the monitoring/observability space and the value you bring to that market?
Well, I’m going to tell a concrete story and then talk about going forward. So Charity spent the first several years just hitting every trade show, every conference circuit, every opportunity she could get to speak about how observability was not just a new name for monitoring, but a totally different way of thinking about production and interacting with that data. And there was so much skepticism and so much “Ugh, just buzzwords…” But I still remember – Monitorama is a kind of industry conference focused on monitoring and observability. And in 2017, Charity gave a talk titled, “Monitoring is Dead. Long Live Observability.” And the tagline of the conference that year was Conference for Monitoring Practitioners, I believe. In 2017, it was the only talk that had the word observability in the title. In 2018, I think there were six talks with observability in the title. The tagline was the same. In 2019, there were like seven or eight talks with observability in the title, and the conference had officially changed their tagline to “For Monitoring and Observability Practitioners.”
And I just had this moment of like, “Huh!” That conference is still Monitorama, because I think it rolls off your tongue better… But that was a moment when I was like, “Oh, holy cow. Things are actually turning around.” Coming into this space with a ton of incumbents, it has been interesting, to say the least, to see folks who had previously a very logging-specific answer to this or a metric-specific answer to this or an APM specific answer to this, look at what we were saying and be like, “Oh, wait, we do that too”, especially if we just buy a logging product over here and build out some APM functionality here. We have these three products that can be three pillars, and then sold under this umbrella to you for three times what we were charging you before. Success.
It’s – I mean, more power to them. That is incredibly simple and effective go-to-market approach, and certainly not something that Charity and I would’ve come up with had we thought of it. But it’s not really a picture of the future. It’s not really a change in how people were using logging products and monitoring products before, where you had your monitoring product dashboard that caused you, the human, to go page something into your brain, and then go look at your logging tool. It’s not really a change; it just happens to all be under one commercial entity today. And as a company, we have had to keep balancing, I’d say, principles and pragmatism, where on the fully principled side, if we were fully principled all the time, we would spend all of our efforts talking about observability and how it is different from monitoring, and just totally spend all of our efforts in marketing tokens and brain space on these concepts and philosophy.
[20:26] On a purely pragmatic side, we would be building a monitoring tool and calling it observability and being like, “Hey, we do this too.” And so the balance in there is always going to be some part education, “Hey, this is how this is different. Observability is about unknown unknowns. It’s about shortening these feedback loops. It’s about being in a conversation with your code and having developers be comfortable tossing in instrumentation that maps back to their tests, high cardinality data”, all this, balancing that education with, “Let’s figure out how to map these concepts back to what you’re familiar with.”
If I could go back and tell my 2016 self one thing, it is, “You and Charity are not thinking nearly enough as you should be about the marketing and sales side of this thing that you want to push forward.” I still remember six months into the company we were trying to bring on a designer. I swear– it probably wasn’t, but I think it was the first time we were trying to explain Honeycomb and observability to a non-technical person, someone who hadn’t lived it and had all the battle scars to prove it… And we launched into our pitch on what we were doing. This poor designer just looked so confused. And 15 minutes in, we tried to reset, and Charity was like, “Okay, okay… You know when you’re on call and your pager goes off?” and this poor designer is just like, “Nope. Nope. Help.”
“I haven’t been there. Not at all.”
[laughs] Yeah. And figuring out the right words to use to communicate. This is not just a slight evolution of what you’ve used before. This is not just logging a bit better. This is bringing together all these concepts that we as engineers had bucketed separately, for reasons, and providing a new approach to how should you be grounding yourself and what is actually happening in production? How should you as an engineer be grounding yourself in that?
Can I be honest with you about something?
So we were on The Changelog together around probably somewhat that timeframe. And this is 2019. We published that show August 2019. And as you may know from that show and maybe know of my background, I’m more on the front end, more on the business side, more – a different side of tech. I’m still a software developer, but just on a different space of it. And while I’ve deployed, or I would say, built Linux boxes in the cloud, VPS Linux boxes, I’ve never observed or monitored anything, really. So if I’m being honest with you, I could empathize with that designer so much, because on that show, I was barely hanging on in terms of what observability was. And only now, going back and listening to that show as part of, one, preparation for this show, and just kind of going back to catch up with where you’ve been, because that’s where we’ve been too, I’m like, “Okay, now I get everything Christine had said in this show.” But then, I was like, “What is she talking about?” I mean, not fully, but for the most part I was like, “What is the unknown unknowns? What does it mean to be monitoring a system? What do you mean by metrics, and that’s not enough, and logging is not enough?”
I get the basic premises of those things, but this space you’ve been forging has very much been like an uphill battle, because you’ve coined the term, and you’re telling the market what they need, and it is what you’ve made, and it’s a brand new thing, and you’ve got competitors sort of shifting and saying, “Okay, well, now this is observability, too”, so you sort of have muddy water almost even to this observability space.
So even then, 2018, I was like, “I love you, Christine, but I don’t know what you’re talking about for the most part, in terms of where you’re going.” So now I’m getting it. Hindsight is always 20/20, and you can always connect the dots better backwards than forwards… So I can empathize.
Yeah. You were not alone, I’ll say. And it’s something that I can say we’ve gotten a lot better at, but there’s still always room to improve.
Observability has this reputation of being a thing that like backend people do, or SREs, and I’m like, “No.” Anytime you are answering questions, like who is listening to our podcasts? Oh, this podcast wasn’t served. It was inaccessible for a couple hours. Why? Okay, let me go triage that. That’s something that benefits from observability. That is something that – you’re trying to answer questions about your system.
When we started, there were a lot of parallels, I felt, between what we were trying to build and the world of BI; like, this is intelligence. They’re trying to answer these questions all the time. Why did revenue go down last month? I don’t know. Crap. Okay, let’s go dig and let’s go try to reduce the search space and let’s go try to find what changed.
There’s a lot of parallels between BI and observability, but there’s just been this historical huge wall between these communities, in sharing ideas, in sharing techniques. Some of it is real. The data requirements of a BI system are different from the data requirements for someone focused on what’s happening right now. BI, you can take an hour to get a perfectly accurate result. In our world, I would rather have a mostly accurate result in milliseconds, so that I can move on and ask my next question. So BI and observability - kind of strange mirror images of each other that I hope we’ll continue to learn, share ideas, and inspire each other.
But this is your challenge though. You’d mentioned sales and marketing; and sales and marketing is telling your story. Marketing is your story and sales is the result of connecting with the people who understand your story and want to buy because of it. I mean, that’s one version of how you could describe sales and marketing. But getting that right, explaining what observability is isn’t enough; what it is, that’s not enough. You have to showcase it. And I think it’s challenging to showcase it to your full potential audience that can really get the benefit of it, because they don’t understand it.
We talked on that show in particular - and we’ll link it in the show notes for folks to go and listen to it, but Jerod had mentioned this rift between dev and ops, and he asked you, “Will we see more ops come over to the dev side or vice versa?”, and it was like, “Well, that’s kind of what DevOps has been, this movement of ops to dev. And just that chasm alone has, I think, finally unified. We now actually have DevOps.
Unfortunately, it’s one in terms of a job title; there’s a lot of pushback on that front. But hey, it won, so let’s just use it. But you’ve got this unified DevOps. And unless you’re in that space, you can’t understand really– even metrics and logging, that’s enough for you. But if you’re a designer, you don’t care. But you may care if you’re like, “Well, we got this new customer because of our ability to showcase our solution enough that they now have everyone involved. And that’s one thing you said in the announcement too, is this idea of observability for everyone. If that’s the case, how do you begin to break down those barriers of the lack of understanding? How do you explain observability differently, that doesn’t use the buzzword, to get everyone truly involved?
Well, A, I think without the buzzwords is a wonderful aspiration, but there are some words that are used for a reason. We’re not going to get fully away from the buzzwords.
I do like your use of metrics, by the way. That was a good one.
I like that.
It’s a popular sticker. When I think about observability for all, it is about– we’ve gotten some feedback in the last year or so from Devs saying, “I like what Honeycomb seems to be about, but the fact that so much of your messaging is targeted around production is kind of scary. And as a dev, production is a scary place. So when you keep talking about production, it just makes me not want to find out more.” And I’m like, “Huh, this is totally true.”
When I think about, frankly, my early days, working with Charity, where I was the dev to her ops and I broke stuff, and then she came and yelled at me when I broke stuff, production is scary. Ops people are scary. Observability, by association - that must be scary. In my experience, it was true, but it shouldn’t have to be.
Something I talked about I think on our last podcast is that being able to make production feel more like a place where developers should hang out, where developers should be building our understanding of who we’re building for, and why, and how users are actually using the product - all of these things should be more accessible and friendly to developers. And so part of it is figuring out what language to use to make production feel more native to developers, whether in our marketing or in the product itself. Part of it is going to be integrations with or smoother on-ramps from technologies and worlds that developers are more comfortable with. But even today we’re hearing things from some of our customers, where they’re almost sheepish. They’re like, “Hey, actually, our customer success people use Honeycomb to answer questions about what our customers are doing. Is that weird?” And to that, I’m always like, “Awesome. That’s not weird. It’s great.” And it’s actually, again, very in line with this idea that everyone should share some language or share the same picture of what your users are actually doing in production. Because that’s what matters.
I think this whole DevOps movement, and we’re moving online, it is sort of a reorienting around the end-user experience. Because end-user doesn’t care whether devs screwed up or ops screwed up. What they care about is, “I put this thing in my shopping cart and I can’t check out.” And having that be the rallying cry I think is what will galvanize more and more teams, whether different functional teams within a company, or different size companies. It’s what will allow them to align behind, “Okay, let’s level up our ability just to see reality, and use data to support that.”
So going back to that Changelog talk, you mentioned your fascination for superheroes; and that talk was Observability: Superpowers for Developers. I thought that was the coolest ever, basically. And having re-listened to that episode, I was thinking, the one thing we didn’t ask you in regards to this idea of superhero was if observability was a superhero, what superpower would it have? I don’t think we asked you that, at least for the whole show. I may have missed it, but I have what I think its superpower would be. I’m curious if you can share what you think its superpower might be, from your perspective.
You did not ask me this question. It’s a good one. It would have something to do with sight. The flip answer is something like x-ray vision. But I think that it would be deeper than that, deeper than just– because x-ray vision, you can still see something that you don’t understand. So I think the superpower would be something like– one of the screenshots I’m sure I violate a million licensing agreements to I used in that talk is the scene from Black Panther, where Shuri is looking at a patient, and there’s this holographic view of what’s happening inside the patient. I feel like it’d be something like that, where you not only can see inside something, but you understand how the pieces work together, and what is broken and what needs to be improved.
So, a capability plus wisdom, basically.
That’s interesting. So my first thought was x-ray vision, and that seems like the easy button. But I’m a Black Panther fan, so I do know of the scene you’re talking about. And I think that’s actually a good observation, because it reminds me even of Ironman when he’s got those exploded views of his different things, and can spin them in the air, and you can look at all the different angles of it, and you can shrink it and expand it like you would pinch and zoom on a phone or something like that.
The reason why I ask that question is because you’ve coined the term. And so there’s this terminology in psychology called “name it to tame it.” And so the reason why you name things or just diagnose a certain illness or a thing is so that you can have a name to understand it better. And you’ve done that. But as you’ve mentioned, sales and marketing, this idea of storytelling - it’s challenging going beyond the word. And so sometimes this mental picture of what it really is beyond the word - people get superheroes, they get superpowers, they understand that language and that vision of what it might be, they can see it in their mind’s eye - I think that might be helpful for you, to explain a superpower… Because now I have a deeper understanding too, having your lens of what the superpower might be for observability.
It’s true. Back in the day when there were physical conferences and booths at those physical conferences, although, I think that there are some starting again, my favorite thing to do when I was at a booth would be– because at booth you need your pitch down to like five seconds.
Right. You’ve got no time with anybody.
No one cares beyond that. And someone would walk up and be like, “Alright, what does Honeycomb do?” And I would look at them and be like, “Have you ever looked at a graph in you’re monitoring dashboard or whatever and been like, ‘I see this spike. Why? Why is it happening? What’s weird about this point’, and wanted to dig in, but couldn’t?” Always I’d get this like, “Yeah, I’ve been there.” I’m like, “We let you do that. We let you always stick your hands in, tease it apart, understand more.” I like that that maps actually with this x-ray vision context, wisdom, superpower question also.
Yeah, I think wisdom, to me, is the ultimate superpower of humanity. You’re not born with wisdom, you earn it. You get it through the scars. You and Charity have grown in wisdom. You said that you look back six years ago, what you do, that time on the couch with this idea that you could be a billion-dollar company. Now you have the wisdom and you can see in hindsight all the stones and lily pads and whatnot that got you to where you’re at today. Wisdom is earned through life. And that I think is kind of– you almost give somebody a secret path to wisdom because you give them a way to not have to earn it. The software does it for you.
This is true. And I’m making faces– the listeners here who can’t see my face. I’m making faces, because there are so many lily pads to this point that Charity and I have missed and then had to climb our way back out of the water, to learn… Did you know that when we started off we were like, “We’re an enterprise sales company, through and through. We’re going to do this.”
I didn’t know that.
We were two engineers. What did we know? And it came from a good place, which is we, again, knew that this was a hard problem, knew that this was something that there were real budgets behind, and so we were determined to build something valuable enough to capture those budgets. Great. What we did not realize is everything that it entailed.
I still remember some of our “enterprise engagements” in 2017, 2018, where we thought white-glove treatment meant you get to pair with one of our engineers, and whatever problems you have, we will help you solve. And we will just sit here and be ready for you. As it turns out, customers really want to know that you have a plan for them, not just that you’ll be ready to deal with any problems that they run into.
[37:46] One of the great joys of the last several years of working with really good sales people is understanding both the art and the science of something like sales. As a technologist, it’s tempting to just look at, again, sales and marketing, and a) lump it under one umbrella, which they’re not, and b) think of it as all just like art, and hand-waving, and people things, and really getting to dig into that and appreciate and understand thinking about a business or even a deal as a system; you have inputs, you have outputs, you have the telemetry or signals that you’re looking for there. There are some things you can’t model (you’re the human), but there are some things that you can. That has been much more fun than I thought it would be, to get to learn and to watch us as a company level up at, and still be true to how we want to engage with customers. We still want to be thoughtful, and credible, and very human in that process, but be able to layer in the structure and sales processes that 2016 me, her eyes would’ve glazed over to hear 2021 me talk about.
Does this being your first CEO position, scare you still yet? Or are you still very excited about it, because–?
You can’t come in knowing everything, right? You’re going to make some mistakes. You’re going to go down the wrong roads and turn around and come back and learn. And that’s the point, right? You can’t go through life not failing because you have to learn and a lot of learning comes from failure. And not necessarily failure. I’ve said this on the show recently with Eugenio Pace, CEO of Auth0, when we talked about failure on that show. Failure - it’s a stop motion event. If you’re still trying, if you’re still doing, you haven’t failed, right? And failure isn’t necessarily a fail if you learn from it. It’s a failure if you don’t learn from it.
Absolutely. One of our company values is everything is an experiment, because absolutely, lots of things are going to fail. And experiments fail all the time. But you learn from it, and then you make that experiment better. I mean, fear and excitement go hand in hand, especially in this role, where especially knowing all the things that we got wrong early on, and despite telling ourselves, “Oh, we’ve been in the valley long enough”, we refused to fit the two technical co-founders trope, “We will be wiser.” We still have to learn every lesson the wrong way– sorry, the hard way.
I think that the thing that I will take pride in is that we try to learn that lesson as quickly as possible and move on to the next thing. I wish I could be the sort of person to read all the blog posts and Twitter threads and advice out there and just synthesize it perfectly and just walk a golden path. That would be wonderful and much less stressful.
Would it though be? I don’t think it would be. I think it would be less fun. I like hard mode. Jerod was out a couple weeks ago. Jerod’s my business partner here at Changelog, and when I’m gone or he’s gone, it gets generally harder around here, because it’s one person, versus two people moving a lot of things. And while he was gone, I happened to turn on hard mode, because I did a lot more than I normally do in a week. I don’t know why. Just because I actually think I like hard mode better. I mean, obviously, you can burn yourself out, so there’s moderation of course. But I think if the path was easy, [41:04]would it be fun?
No, it wouldn’t. And that’s why we go back to that excitement and fear. This is starting to go into life therapy territory, but again, Charity and I have always had these huge chips on our shoulder. And I think for both of us, the biggest motivating factor is proving people wrong. So absolutely, the easy path is not the ideal one, but you can still hope for something like – even if you’re on hard mode, you still want to dream of turning a corner and picking up some giant– I’m going to use the terminology wrong. I’m not a gamer. Picking up some great loot box, or something with a magical weapon that just lets you kick butt; you want to hold out that hope that someday you will have all the answers and everything will be easy from that point on.
[41:46] I can empathize with that, too. So yeah, maybe a balance between the two; like, give me hard mode, plus easy mode in some cases. I do like hard mode, but not always. If it was always hard mode - you’re right, I think it would be very tiring because your motivation for doing things can’t simply just be spite and frustration, proving people wrong. It has to go beyond that. Because at some point it’s like a conceited motion almost. It’s really about you than it is about the world. It can be at least, not that it is. It can be, if you don’t find the rounded reason for doing.
No. For me, the rounded reason is customers and the community, and hearing those success stories.
Let’s stop there for a second, because I like what you said before. You said, rather than tell me or the audience your valuation or go there, you said, “I ground myself in solved customer problems, essentially.” And I think that’s a spot-on response. I think you should ground your value - because that’s really what it is; not this perceived number that has no real algorithm to endpoint, right? It’s just magic in some ways, in some shape or form. Just because you raised 50 million or 200 million or 150 million or whatever the number is - does that equate to a multiple that turns into a valuation? No. I think being grounded in your customer satisfaction and the value you bring to customers - I’d want to go there than just simply the valuation. Although saying a number is validating, right? To become the unicorn or become a unicorn status company has its own marketing benefit. So in some cases, I think it gets political in some cases, right? That’s a political kind of stance, like “I have to say a valuation, so that I can get attention, or perceived attention from people… Rather than just simply being good enough because of what we do and bring to the market and the team we’ve built and how we’ve built it, and the scars we’ve layered on etc.”
It’s true. It’s true. When we found out our evaluation, again, I am too cynical about all of this to let it carry much weight for me personally… But sharing it with the team, having them react and feel that validation of their hard work - those are the concrete things that matter to me.
Yeah. Well, when you get the duffel bag we mentioned earlier in the show, and when you get a duffel like that with that kind of money in it, you’ve got to do something with it. We talked about one of the things you’re going to do is open up a generous free tier, which I think you may have already done or you’re in the process of, so help me break that down. I’d imagine also move fast and keep hiring would be smart, or to some degree, growth. So would it be growth in team size? What does this Series C funding do for you? What are you planning to do with that kind of money?
Yeah. Thank you for mentioning the free tier. It is something that we’ve had in our product, varying levels of difficult to get to, since I think mid-2018. But we’ve invested very little in making that self-serve experience really delightful. This is something where being a company that straddles both self-serve and the top-down enterprise sale, it is very tempting - and I will also argue, for us, it was somewhat moderately necessary, to really figure things out in that high touch enterprise way, necessary for us to validate that this is an approach that really can own a significant part of the market. But with the gravity that exerts on attention and people and bandwidth, it meant that since we introduced the free tier in 2018, it has never been anyone’s first job to make sure that free users have a really great onboarding experience, that someone tinkering around on their own at 2:00 AM can access training and Observability 101 content in an easy way. Sure, we put stuff out on our blog and we do talks that you can watch on YouTube, but a thing that I’m really excited about is now taking the great work that our solutions architects and customer success folks have done to onboard and support a larger customer, taking that work and using that to inspire somewhat that individual developer at 2:00 AM.
[46:16] I want Honeycomb to be something that people eventually pull into their burgeoning software project as naturally as they do a testing suite or CI. And I know that our product today has some work to get there. So this is – when we say observability for all, it’s really saying we’ve figured out some pieces that work in this concentrated way, and we want to spread it to everyone. No matter how they come to us, no matter how they want to learn, we want there to be resources, a great product experience, and support for them. Does that answer your question, or was that high-minded touchy-feely stuff that isn’t concrete enough?
No, it’s concrete.
I get a little carried away about this. This is something that’s been a long time coming.
Yeah. I’m sure you’ve been preparing quite a bit, no doubt. And I guess the one thing I think about with free tiers is there’s sometimes - or at least a growing trend to obviously have one. But then when you do, they’re not really that free, or they’re restrictive, and stuff like that. And so it makes sense for you to talk about how long it’s been in place, but how it’s not really been anybody’s job to leverage. And I think that’s the key part, is like, one, make it useful if you’re going to use it, not just make it free to get them in the door to somehow hook them elsewhere or whatever. Not that you’re doing that, but that’s what free tiers often are.
And the conversation I had a while back was with Spencer Kimball from CockroachDB, talking about their free tier, and I really appreciate the idea that they put a lot of work, like you’re putting a lot of work and attention into your free tier to make it useful, to make it like you can actually do something with it. You can build a lightweight startup for the most part on a free tier. I think that’s smart, because it brings the right kind of people in the door, with the right kind of motivations, and you give them enough to get as far as they can. And once they really see that value, then your sales team can come in place and say, “Here’s a larger spectrum. Here’s more opportunity. Here’s more availability to our team and our tool set.” That’s super smart, because it’s like open source. It’s like adoption. Adoption is like oxygen, right?
You can’t become a leader in the marketplace unless you get adopted. And if you don’t have adoption, you don’t have oxygen. You can’t breathe anymore. You’re toast.
I’m quite proud today of the potential usefulness of our free tier, just in that unlimited seats… Basically, you’re capped at the rate at which you want to send data to us, but you get 60 days of retention. What I think is missing is that cognitive lift, of “How is this really different?” or “How do I get started?” or “Where do I begin?” These are the things that could just make it even better, right? You shouldn’t have to figure it out on your own. You should have all these resources and things to draw from.
I’ll be honest also, and maybe moderate apologies to the investors listening to this podcast - my priority with the free tier is not to feed the sales funnel. We know for a fact that we have a number of folks on the free tier who are finding it super-valuable, and are just small projects that are going to stay small. To me, that’s great. That means that they, as a small project, are still entering that conversation with their code through observability, like I talked about. They’re still bringing production in closer to their development process. They’re still benefiting from being able to answer these unknown unknowns, in “Who’s actually using my software? How are they using it? What are they struggling with?” So if anything, this recent funding gives us a little bit of time to really make sure to do the counter-intuitive thing, right? When building a big business, investing in the free tier is not directly – it is rare that investing in the free tier feeds well into that mystical algorithm of valuation, but it’s something that we feel a ton of conviction around being key to observability as a whole, continuing to be healthy and growing, and Honeycomb specifically.
[50:17] Yeah. I think the free tier is wise and a wise move, if not to convert free tier users, but to enable them to story-tell about you and your brand, so that you can capture are the value elsewhere. Because you’re right, not always a free tier user is the one that should upgrade, or could. I think similar to GitHub - GitHub has a massive free tier called open source, essentially. It’s a much different animal, much different valuation, much different size of business and potentially even market cap… But when you shrink or reduce, or when you shrink or expand the problem set, essentially, how can you leverage this free tier to, one, give value to the world, and understand observability more? Because that’s your biggest problem. Or at least one of the biggest problems you’ve been solving for, is like “How can we enable more people to truly understand what observability is, and the superpower it gives them when they have it, this X-ray wisdom vision?” Because once they understand that, they can tell their story better, and you can capture that value elsewhere. I think if you can find ways to correlate what this feature does for that bottom line, and how you capture value elsewhere, then it’s a no brainer.
Yeah. This is a real shout-out also to my head of sales, who - stereotypical persona of a sales leader, they don’t want a free tier. They want to be able to capture – or the purpose of the free tiers to capture revenue. And the sales leader since day one has been all about free tiers for hearts and minds. Let’s go get those hearts and minds–
I agree with that.
…and the revenue will come. And that has for really been a rallying cry for our whole good market org
I mean, too, I vaguely remember all the details of this conversation… I can’t remember his name for the very moment we’re talking here; the founder of Snyk. He was on Founders Talk, Guy Podjarny… And he talked about their free tier. Okay, great. We’re going to give it out for free, but how can we make it so that we get a feedback loop? “Because it doesn’t have just to be a one-way street. If Honeycomb gives a free tier, it doesn’t mean, “Okay, we can’t ask you any questions. We can’t get any value back.” He said it has to be– I’m paraphrasing from memory, but essentially, it’s a dance, like “Okay, we’re going give out this free tier to enable market adoption and awareness and usefulness for the community and the world. But at some point, we have to get some value back. And what is that value?” And I think it’s determining what that value is.
One, it could be capturing it elsewhere, in other lanes, where the value is captured at a different enterprise, so that free user who works somewhere brings their enterprise along with them, in a whole different account for a whole different purpose… Or this well sought after feedback loop. What did you expect? Why was that broken to you? Why didn’t you do it this way? How were we useful to you this quarter, or this week, or with this problem set? Give us that feedback. And almost, it spawns a relationship. I think, in many ways, that’s what the sales process enables, is this relationship. And that’s what you desire as a company, with your employees and your customers, is this relationship. I think the more you invest in it in those ways, the more value, at large, it will bring, whether it’s paying customers or not. You’re going to learn a lot about what you’re doing and how it’s useful, and you’re going to have a ready, willing participant, because they’re getting it for free, and they’re getting use out of it. And if they’re active, then they’re going to be giving you feedback. Or hopefully.
I love that your first question, example question, was what did you expect? Because that’s the most interesting piece, right? Not why didn’t you take this action, or why did you take that action? It’s “Did what we tried to put on the outside of the package match what you’ve found on the inside?” and understanding that difference. Expectations versus reality is so– I mean, there’s a theme, right? It’s useful in product feedback. In a way, observability is trying to help users reconcile the expectations of what their software is doing, with the reality of what their software is doing. It’s the industry recognizing engineers cannot hold mental models, accurate mental models of what their code is doing anymore. You’ve got to ground it in reality. It’s a lot of what building a startup is all about as well.
[54:20] This feedback loop – I hate to keep referencing other shows on this podcast, but when I talked to Eugenio Pace from Auth0, as I mentioned before, he talked about this idea that complaints and rejections from customers, essentially this feedback loop was little gifts wrapped in a nasty envelope. And the way he described it was like, instead of saying pompously like, “Oh, you didn’t like my product? Why not? You didn’t like this? Come on. Really? I’m the best. We’re the best. We’re trying so hard” etc. And instead it was, “Really? Tell me more. What did you not get? What did you expect? What did you expect differently? What did you want from this? How could this have been different?” Rather than just simply saying, “Oh, this is nasty feedback. Don’t open that email”, it was like, “No, let me open this email and ask more questions.” And so I learned that lesson from him. It was this idea that this feedback loop is a gift wrapped in a nasty envelope.
I like that. Yeah. I still have an automated email that goes out to people who sign up for Honeycomb and hit a certain point, asking them for feedback, and I find myself taking so much more time and thought on the constructive responses, than the like, “Oh, this is great.” I’m like, “Awesome. What was confusing? Tell me more.” I love it. And being on this side of it really makes me appreciate people who take the time to write in that efeedback. And I very much look forward to being able to take that gratitude – I want to be a great user of the products I use now going forward.
Coming back to this timeframe… You’ve fundraised before; was this funding round, as we said before, hard mode or easy mode for you? Funding can often take your focus as a CEO away from, essentially, the core idea, the whole point of being there… So was this a hard mode distraction, or was it an easy mode? Because I mean, you mentioned before your previous Series B investors came along for the Series C, plus you’ve got Insight Partners leading this round here. Hard mode or easy mode?
This one was an easy mode one. And I apologize to listeners, again, for sounding like I’m a little bit of bragging there. I will also say this was probably the first easy mode fundraising that we’ve ever done. I think that the level of conversation around observability in the market is really something that created the conditions for this to be an easier time. And we were doing well enough as a company to not be charging towards a zero cash date in our fundraising as well. So this was a long road to get here, but I am grateful that this was a lighter weight round to put together.
What does it do to you, personally, this process? How has your life changed? Do you have later nights? Does your diet change? Does your so self-care change? What does it personally do to you as CEO?
An artifact of entering this round in a more position of strength meant that we could do things like put constraints on the timeline… So raising this round, we were able to constrain it to really only three or four weeks of uncertainty before we signed something and moved on. And I will say that in those three or four weeks, my brain was just completely fragmented. I was capable of responding to things and charging forward and kind of executing on what needed to be done, but I basically apologized retroactively to everyone in my life who was not part of the fundraising process, or not relevant/tangential to it, because every free moment my brain got, it was seeing if I got an email, or if I could go back and tweak something with the deck, or incorporate this piece of feedback I got.
I will say that personally and physically, COVID has helped me establish a lot more healthy habits, working from home, which has been a surprise silver lining in the pandemic… And I think all of that was necessary and helped, even in this fragmented fundraising period; making sure that I was walking the dogs and thus getting my exercise, and eating relatively healthy. It’s easy, and it is sometimes still glamorized to skip those things in the founder world, and I am glad to be at the phase of my life where I recognize maintaining this meat machine of mine is a necessary part in my brain working well.
[01:02:04.22] Yeah. Maybe going one layer deeper, what about any habits that you have in particular, that you used to, say, keep your mindset straight, or say no to the right things and yes to the right things? What are some of the things that you’ve created that are habits or routines, that are specific to you, that are like, “You know what? If I didn’t have this habit or routine, this would slip, that would slip”?
A few things. This is something that I started several years ago. I am not a naturally introspective person. My default is just, “What needs to get done? Charge forward, do it. Okay, next. Let’s do it.” And in those dark days of 2017 through 2019 really, I had heard from many sources that journaling– well, I’d heard journaling and meditation were good. And I still can’t meditate, but what I started doing then is telling myself, “Hey, look, I don’t need a “journaling habit”, but anyone can take five minutes on their phone, on their computer, whatever, five minutes each day to check in and be like, what am I feeling that I would otherwise ignore? What’s that thing that doesn’t feel quite right, or what pissed me off today that I could fix and could get better going forward?” And introducing that habit– and I still don’t do it every day, right? I look at this at the end of every year. At peak, I think of the 365 days in a year, I maybe had like 200 days where I spent at least five minutes writing something. But I think that that helped ground me during the rollercoaster. It helps ground you during rollercoaster days, to just have a moment where you reflect. That’s one.
Number two is I literally don’t know how people live without to-do apps. I joke all the time that my brain is a sieve, and if I don’t write it down, it just doesn’t happen. And so anytime I’m in a one-on-one or something and someone says something that I can’t deal with right now, it goes into my to to-do app to get triaged later. There’s a world where I’m freed of this and I could just get to go be a goat farmer or something somewhere where I’m sure I’d have a different kind of to-do list, but that is a thing…
I can’t remember what the third thing I was going to say was, but it’s so much more of this founder journey has involved these introspection, people relationships, management skills that I did not have when I started, and it has been a journey.
What about admitting to yourself, “I have no idea what I’m doing”? This is something you wrote to me as part of the process of doing these calls. I ask a couple questions, and I love it because I get some really thoughtful responses, pretty much from everybody. So they’ve been great primers for me to not so much directly ask questions from, but sometimes I bring specific stuff like this, where it’s like, I asked you what lessons have you learned that you can share, and you said the only way I’m able to learn fast enough to keep up with what Honeycomb has needed from me is by approaching the crushing weight of, “I have no idea what I’m doing”, with golden retriever energy of “But it’ll be fun to find out”. How do you execute on that? How do you execute on just showing up and saying, “You know what? I have no idea what I’m doing.”? I almost feel like that’s a humble necessity, to be in your position.
Yeah. I think so… As, again, an engineer who was– Charity was CEO for the first three years at Honeycomb, and then we switched. And I came into this role – one of my investors immediately after the change sat me down and was like, “I’m going to give you a mini MBA in three hours and just fill your head with all the SaaS metrics that you should be paying attention to.” And I was just like, “Oh, my God, I have no idea what you’re saying, but I’d better take good notes so I can digest this later.”
[01:05:56.21] How do I do it? I don’t know. It’s accepting that you are never going to know everything. For me, I know that my approach is trying and seeking out as much information as I can, and form this mental map of like, “Okay, here are these concepts. This is how they tie together. Here’s this giant question mark floating over here on the left. Let me go find someone who can help me fill that in, at least with like a high level sketch.”
I think for me, this is the hard mode piece. This is the part that is fun and challenging. It is figuring out how to learn as quickly as possible, to make sure that I am ahead of where the company needs me to be. And I’m only human. There may come a point when I am no longer able to keep up, but that’s the delight. And I am grateful to everyone whom I’ve ever talked to, who has helped me fill in a little bit of that mental map and given me the ability to appreciate, “Oh, man, this marketing model and how someone who’s really great in this role thinks about how to break down where leads are coming from next month, and how to balance sales process with the art of establishing a relationship with your customer…”
There are so many things that, especially as a young engineer, I sort of turned my nose up at and sniffed at as being touchy-feely, and there’s so much brain energy that younger me was a snob at. So if anything, right now, I am just trying to rectify all of that as quickly as I can.
That’s good. Change is good.
Change is good.
Because you said you’re not naturally an introspective person… To be in your position, I think you have to learn, and it’s a skill, I believe. I believe it’s a skill where you do it and you practice it and you learn and you get better at it. I don’t think anyone’s naturally introspective, because there’s skeletons in those closets. You know what I mean? It can be challenging to introspect about yourself.
There’s a book I read in the beginning of I think 2018 or 2019 called Insight, by Tasha Eurich. And I remember it was a book about self-awareness, and I really enjoyed the book. And after I read the book, I looked at the reviews, because that’s what I do, and one of the top reviews was like, “Oh, this book is terrible. It doesn’t touch on the philosophy of self-awareness at all. There’s no psychology in this. It’s just checklists and tactics on how to improve your self-awareness.” And I’m like, “Ah, that’s why I liked it.”
That’s why I liked it. Yeah.
Yeah. This book – it is absolutely a skill, and it’s so many of these things that feel like, “Oh, I’m just not like that as a person.” You can find small ways, like the five minute journaling each night, right? You can find small ways to get there. And before reading that book, a friend had sent me a feelings chart. Have you seen these? They’re like these grids that help you pick a word to identify what you’re feeling. And when my friend sent it to me, I was like, this is the most woo-woo thing I’ve ever seen. I like you, friend, but I’m going to take this and carefully put it in the trash can. And after I read this book and started journaling to figure out what was going on in the back of my head, I emailed her back and I was like, “Can you send that chart to me again? Because I think it will be useful paired with this thing I want to start doing”
It’s like the Seinfeld chart. I think that’s even what GitHub’s graph is kind of modeled after on everybody’s profile… It’s like, “How often can I show up every day?” And then there’s something in that when you show up every day on a feelings chart and say, “Okay, today I feel sad. Today I feel gratitude”, whatever, and you plot that across a map. It’s almost like – get this, Christine… Observability for yourself.
Oh, man. Yeah.
Because now you’re reaching into your own personal unknown unknowns, and you’re kind of getting that necessary sort of like, “Where am I at?” And if you look at your peaks, it’s like, “Okay, why on this day that I– can I pinch and zoom into that peak and find out why I felt happy that day?” And journaling is the response to that, to some degree, because you can– I’ve done that myself even. I’m not a religious journaler, but I have enough in the past where I’ve got significant value. I read back something old me thought, and I can’t even imagine where that old me was, but they felt that way. That day when I read it, years later, didn’t feel that way, but I was immersed in that feeling again, because old me felt that today me can feel it, too. And it took me back to that place where I can be like, “Wow, okay, cool. I can get there again. This is possible.” It’s like old you giving new you hope.
You get that hope from old you.
Yeah. There’s that thing of if you’re not constantly looking back and at how dumb past you was, you’re not growing. It’s really embarrassing to look back at some of the angsty things, for me, always. But you’re right, it’s evidence of growth and moving along.
Where to from here? What’s the biggest ambition you have for Honeycomb? What’s the biggest next step are you going to take?
Those are different questions, because the next step is different from where we want to end up, but I’ll try to answer it. For me next, for Honeycomb next - we really want to be thoughtful about how to move even closer to developers than we have been before. My Observability is Superpowers for Developers talk was just the beginning of like, “Hey, we should be talking about this. We should be showing people how this can be useful in the development process.” But observability does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of people’s workflows. Engineers touch so many different tools and there are so many tools of the trade these days. So we are absolutely eyeing what does it look like to– what would an IDE integration look like? What would something in that period when a developer is thinking about where to make a change, what does that look like?
There is – a longstanding joke, for me at least, is that the right answer is usually somewhere between me and Charity, especially with her as the ops person and me as the dev person. We started very close to her, and really moving, recognizing that as the DevOps definition changes, as more developers are embracing software ownership, what does it look like to dramatically pull our focus, product-wise, more towards the developer? I think that’s exciting.
But when we say observability for all - man, I don’t want to be constrained to all engineers either. Part of our formative exposure to – the precursor to Honeycomb was, for me, in a support role. Engineers at Parse would each do a day of support occasionally, and so everyone was put in this position of having to figure out, “Okay, well, this user is frustrated. Let me go figure out what they’re actually experiencing. Let me map that to reality.” And hell yeah, I want more end adjacent roles like support, or product, or everyone who needs to share the centralized picture of reality should be sharing it in one tool, or tools that talk to each other, or tools that share concepts and languages. What we have today is just the tip of the iceberg of aligning, again, expectations and reality of what your users are experiencing.
It’s like if you’ve got skin in the game, essentially; if you’re, as you said, end adjacent. If you’ve got skin in the game and your bonus or your take-home or your whatever is relying upon customer satisfaction, because that’s what a product does in production, is provide customer satisfaction, then you’ve got to find out how you matter to them and how you can bring the superpowers of observability to them, one way, shape or form, right?
For sure. I mean, all of our salespeople use our [unintelligible 01:13:42.20] instance to answer questions about the customers. The problem that we are solving is not one that is isolated to engineering, it is just where we land.
Are you involved in sales at all? Do you personally get in touch with customers? Are you on the high-end ones? How do you map to that side?
[01:14:04.26] It all depends. It depends on the type of deal. It depends on where they’re at. I do very much like to be able to get to know our customers before the deal closes. And at this point, a lot of that process is something that our account execs work with the customer to put together. So usually I’m brought in at the end. I get to meet our champions boss or my executive counterpart, and I still love it. I still love just hearing what they’re trying to do and what Honeycomb will let them do in their world.
Observability for all. I like it. I like the sound of it. I like the sound of it. I can’t wait to see what happens when you begin to execute on this next big phase for you. I’m really excited for it. And as I said at the beginning of the show, I’m such a fan. I really was somewhat even nervous coming into this call, because I’m such a fan - really, I am - of you and Charity, and what you’ve been able to do… From the sidelines, whether I’ve been directly cheering or not, I’ve been really excited about what you’ve been doing, and I’m just thrilled that this series C happened for you. I’m even more thrilled to hear in this call that it was more easy mode than hard mode for market circumstances. And I think that you’re definitely a leader in this space. And yeah, I’m excited.
Thank you for that. I too was a little nervous coming into this, so thank you for us finally being able to make this happen.
Honeycomb has shaped so much of how Charity and I look at startups and look at how technology can really change not just the tool choice of an industry, but processes and culture and conversation and thinking about how to build or structure teams and on-call rotations. And for us, this has never been just about the tech.
Something I’ve been able to say a lot more often and I’ll say it here too, just because what you just said is pretty similar… We say that we came for the tech, but we stayed for the humans. Because that’s the truth.
Back in the day when we first started, it was like, “Okay, open source is moving fast. How do we keep up?” And for a while, that was our tagline, “Open source moves fast. Keep up.” And we started to look at the changes between versions of open source software, etc. and we came for the tech. Both the reason why it was interesting to stay and more interesting to me as a person and what I value in life is the people behind everything. The connection was not the tech. It was a means to an end. The people is what really mattered.
And so we show up every day because of people like you, fighting in the marketplace to solve real problems, and not backing down when somebody tells you no. So I really appreciate that perspective from you and that stance from you and Charity, and the rest of the Bees. I’m really excited about what you’re doing. I really am. I’m full of hope because of people like you, so thank you.
What’s on the horizon that not many people know about?
World domination. [laughs]
I think that we will have succeeded as a company, founding team, everything, if people think about and work with production in a different way; if they’re not throwing code over a wall. If engineers spend half their time in their IDEs and half their time observing how it’s behaving in the wild. That is not something that can be measured by revenue or even market share. It’s something that is and should be felt by engineers even if they’re not using our product. And so whether that means affecting changes in other products, or ideally, I’d like to be the best and de facto tool for that. But for us, I think that’s the end goal, having a lasting change on this essential piece of building and shipping software.
Well said. It’s been awesome having you, Christine. Thank you.
It’s been wonderful being here. Have an excellent rest of your week.
You as well. You as well.
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