JFrog *, which makes widely used tools for software-development management and distribution, recently announced it had raised $50 million from investors including Battery Ventures. Here, Powered by Battery chats with Co-Founder and CEO Shlomi Ben Haim about the company’s technology, its role in the broader DevOps market and opportunities for growth.
Powered by Battery: So I have seen JFrog’s technology referred to as a “binary repository management solution.” What exactly does that mean?
Shlomi Ben Haim: Every organization today is a software organization. And basically, in order to automate software development, you have to break software into packages. Those packages are called “artifacts”, or “binaries.” So at JFrog we control software on the binaries level. Compare that to traditional software tools that manage source code. Binaries keep software modular and easier to work with.
PBB: So it sounds like binaries are more sophisticated—or let developers do more sophisticated things.
SBH: The main idea about breaking software down into packages is that you can re-use these components, you can re-compile them. You can actually work with the same packages over and over, and eventually ship them together as applications. And this lets you speed up the way you build software, because you have all these components.
PBB: So is your chief value that you are giving developers more time? Since every company is a software company, there is more pressure to get new software applications out faster—and your technology enables that?
SBH: Exactly. And of course, when you think about our tools, we also have the advantage of offering a big storage house, our repository, and of being able to integrate with your ecosystem. This is what makes binary so valuable.
PBB: Should we think of you as an important behind-the-scenes player—somewhat similar to Atlassian, which just went public, and GitHub? Are they competitors? Or are you all attacking different parts of the problem?
SBH: Actually we are completing the picture together with Atlassian and GitHub. Atlassian and GitHub are repositories for source code–we’re the repository for binaries.
If you were to ask your portfolio companies what a DevOps engineer would need to start a project, they’d say, I need Jenkins (a popular open-source continuous-integration server), Git for version control, and JFrog Artifactory, our product, as a binary repository manager.
You basically need somewhere to house your source code and somewhere to house your binaries. We take care of binaries for you—and what we are taking care of is a different layer than what GitHub and Atlassian are taking care of.
PBB: Tell us more about why properly handling these software “packages” is such an important layer in this process.
SBH: You have to automate your development process. It means you need to take software to the level of software packages—but it needs to be something modular, more lightweight, than just big software wrapped and packed together. It’s the same idea, roughly, as what Docker is doing.
PBB: So do you compete with Docker?
SBH: Yes, in a way. What Docker did was to create this container technology. We love Docker, but we also compete with Docker. They offer Docker registries to developers, to help them manage Docker images, in a similar way to how we manage binaries. However, the big difference is that we have a universal solution. If you’re doing more than just Docker, you can manage your Docker images and all the other software packages you’re using with us.
PBB: That means you’re in a hot space, right?
PBB: Talk to us about your view of open-source. How does that play into your products?
SBH: We are JFrog, so we are like an amphibian–we have a hybrid model. We know how to live in the cloud and on premise, and we have an open-source version of our tool and an on-premise tool. We also have our tools provided as a service, which is a SaaS model. This is a fully cloud-based solution. Most people probably use JFrog in different ways, or in a combination of all three of them. We have our technology used in more than 60,000 total servers. It’s a huge community.
JFrog supports the entire open-source community. JFrog Bintray is our cloud-based distribution platform. JFrog supports all open-source projects free of charge by providing them this binary distribution solution. We just hit the 800 millionth download per month from Bintray. We are probably looking at the biggest binaries hub in the world with Bintray. Android, VMware, Netflix open source, Homebrew, Apache–they’re all distributing software packages and they are all using Bintray.
PBB: Eight hundred million downloads a month? That sounds huge.
SBH: It is huge. We are very excited about it. What’s more, about 80% of these downloads are not being made by human beings. It’s machines, it’s robots, it’s dishwashers, because we’re in the “Internet of Things” era. Your iPad and your iPhone and your car and your fridge are all consuming software today, and consuming it rapidly.
PBB: Let’s talk about your customers. You have some pretty big ones, right?
SBH: We have more than 1500 customers. What we are really excited about is we have all kinds of customers, big and small, and from industries such as finance, high-tech, telecom and others. Customers include tech leaders like Oracle, Uber, Netflix, LinkedIn and Twitter. Our customers include eight of the top 10 Internet-software companies, seven of the 10 top telecoms and seven of the top financial-services firms. When we were raising this funding round, part of the diligence process by the investors was speaking with references. Most of the VCs called their portfolio companies, and they found a lot of them are using our products.
PBB: So you are not just targeting larger companies? Fortune 500 or 5000?
SBH: Big and small. It doesn’t matter what kind of organization you are running. All of us are using software–we are in a way addicted. We are all consuming and distributing software whether we like it or not. And everyone is moving toward having software be modular in all departments, in all facets of their business. Wells Fargo is using Artifactory for Wells Fargo online, and Macy’s is using it online. But Gap and Costco use it to manage their cash-register software. So if you walk into a Gap store today, and turn on your cash-register machine in the morning, it’s already got updated software for you.
PBB: How much does your product generally cost?
SBH: First of all we are a SaaS based company. We sell by subscription only. There are no licenses and no maintenance fees. You pay per year for Artifactory, whether you’re using it on premise, in which case you download it and use it, or through the cloud; the cloud model is a pay-as-you-use model. You use more, you pay more. If you use less, you pay less.
And we have an open-source version of the software that’s absolutely free. If people want to get started, that’s the easiest way to do it.
PBB: Tell us a little bit about how you founded the company. What was the specific pain point that you saw with developers?
SBH: There are two other founders, Yoav Landman and Fred Simon. This is our second venture. Our first company was successfully acquired in 2005. It was a Java consulting company. This is where Yoav and Fred started to understand there is pain in the market when people need to release software fast and automate things, but they don’t know how to do it. We stepped out of our previous company and founded JFrog.
PBB: So the company is a bit more than seven years old? You started it in 2008?
SBH: Artifactory started as an open-source project in 2006. In 2008 JFrog started to be the company behind it.
PBB: The company is based in Silicon Valley, but you have significant operations in Israel, correct?
SBH: The company started in Israel, but two years ago, we moved to the Valley. JFrog is now headquartered in Santa Clara. But the R&D office is still located in Israel. We also have an office in France.
PBB: Tell us a little bit about the news you’re announcing today. How will this new cash help JFrog?
SBH: One of the goals is to expand geographically. But we need resources for a lot of things, because we are growing very, very fast. We started 2015 with something like 60 people. Now we are over 110. But we need to grow faster. And we need more R&D power. We need more power in other areas–business development, human resources, and marketing. In everything we touch, we need more and more. The demand in the market is just amazing. We need to grow, and grow fast. Not just organically, but we are also thinking about acquisitions. One great thing about JFrog is that we have customers all over the world. We have customers in Australia, Singapore–different countries and different cultures. And we are very proud of the very good relationship we have with our developer community. That’s why we will also have to expand. We are thinking about opening a JFrog office in Singapore or Australia–something or that side of the globe.
PBB: Anything else you’d like to say about the market you’re serving, and the overall opportunity for JFrog?
SBH: We are going to continue to expand, and we’ve had 100% growth year over year the last four years. We are going to look at companies that can enrich our IP and maybe to join us. The one thing we are very focused on is to provide one solution that will serve the DevOps market, the DevOps community. That’s one of our biggest differentiators. Docker is great and it’s an awesome company. But they just sell Docker registry. It’s a repository just for one thing, Docker images. We have to make sure our users get one solution that covers all their needs in a single stop. It’s like if at home, you had a separate refrigerator for your meat, your eggs, your vegetables—you’d end up with maybe five refrigerators. This is how a developer thinks, when you ask her to have a separate repository for this, and for that. She should just have one.
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*Denotes a Battery portfolio company. For a full list of all Battery investments, please click here.
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