Improving code at Dropbox, Airbnb and Crunchbase

In early 2013 I left Palantir Technologies to join Koality after three of my colleagues raised $300k from Peter Thiel himself. All three founders were software engineers who had become frustrated by how quickly under-developed internal tools could bring a world-class technical team to a standstill.

They wanted to build a tool that could find and stop code mistakes from affecting large engineering teams, and Thiel was onboard. As the first hire, I was responsible for branding the company, writing our go-to-market strategy, concepting the product’s feature set, and designing the UX and interface.

Challenges & Approach

Raising a $1.8M Seed Round, Enterprise Positioning, Enterprise-Grade Features

After Thiel’s initial investment I helped the team raise the remainder of a $1.8M seed round that included Founders Fund, Index Ventures, and Webb Investment Network.

Instead of building another free developer tool I pushed the team to focus on larger enterprise customers. Small teams moved so quickly that build breaks were infrequent and mistakes were easy to fix. Our product’s value for these teams was nil. Large organizations, on the other hand, were far more likely to experience dramatic breaks that could adversely affect hundreds of highly-paid engineers. A mistake for these companies was extremely costly, and a tool with the right features could demand a premium.

For enterprise customers the Koality product needed to reduce the time it took to run software tests from several hours to mere minutes while maintaining absolute security. Through integrations with EC2 we were able to leverage Amazon’s virtual machines all from behind-the-firewall so proprietary code could be checked quickly and securely.

A key feature I identified as important to Koality’s customers was analytics. Given that an entire organization’s code would move through Koality before merging into their repository, we had an excellent opportunity to identify which teams were pushing the best code, whose code contained the most errors, and even what time of day mistakes were most likely to occur.

The original Koality design wasn’t able to scale well beyond one repository and didn’t clearly label commits that failed the test suite. I overhauled the interface to support multiple repositories, let developers view only content relevent to them, and clearly highlight and identify problematic lines of code
Once Koality decided to go after the enterprise market we added more robust analytics capabilities. These explorations show some ways engineering managers at large customers like Dropbox and Airbnb could review the productivity of their teams

Results

TechCrunch Disrupt, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Acquisition by Docker

Believing B2B products should be designed with the same level of detail usually reserved for B2C, I focused on creating an intuitive user experience based on a dark color scheme that mimicked the console output familiar to software engineers. The interface’s design and ease-of-use was a major competitive advantage that consistently impacted the product’s value throughout the sales process.

The Koality product was also successful in identifying and displaying a single mistake in millions of lines of code, and blocking mistakes from affecting the rest of the team. The results were impressive enough for the company be admitted to TechCrunch Disrupt 2013 as a Battlefield competitor.

Koality’s technology, positioning, and product design won Dropbox, Airbnb, and Crunchbase as customers. Shortly after competing at TechCrunch Disrupt and launching at AWS Re:Invent, Koality was successfully acquired by renowned cloud company Docker.