VictorOps Raises $6.5M, Releases Mobile-Capable Tool Kit for DevOps

Those dreaded late night phone calls that go out to operations and admin guys when everything goes to hell create a sense of brotherhood, at least in the eyes of Todd Vernon, a serial entrepreneur in Boulder, CO.

Vernon knows from experience. He’s been on both sides of those calls and knows how they ruin an evening (or night, or weekend).

Vernon also has co-founded two successful startups in Colorado, and his third, VictorOps, looks to be on its way. The company has just closed a $6.5 million Series A round, and on Thursday it unveiled its product in a public beta release and emerged from stealth mode.

VictorOps is for ‘the ops guys,’ giving them tools to diagnose system problems and outages and communicate with their team over the web and smartphones. The software interfaces with a client’s enterprise monitoring software and manages incident identification, escalation, notification, and remediation among team members regardless of physical location or time of day. It also can send the problem to the team member with the needed expertise, narrowing the number of people who have to be brought in. [This is a link to a video produced by VictorOps.]

Altogether, better operations tools could shorten downtime, keep the company from losing money and looking bad, and keep customers from getting too angry. Yet tools like this are surprisingly lacking, Vernon said, and in some cases teams still rely on pagers.

“There’s always been a lack of tools in the space for the people who have to operate the platform….There’s really no unified tool kit,” he said.

What exists is piecemeal and fairly low tech, he said. It also doesn’t take advantage of the way increasingly powerful mobile devices changes how dispersed teams can work together. VictorOps is developing Web, iOS, and Android platforms.

Eventually, Vernon said VictorOps will enable DevOps staff to fix problems remotely or even automate the process, so they never get the call at all.

The Series A round comes after VictorOps raised a $1.58 million seed round earlier this year. The Boulder-based Foundry Group led that round, which was joined by Tango, a small private investment firm based in Boulder that makes seed-stage investments.

Foundry joined the subsequent Series A round, which was led by Palo Alto, CA-based Costanoa Venture Capital.

Vernon co-founded VictorOps with Bryce Ambraziunas, the chief operating officer, and Dan Jones, the chief technology officer. All three have experience being the person on call when the system goes haywire.

“Everyone on our team has been that guy that carried the pager,” Vernon said. “This is a product we would have purchased for our previous companies if it was available.”

The three are alumni of Raindance Communications, a web conferencing company that Vernon co-founded and of which he was the CTO. The company went public before being sold in 2006 to the West Corp. for more than $170 million.

Vernon went on to found Lijit Networks, which Federated Media bought in 2011 for what was reported to be about $100 million. Lijit was an online advertising platform that was a real-time ad exchange that performed more than 1 billion real-time transactions per day. Lijit was generating more than $35 million per year when Federated Media acquired it.

Vernon said the lessons learned at those companies have served him well in building VictorOps.

“Having done it a couple times, you have access to great people that you’ve worked with before, you have access to capital you can execute on, and the real difference this time is we’re building a product in a domain we uniquely understand,” Vernon said.

VictorOps is growing and expects to have a staff of up to 30 before too long. It also hit development goals ahead of schedule, and it expects to have a product ready for general availability in January. VictorOps has spent about $1 million of the seed round and now has a warchest of around $7 million. It is pre-revenue.

“We essentially got to where we thought we’d be in a year in nine months, and the investment community saw it the same way, and that it’s now an execution play, hence the pretty large capital raise. It just made everyone want to go fast.”

The capital will be spent building out the leadership, sales, marketing, and customer service teams. There also will be a big investment in VictorOps’ own infrastructure to make sure its product performs as the company scales up.

In terms of customer base, VictorOps is going after an increasingly large market.

“Anyone with an IT infrastructure that will feel pain if part of it isn’t working could be a customer for us,” Vernon said. “What we’re focused on initially is SAAS software services companies like the ones we’ve owned, because we know the pain point there is so acute,” Vernon said.

For them, the selling point is how much an outage can cost a company in lost business.

“You could pay for our platform for the entire year with [the amount of revenue lost during] one outage,” he said.

Marketing wise, VictorOps is deliberately going after IT guys who feel they’re the unsung heroes everyone turns to when disaster strikes.

While in stealth mode, the VictorOps website was understandably light on specifics about the product. Instead it used words like duty, victory, brothers, and war stories. Its oak leaf logo recalls the symbols used in military decorations and insignia.

The branding might bemuse outsiders, but the operations people who’ve built a unique camaraderie trading 3 a.m. phone calls get it, Vernon said.

“That’s how those guys actually are. Those teams are really tight knit. It’s a little bit like being in a foxhole together,” he said.

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