Although he started out his engineering career at NASA, VictorOps CEO Todd Vernon said he quickly realized he enjoyed software more than hardware, so he moved back to Colorado (“NASA is not a great place to be entrepreneurial,” Vernon said.). In Boulder, he founded two companies consecutively: Raindance Communications (which went public in 2000) and Lijit Networks (which was acquired in 2011). Over the past year, he and co-founders Bryce Ambraziunas and Dan Jones have been laser-focused on building the first Vertical Collaboration Platform under VictorOps - which is set to publically launch in 2014. Built In Colorado caught up with Vernon to find out his plans for the new year:
What was the hardest part about founding VictorOps last year?
Convincing myself it’s a good idea. I have found in my career I can get people excited about an idea and attract funding, but ultimately you have to believe in the idea yourself. But you can start to drink your own Kool-Aid and start to believe your own pitch a little too much. At the start of VictorOps, I visited about 20 companies of all stages to test my idea before even starting the company. Feedback was very positive and during that I learned what features were the most desirable to potential customers.
How do you find the Colorado digital startup community?
Colorado is a great place to start a company. It’s much more friendly then Silicon Valley and generally all the other companies and founders in town want to see you succeed. The location can be challenging from a funding point of view, but generally I have found that good ideas and teams get funded regardless of location, you may just have to work a little harder.
I find the CO tech scene to be very collegiate, which translates to a great place to start businesses. Both CU and DU have excellent business programs as well as liberal arts programs that produce excellent young and hungry employees, which is great. The Colorado lifestyle creates a culture of working hard, then playing hard which is a good work-life balance.
What do you want to see more of in the Colorado tech community?
The startup community in Boulder and Denver is very active but tends to skew a little young. I think it would be interesting to find ways to be more inclusive of mid-life people who are looking for ways to re-invent themselves.
What should the Colorado tech community expect to see from VictorOps going into 2014?
We are building an Alerting and Collaboration platform for IT and Engineering teams, specifically for SaaS-based businesses. Both my previous companies needed a better way to keep a pulse on the service delivery compute infrastructure that was critical to our revenue streams: Raindance generated revenue by the minute as people used our phone conferencing platform; our customers did millions of minutes of conferencing a day, while Lijit generated revenue by delivering ads to people’s browsers 4 billion times a day. A service outage for either of those two businesses could be catastrophic to revenue and relationships.
The VictorOps platform gives the teams responsible for monitoring and remediating problems with those platforms a way to solve problems fast and keep the revenue engine running. VictorOps spent all of 2013 building and testing our product with the help of supportive test customers, many in Colorado. In 2014, VictorOps will begin revenue production, which of course is the point of starting a business. We are all excited to see how our product is received by a wider audience.
What’s your dream job (besides being CEO of VictorOps!)?
I would be an National Transportation Safety Board investigator. Being a software engineer at heart, I have always been a reasonably good de-bugger of complex systems. There is something interesting to me about having a set of data that is finite and trying to reconstruct what went wrong with reasonable fidelity. Business can be like this as well, so I believe there is a natural crossover.