Vested Capital
Vested Capital

Episode 16 · 1 year ago

(EP16): Paul Biggar Co-Founder Of $1.7 Billion Tech Unicorn CircleCI.com, DarkLang.com, PhD In Compilers

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Paul Biggar got started as a computer engineer early in life. He became a specialist in the field of compilers (software engineers use compilers to test code to see if it works or not). He liked compilers so much he completed a PhD on the topic.

Paul had a few false starts as an entrepreneur, including a stint in the Y-Combinator program, but nothing really took off.

Eventually in his late twenties, while working at Mozilla, Paul foresaw that the process of compiling and testing software will move to the cloud. He had the skillset and experience to understand the need, so decided to launch another startup -- and CircleCi.com was born.

Paul, along with his co-founder, built the first version of CircleCi, charging a monthly fee for access. They were able to acquire early clients thanks to a strategic investor who introduced them to 20+ companies who needed what CircleCI offered.

The Road To A Billion Dollar Valuation

During the interview Paul said he didn't expect CircleCI to one day crack unicorn status. At the time of this recording, during the most recent round of funding, CircleCI was valued at $1.7 billion dollars.

Paul stayed on as CEO all the way up to their A round of funding, raising $6 million at a $20+ million valuation. He left after this, when he realized he was more of a product guy than a CEO who has to focus on culture and hiring.

Paul today remains on the board of directors of CircleCI, but is focussed on DarkLang.com, an ambitious project aimed to take out the layers of complexity that software developers have to deal with when coding applications.

I appreciate Paul taking the time during the interview to break down some of the more technical aspects of what he has built and what he is still working on.

As a technical co-founder, this podcast will especially be of interest because Paul offers his advice on how to succeed as a technical founder.

Enjoy the episode.

Yaro

Podcast: https://www.yaro.blog/pod/
Blog: https://www.yaro.blog/

Hey, hey, this is yarrow and welcome to vested capital Episode Number Sixteen, featuring my guest Paul bigger, the founder of circle CI and Dark Lang. Vested capital is a podcast about how people make money and put their capital to work. I interview start up founders, Angel Investors, venture capitalists, Crypto and Stock Traders, real side investors and leaders in technology. Today, my guests Paul, is definitely a person who's well and truly a leader in technology and certainly skilled in a very niche form of programming, in particular compilers. I'm not a super technical person, I certainly have a good base understanding of what it takes to put together software, you know, websites. I grew up coding html myself and building my first website, but I really kind of dropped off that side of my skill set once things got too complicated with things like programming languages. Hall has pretty much been in the world of compilers for most of his life, initially as an academic you actually has a PhD, and then with his own start up, circle CI, which is a big chunk of today's interview. You'll hear him talk about how he had this idea and it's difficult to explain. I don't want to get too deep in the trenches with you now to try and talk about it's basically a Dev tool. So it's a tool for other developers to help with their development. So it's, you know, software developers helping other software developers. It's got to do with compiling, which simply is kind of like a form of testing your software. So everyone has to do it and Paul's Innovation With Circle Ci was about moving this compiling and testing process into the cloud. So that's what circle CI does and did, and it's grown to become a one point seven billion dollar valued company at the time of this recording. Paul is the founding CEO. He's no longer the CEO. He left about after their series a when they were round about twenty million dollar valuation, and he helped them raise six million dollars at that point. But then he stepped down after he realized he was not the best person to lead that role, a CEEO roll, because he was more interested in product and not so much culture and hiring hr those sort of roles that you know CEOS and CEO's have to deal with, and that's when he left and eventually got start on his current he didn't want to call this start up. It was a startup. Now it's a project. It's called dark it's another quite technical idea where he's trying to simplify the architecture and the software platforms for coding. Again, not going to go deep into it. Paul does a great description of that as well towards the end of the podcast. But of course, as always with Besta Kappel, you're going to hear Paul Story from the beginning. We go back to his early roots growing up in Dublin in Ireland and how he became an entrepreneur start as company and, of course, since he's now the CO creator of a Unicorn Start Up, I was very keen to hear what did it take to get to the point where, you know, they were over a billion dollar valuation. Now they last raised I think, a hundred million dollars. So it's a very big company with seven hundred employees and truly a success story worth sharing. Okay, just before I hit the play button on the interview with Paul, just wanted to give a shout out, as always, to my own company, inbox Donecom. We are not a technology company, where a human as a service company. So we provide human beings, excellent, skilled, professional communicators who are great with the written language, to take over doing your email for you. So they're basically virtual assistants who specialize in email. They will step in and handle applying to emails, managing your email and also managing any aspect of your communication, whether you're doing a lot of direct messaging and social media, you're getting a lot of comments that need to be replied to on maybe your facebook ads. Maybe you're getting helped this tickets from your clients, your customers, any place where you need someone who has a really strong level of English, attention to detail, emotional empathy, that's what we step in. Usually we start with email, of course. So if you're a person is drowning an email or you have a company that has a lot of customer service and email needs, head to inbox DONECOM book a discovery call and we can chat about what kind of service you need help with and we can assign you one, two, three, four, as many people as you need from our team to step in and manage your email and communications for you. That's INBOX DONECOM and now we're going to dive straight into the interview with Paul Big our. Here he is. Hey Paul, thanks for joining me today. Thank you so much traving me. So you have a long story I'm looking forward to diving into and, as I was just saying to you before we hit the record button, you are an entrepreneur in a fairly technical space, or have been. I discovered you through indie hackers. Actually. You were doing and ask me anything there and you were talking about your past success with circle and then currently with dark laying. You're very much in engineer programming cloud space. where, other than me attempt to explain the summary of what you have done and what you currently are working on, you want to give us just the broad strokes overview of your two most wellknown companies. Now,...

...for sure, for sure, so circle CI is it is that the biggest CI company. That's CI stands for continuous integration. But that thought that work doesn't really mean anything and it certainly just mean what it used to me, and so it's sort of company had. Basically, what that does is developer workflow automation, so you have the code on your machine. When you're working on something, you need to get that code into the cloud where your customers can use it, and CIA CD is is the process of doing that and just making sure that that, like it is safely tested and deployed and packaged and whatever else it is you do en route to the cloud. Okay, so I know I'm going to ask you this when we hit this part of your story, but I would like to clarify right now. What was the innovation that you write the start of the circle story saw, because I understand cloud in the sense that technology moot from sort of you owning your own box in a server room to a sort of massive shared cloud based interface and the APPs kind of moved to a more dispersed sort of even even now I'm stumbling here, but a more sure, sure dispersed kind of software application layer. And I understand with coding, having has start up, had engineers, you know, they were sitting there and making their building things, but the testing was all kind of done, I guess, locally on their own machine and then they would upload it and, you know, we'd see if it worked online. That was going to like the rough version of how we did it. So what was what's the difference between what I'm saying versus what what you guys did with circle. So so what people would do is one of two things before circle. So one is is that they were just, as you say, test it locally and and then deployed into production. What would happen in that case is that sometimes developers didn't have everything, you know, set up in exactly the right way for production. Maybe they forgot to check in a file or something like that. So their tests were actually run against something that was different from from what runs in production and test with break. So that's sort of the one sort of like collaboration innovation that that it brings is everything is always run in the same place in the same way and there's no you know, worked on my machine, didn't work on your machine, didn't work in production. The other thing is is very much that move to the cloud. So the companies that did do ci and that that had like a build server, you know, they could only run one thing on it at once and there they might have a team that was growing. They also couldn't like split it out and run it across like dozens of these machines. And so very much like one of the innovasions is just like, you know, take this thing that that was run in your office on the server and at have it run in the cloud instead. And so you don't need to buy a built server, you don't need to set up a built server, you just like connect your Github, you know, literally one Click and and then your cei just runs. And so that was that was a very big innovation for people who, you know, often didn't have ci CD. So in two thousand and eleven, when we started, you know, people had only just really gotten on board with with Github a couple of years earlier and everyone was like had only just agreed that we're going to use source control for everything, and so setting up see I was just a very big process for people and they wouldn't do it. And so when they saw, oh there's a cloud thing I can get to set up in seconds, that that that really was a night and day shift for them and it just want to clarify to why. Why is it a big issue to set that up yourself versus it is because you need to set up a massive testing environment in order to and then that's kind of like wasted effort because it might not really be a great testing environment. So, you know, apart from the fact you have to buy computer and then you have to install the software and the this the most common ci software at the time was an open source to tool called Jenkins. So you had to set that up and then you had to install the databases and so all the the OAS and solve the dependencies and get everything in sort of like the right shape. So typically it would take people about two days to do that. Versus in circle, you know, it would often run about thirty five percent of time it would work automatically on the first go without you having to do anythink. And it took a year of very much tweaking what we were doing to get it to that stage. And in the sixty percent of cases where it didn't quite run on the first go, there were there were relatively small tweaks that that we could tell you how to do or that that you could do to make that work. Okay, and I do want to connect the dots with how you came up with idea in terms of the point we were in your life too, because I can imagine that was a different space to when we're talking now in to live. Yeah, so before we do go back in time. So how big is circle CI right now? Maybe seven hundred people. I think are the the last fundraise that was announced relatively recently was a hundred million, one point seven billion dolluation, something along those lines. Okay, and you left the company, but you're...

...still heavily involved. You said you didn't. I wouldn't say heavily. Of alld. I'm on the board and you know I'm the board member who actually uses the product. Okay, that's important. Board member. Okay. So well, obviously huge success and the very technical aspect, I feel, of entrepreneurship. Some of my other guests can be simpler to explain the idea because it's you know, like, for example, recently had a guest who was like the Uber full on care. It's people need their lawn's mode. You open up an APP or website, you find the lawn mower. Away you go. Your story a little different than more technical, but I appreciate you taking the time to answer some of those questions and obviously I have some more few but before we go more technical, let's get more personal. Who Go back in time? Where were you born and raised? So I'm Irish. I was born in Dublin. I was raised in Geneva, in Dublin and in Westchester. Can You New York. My Dad there's a diplomat, so we like traveled around, so sort of like five years in each before eventually ending up in boarding school in Dublin and then you're going to college in Dublin as well. Ireland. Now, as I say talk about the country, it's actually not uncommon to think it could be a place for technical entrepreneurship. Me and I think of the Colson boys would stripe coming from there at the time growing up, did you see any local kind of influence for entrepreneurship or eat any influence for enterpreneurship even overseas? As a young person? I think didn't particularly see a whole lot of startup stuff in Ireland. You know, certainly there was some stuff. I had. I had a cousin that did something interesting during the during thecom and my uncle had had a software company. So yeah, I wasn't I wasn't completely separated from it, but when I moved to San Francisco it was very, very much night and day between between the two. I remember thinking, you know, when I got to San Francisco and soil in value that like people actually cared about about tech and startups and software, whereas in Dublin. At the time all of the interest was in legal and finance and construction or real estate were like the big sort of like booming industries and, like you told people, you're software engineering, no one really give a shit. So did you like having interest in software engineering from day one, like you were twelve year old with your first basic programming language, coding software? Not, not exactly that. I mean I certainly did a I did a coding course and I was like seven or something and I kept that up and, you know, a little bit, not not all that much, and then you kind of got into video games and played, played video games for one that turned into like pc gaming and then I was like building my computer and optimizing it to like get the last inch of I think at the time was like conventional memory or something like that to run the Games. And so that that sort of was where my reinterest in in computers game and I thought I thought I was going to do like computer engineering in college, and the degree that I did had a had a hardware components, but once I started coding I was just like Oh yeah, this is this is the shit. Love Coding. Now I wear very brief period of time in my university studies, thought I would also get into coding because I saw it as the future. I tasted Java script and realize, Oh my God, my brain is as not built for understanding, you know, the logic based programming. So I stuck with business school and dropped out of the programming side. For Yourself, obviously your brain was like I love this, I can make this work. Can you maybe take yourself back to that? I guess was university sort of studies. When you were going deeper into software, what were you most excited about doing, like, did you see yourself becoming a software engineer, Silicon Valley lifestyle, or is this more like something you see, like Oh, I'd love to build an APP that does this. It's more practical, more hands on, like what excited you? I mean I would say that we didn't have great visibility into like the Silicon Valley lifestyle kind of thing. Like in Dublin. You know, there's when I was doing my degree that dot or coming to the end of my Dereatlysa. Thecom bubble had popped and we weren't we weren't really aware of it anyway. It hadn't like really permeated in the way that that data has today. So for me it was, yeah, just like really really liked, you know, coding. I had always been entrepreneurial, I was always interested in in in business as well. I and I considered doing business degree and that kind of thing. But the you know, for me it was really a bad like building software and in particular, the thing that I really enjoyed was the part of our degree that that focused on on compilers and which is sort of the developer tools basically, which is what both circle C I and Dark Lang, you know, are quite related to and it's what I ended up doing my PhD in as well. Oh well, so you PAHC. So so you went from Undergrad the Post Grad straight through. So Undergrad, started a company, quit the company, Post Grat. Then why combinator, then Mozilla,...

...then circles CI and well, okay, I have question. It's bit of a journey. Okay, so just quickly, the company you started with, you was that while you were doing on the Grad. Did you say, was that a startup? No, Nos, as six of US started right after, right after Undergrad. They kept doing it for about three years. But I found relatively quickly that that I disagreed with all the decisions and so after a few months it was like, all right, I'm going to go back into my Postgrad. Okay. So it just curious what was the like the idea of for that business? What were they doing? There wasn't so much an idea. It was more to consulting, build a build a nest egg and then like figure out what they wanted to build. And I was gone long before that, long before that happened. So more like an agency to have consulting kind of yeah, something along these lines. Yeah, okay, all right. So you come back and you do post Grad. Post Gray was straight into PhD. Yep. Yeah, the the way it's done on the you sort of have the master's part covered in your undergrad sort of. So the the PhD, it was like four years. Okay. So was that also in the world of compilers? Did you have a that was? Ye, so, so my PhD is in compilers and static analysis. Static analysis is about looking at the code as code, like analyzing that the text of the code, basically. Yeah, so I did a compiler for PHP. Is What I did. PHP as a programming language and it's a dynamic language and doesn't really have a compiler and so I did a bunch of research into, you know, how that dynamicism works and how you can optimize it. Anyway. Okay, I'm curious. I understand there's levels of engineers programmers. You know, you Jr senior when you were doing your PhD, and right away that's a choice to be an academic programmer to not. I'm building something that's going to be commercialized, at least at that point, I assume, where did you see? Like, did you see us? Forgive me if I'm being, you know, overly flattering, but did you see yourself as a genius level programmer at that point or like, how did you compare yourself, because I see this is also as an opportunity cost decision to start a PhD. You could have tensially been hired if you were a very good engineer, I assume, for over six figures, if not, you know, to two hundred, three hundred thousand a year, depending on your skill. So at that there was a was a different time. That that is not the case at all. So the okay, in Ireland, after my Undergrad I was making one k. That was that was euro and that was that was a great salary. Like my friends were making twenty eight and I had an internship in London before that and if I'd gone to London, you know, I could have been making, you know, Forty K. I was very unaware of how much people made in Silicon Valley and that was not at all. It wasn't actually the thing that was that interesting to me either. What was interesting about silicon value is that that's where all the good compiler researchers being done. So it's actually hard to get a job in compilers outside of academia. There aren't that many places that do interesting stuff. They're and they're started to be a lot more, but I imagined that I would end up, you know, it's something like Google working on you know, let's say chrome or, you know, facebook or apple, that they all have kind of like large and interesting compiler projects, but there's there's not that much of that going around. So I imagined I'd moved to California just to just to be working in the industry I was interested in. Okay, so that was your thought process as a what happens next after my PhD is over? Yeah, I mean, when I was deciding what to do, I was looking at this site called compiler jobs, dotnet, I think, and all of the things required pat is, and that's that's why I did my PhD guy. I thought like, Oh, I need this. It turns out that that wasn't true, but that's what I thought at the time. Interesting, its sounds like. Concurrently, if I'm wrong, the compiler aspect of engineering and programming, it's a niche. It just certainly an is show and it's a niche that that there's very few like startups around it. Kind of a lot of my career has been sort of like tricking investors to fund my my niche compiler start up. I'm curious about that too. But before we get to the know, I meaning but both the like, you know, circles CI and dark. They're both sort of like niche compile other things in their own little ways. Yeah, and I can imagine having to describe the market opportunity and, you know, is the Tam there would almost need you need investors who are very technical in themselves to kind of understand what. Again, it's not like lawn more Uber Ful and mowers. We with with circle like. I really struggled to describe that time. Like I, you know, had no idea how big circle could be. I said recently it was worth one point seven billion. Yeah, I was. I was hoping one day it might be worth a hundred million and like yeah, that would have been fantastically successful by my mind. And you know, I couldn't...

...see where circle is now. I couldn't describe to investors a world where where, you know, we make as much money we do and the companies as big as it is. Yeah, amazing. Well, let's go for with your story then. So you you complete your PhD, and can we time stamps too, because I'm guessing it's postcom bubble one. So kind of like. So I finished my Undergrad in two thousand and four. I started my Ph d in Two thousand and late two thousand five, finished it in late two thousand and nine. Why? Commentator was early two thousand and ten. Will talk about that then. I love to dive into the so you finish your PhD, do you have an idea for a startups right away? I did, of course I was. I've been thinking about it for ages. My blog had bad commenting software and it needed better commenting software, and so that was that was literally what what the startup was. And after you know, sort of thinking about the good commenting software that was out there, and I particularly looking at like hacker news and read and things that that actually, you know, allowed good conversation to happen despite all the trash. I thought of it as community software. And who has a community problem? Well, newspapers, you know, they they need to like adapt into this like community thing. Right now. Their comment sections are completely trash. So I thought we would sell to newspapers. And that's sort of the naivety of trying to sell to people who have no money at all and no interest in what you're doing. And so that that didn't last very long, right. Yeah, not the best target audience at that time. Not at all, though. I'm thinking to two thousand and nine. We're talking the great, great financial crisis sort of happened and was sort of finishing up or on then, and then it was that kind of when they call it like a dark period for raising capital. There wasn't many people willing to invest back then. So you know, absolutely there was. In my batch. You know, I think one company raised, you know, raise the seed round of like three quarters of a million. Maybe, maybe, maybe two or three of them did, but you know, most of us just, you know, we're putting together very small rands of couple hundred K, in our case, just K, and you know they're they're just was not a lot of a lot of money going around. It's I mean it's nothing like now, but even even two years later when I raised for a circle CI, that was a completely different world as well. Okay, so just for the way company story, you you took that comment idea into I commentated you. You have like a cofounder with you at that hands had a cofender and we went in. We it was it was the four of them back back in the day, and the thing that I think allowed us to get in is that we had done this analysis of of this big long common thread in the Guardian and the thread was like, you know, completely, completely linear. There's no like threading or that sort of thing, and so people would say each other's name to refer back to someone's comments, like, you know, fifty comments to go or whatever. And so we did we did analysis of this and we created this like pretty tree and like talking about like, you know, look, here's one common thread, here's another common thread, and they're all looking at that. They're like, Oh my God, yeah, these these nerds, put a graph onto something, you know, social it's like yeah, we must fund this. At least that's that's how I imagine it went. Plus, you had obviously strong technical componency, which is as a plus getting into I see as well. Yeah, I could imagine this stuff. So prior to commenting, like to say, on facebook pages and posts, nowadays it's just expected. Your tag a name, you write a comment, like you said. Right, yeah, I know it's it's sort of standard. Things were a bit more primitive than yeah, I started in the blogging space to and I do remember wordpress plugins for comments. Yeah, it was a problem dealing with spam and you wanted those kind of threaded features and so on. So not necessarily, you know, you can understand why they said. Yes, I could see that, you know, potentially there. So take us forward. You go into a common enough, if I read correct in Your Ama and indie hackers. You also got kicked out of why commented? Or was this this the that was that was much more recents. That was that was like. That was like three months ago, if even. All right, we'll get there. that. So that first time you got in and did the whole the whole program got to the point where you you pitched in front of investors. Yeah, yeah, did, did Demo Day. You know, it didn't didn't go all that well. We still had the sort of like Irishness to us that that sort of self deprecating. I remember I was standing next to a guy in our batch and he is pitching an investory, saying this is going to be a billion dollar business, and I was saying, you know, something along the lines up. Well, you know, SMOS startups Fale and then probably this one will too. But I think I think it's a good idea. I think we're we have a good shot. But yeah, we wasn't quite a Din coin get, not quite the right strategy for for American investors. Fair enough. It's funny, though. Now the irony is it's almost expected and not believed when you're saying we're going to be a billion dollar company. Right, take us for them with that idea. So at what did you did? Raise? Fiftyzero, you said. So was that enough to at least come up with, you know, MVP version one point, no, and continue or so. Yeah, we...

...did an MDP off the off our first like k. That that why coving I given us and we, you know, did a launch and then we completely bought the launch. That the IT ended up being more of a news destination site and the end and we had no thirty journalists who are like putting content on to it, but we're really had no idea how to do that. We sort of we bought the launch and didn't have any idea how to like at traffic and that kind of thing. And you did. The end result was a bit a month after launch I quit. I was just like, I don't know how to do this, I don't think we can do this, we should you give the money back. And my cofounder wanted to continue it, but then two weeks or something afterwards he was like also, you know, okay, I'm going to go with this. This isn't work either. Okay, so that one kind of had a soft, soft death, so soft and pretty quick death. But the interesting thing about building things in the in the journalism space is that journalist will not let you forget. I should they will not let you like slink away quietly with your tail between your legs. They will, they will have right ups a bit like how terrible you are and what it is you are and all that sort of thing. Okay, so you had a few nights googling your name and reading a few yeah, I know, this is terrible. Okay, really like a month or two of just like very unpleasantness. Well, if the thinking me cool, well how do we? How did you recover from that? Was it a case of let's dive in another start up, where it was your mind, you men thinking, let's go get a job of a google. What? Where were you at? Yes, I had been talking to Mozilla at the time. They had, before I got into a combinator, I was interviewing with Mozilla and facebook and Google, and I'd canceled the the Google and facebook interviews because got into a combinator, but I had gotten an offer from Mozilla and so they were like well, you know, just just keep that offer. You know most most companies fail, and so when when I was done, I was just like, all right, you know, I'll take this Mozilla off or this is this is a great offer, and I will just like be a compiler engineer again, which is which is exactly what I did for for another year Mozilla. I'm trying to think it in two thousand and ten would roughly when you were joining, not exactly at the forefront of like they used to be in this sort of you know, it was thousands. So it was at the point where it was clear that chrome was winning and that was known for bed a year I think, at that point. And so there was there's not a lot of like internal understanding on that, like it was. It was known, but it was a time we're like yeah, we're building a Bresser will make it faster, whatever. Okay, I'm curious. I mean I think if a grant of the chrome is kind of like the default browser now, but why did chrome kind of win out at that time? I think it was. I think it was faster. I think it was quite considerably faster. Okay, speed to matters. So does the your experience in Mozilla connected anyway with with circle, or is it just a job until you came up with the idea? It is. It is where I came up with with the idea. The we had this effectively a CI system at Mozilla. Every time you pushed code or run on like, you know, dozens of machines, maybe hundreds of machines, and and they had as sixteen person team. I think keeping that, keeping that running and from a from an infrastructure side it was fine, but from a product side it was like it was terrible to use and it was hard to figure out like why if something wasn't working and worked on your machine but it didn't work on, you know, the windows machine over there, that was really hard to figure out why. And that was like directly inspirational into into building circle. Okay, so was that a case of you sitting in your desk and Mozilla, you're working, you spot this need in the market. You thinking there's a business here? Do you think, Oh, I try to get back into white coming in around too or what was your and how do you decide to take that seriously, to versus to stay with this safe job? Well, conveniently I got fired it around the same time. So that's sort of like led to what am I going to do next? And there was a couple of options of certainly interviewing through bunch of hycombinator companies and dropbox and you know, I was talking to like stripe and lots of lots of things there where, where things had gone differently, I might have ended up completely differently. You know, I just I just was interested in doing the start up again and sort of getting back on that horse and I had talked to a couple of people who you know about this idea, about like you know, I don't think I was calling it ci at the time, but you know, something along those lines, automatically running tests and that kind of thing. And that was in so that was mid two thousand and eleven, I think. And then, you know, it didn't take me very long to decide to do it and to start looking for copanders that. So here's where we I ask you to kind of help us with the technical side of this. When you have an idea that is very much for programmers.

This is not front facing consumer, this is for the engineers in the background, right. What does an MVP look like for them? Like what do you feel you need to create in order to validate what it is actually is something people want? And also, just to sort of extend that question, how do you think about monetization as well, because I realize with a lot of software, especially on the commercial side, it's often like let's build a grow userbase, will figure out money later. Is that the similar way of thinking for, you know, internal software, for software engineer's kind of business? I think so, that this is this idea that developers don't pay for software, and there is a little bit of truth to that and certainly there was a lot more truth to it, I think. I think it's much less train now, but you know, certainly having software that you have to pay for inhibits growth and limits limits who who will who will use it and who will pay for it, and I think that the secret that that we discovered and that a lot of people discovered around the same time as that people pay for infrastructure. People expect to pay for infrastructure. So if you can make your product free or freemium or available free for open source or something along those lines to get people to use it and to try it, you know they will and you know then you charge them for see effectively CPU time, which is a thing that they actually expect to do, because everyone knows that if you got stuff running in the clad, you have to pay for that. Okay. So does Amazon kind of get credit for like making that standard as a business model, or is it even before them? I mean I think even before that. You know, there before there was Amazon, there were there were VPC's, there was, you know, Colos and all that sort of thing. I think it was relatively established that that you you would pay people monthly for software, but certainly Amazon blew it up and in in the you know, sort of the part of the world where where I was the the people who were building startups, it was it was really Heroku, who's the the model that everyone was looking at, even though, like you know, Heroku itself was built on Awus. Most of the people were we're paying Hiroku for I think they call them dinos, but essentially, you know, some amount of compute power, and so that was the the thing that we were you know, that that people were looking at when looking at our prising. Okay, so what was your MVP then for circle? That, I mean it was it was a fully working product. The first version of it. It would spin up an aws instance every time to to run your code on, and that turned out to be to be a terrible idea, because spinning up an instance at the time was very slow and the instance themselves are very slow, and so the sort of the don't call it a pivot, that the technical change that we had to make at the time was that there was a technology that would eventually become called docker or become popularized as doctor, but we were using the the version before there was doctor, which was called, which is called LXC, Linux containers, and so it was like to adapt our software to use that, this technology, Linux containers, that allowed us to start builds immediately and to just, you know, run lots of big machines that that built would start immediately on instead of spinning up a new machine every time. Okay, so first of all, you have, did you? You had a team, like you, a cofounder for this is me and my cofender. At the stage, I heard of use. is a friend of yours or no, we so we actually both pitched the same guy with the same idea. Yeah, there was this other guy in my in my white combinator batch had been had been staying on my couch and I was like pitching him the idea and then he goes back to Austin and my cofounder, Alan Rohner, hitched him, like went to the local entrepreneur in, you know, local Y combinator entrepreneur, and you pitch them on the idea. And I got a call from from this Guy Lloyd, and he's like this guy's pitching me the exact thing that that you're making and like you guys should talk and that sounds like a blind day where you both yeah, and I mean the yeah, I I think we did a small amounts of sort of due diligence on each other and but then we just kind of at the start of the pandemic. You just yeah, there, you seem fine, let's move in together. Okay. Yeah, I mean it's a big commitment. I we did you guys build the whole company together? WHO's this person this year? Yes, so, so, his name's Alan and we work together for about two and a half years and certainly we were, you know, at that point we were at over a million revenue, probably a million and a half, two million revenue at the time that he left. So when with you and Allen, starting at we you both engineers, like you both are going to we're both engineers. So I did most of the front end and and the UX he did. He did like all the cloudy stuff and making that work. So okay. And Lloyd. Was Lloyd your first investor? Was? No, no, he was one of our...

...first customers, though. Yeah, she had said like yeah, I would use this at my company, and he did. Okay, I am curious about that, but let me first answer the investment question. Did you like from day one go fine, investors, and you both need to know. So, for the first for the first while we were financing a basically out of my pocket. I had some savings of recent inheritance, not not that much. I think. I think there was like a hundred can the bank and you know that that needed to pay for for myself and I was married at the time and she couldn't work for visa reasons. So, you know, financing a relative expense of San Francisco Life and and a little bit financing my cofounder while he was because he wasn't working at the time either. And then we managed to it's K from an investor and between it the between that, we made it basically until basically a whole year on that and then the cloud cost started getting a little out of hand and we needed to actually raise okay, before we talk about their rays, I'm curious to that first year. Obviously it sounds like you're successful if your cloud costs are going up. How did you get your first clients? That investor who gave us the K, he is named Jonathan Siegal and he had just bought this company called exceptional and this other company called Air breake and was sort of like combining them. And basically he just reached that to his customer base and saying we're building this thing. And actually it's funny, but before we met him he was actually building a competitive see, I think invested in this instead, but he pitched his customers and so his customers. We got our first from twenty two. Certainly our first twenty customers were all his customers, and maybe maybe the first fifty. And just while we're in private Beta, we were just like signing up these customers. And again I'm going to lean on the my lack of technical understanding here. Are Lean on your your ability to explain it to me. If okay, so I can imagine your first investor. He happens to own two businesses that had a technical audience who could be your potential customers. So he first, I assume, you know, test you guys out, make sure you're what your platform does what it's supposed to do. It does. It's great. He feels confident enough to then go to his audience and say hey, if you need, you know, compiling environment for testing. This is the new cloud based service. I guess it's build circles the I right from the start. You know, go try it out. You guys probably had a website from from that point and then, sure, they create a free account. They, I'm assuming, are paying for usage. So it could be a small company. They run their first test. It might cost them a ten cents or something like. We end up charging, I think, twenty a month for for people can start with. So there was a base fee. Yeah, so it we charged on the idea of how many simultaneous builds you're running at the same time and we figured that, you know, costwise, that that's sort of worked out about the same. Initially we try to actually charge people on the basis of users. That and the idea that users and your build cost would be would be roughly similar in some way. And it's customers didn't actually like that. Like developers, I think, don't don't like the idea of paying per user. That's different now, but at the time that was. That was certainly the case. So we just kind of like rounded it and tried to figure out a pressing where where the price sort of stayed the same as the per user and the number of builds that you run at the same time, sort of related to that, says. So we ended up first one is twenty, everyone after that as fifty, and we had customers, you know, on that pricing go, go the whole way up to paying us like a million a year. Okay, and not from day one, to assume, but not not from day one. Day It was, I mean there was was still like, you know, its relatively quick to our first like, let's Azero in a month. You took six months. Twelvezero month is a Lott of money to invest, and in a company that was presumed under twelve months old, when you're starting to get that kind of customer base. What was it like again? I'm going back to this idea. You are, you a genius. So what you do, Paul, where you know you could build an MVP that was ready to go for a twelvezero customer that quickly? Because I was so I may, I think I miss we had twelvezero dollars a month in MRR, six months after, okay, our first. It wasn't one customer paying Twelve Tho, but still like okay. But I mean, I guess this is comes from my you know, my I know how to write a blog post. I know what it takes a little website, but when it comes to a software application, I can't judge a one week project versus a twelve month project in terms of the difficulty to create. So I don't really know what like version one point of circle CI, how complex that was, how technically challenging it was. I assume it was somewhat, because otherwise someone else would have. So as it turns out, dozens of people built CEI at the same time or a year before or you're after it. It's the sort...

...of thing where it developers think, Oh, this is actually going to be easy, and so you saw lots of like landing pages of Ci that people built in a weekend. All often that looked much better than ours. And the it turned out that the the overall concept of, you know, we're going to run some commands in a clean environments is really not challenging. What turned out to be like really difficult was actually getting it to work for customers the first time. So it was really a customer discovery kind of thing where where we'd have customers come in and we talked to them and we'd like keep an eye on their builds and we'd watch them and we'd set it up for them and we ended up that that the whole you know, the product was very much a series of hacks on top of hacks and top of hacks as we figured out what went wrong with various different customers. And it was, you know, just just a year of sort of expanding out who we were able to address. So at the start it only worked for Ruby on rails customers. Then we expanded to support nodes, ORT, python, PHP and eventually, you know, go and and all these other things. But they were not, you know, all that easy to do at the start. And you know, it really that MVP was was about focusing on Ruby on roads. Interesting. Okay, that makes sense to me. Like it sounds like before. It's almost that you create this magic test environment where you can put anything into it in test. But truth be told, that really is like not a day one MVP and burst version is okay, yeah, we can do that for this tiny subset of type applications built with the specific language, with, you know, some other restrictions placed on it, and then you explain. I think what we did actually was we started. We started much broader and then we realized that we had all these customers who just or you know, we had all this interest from people who just had ruby on rail. So we actually cut it down first to just ruby and said we will expand out later and, you know, will eventually become this all encompassing thing, and it really wasn't until four or five years later that that we were that all encompassing thing again. Okay, yeah, well, that sounds reasonable. In other words, it is a bit more of a technical chone than it might seemed at first. You guys found a core customer base from which you could grow to that sort of twelve thousand annual run or monthly run rate, was it, or whatever. When we when we started raising in August, we were making about eight km r and by the end of when we were done, I think we had like double dot or something like that. And certainly the investors, we're keeping an eye on how much the Mr was going up during the fundraise. Yeah, as they do as yeah, that's sort of terrifying. Yeah, so how was it raising investing, because that was that was like your first bigger around, right, you know, it's so this was a million and a half that we raised. It's it was a seed round at the time. That's what a sea round was and, you know, it was approaching a lot of entrepreneurs to get introductions to investors, and that was really thing, like people, people that we knew. You know, let me pitch you on my on my startup. You know, do you know anyone who can help us out? And sometimes they wouldn't. Sometimes they wouldn't do you know, sometimes they wouldn't believe in what we're doing and they wouldn't really give us any intros that they give us like one bad for who would meet us. And sometimes they you know, sometimes they're like yes, I understand this and I want to use it, and let me intersue this person, this person, this person, and the real sort of the thing that made that round come together was James Lindeban. So, James is the founder of her coup and he is the founder also of a Dev tool start up accelerator called heavy bit, which is, if you're in death tools, you're very familiar with this. It is like the it is the Y combinator of death tools, essentially, and and you know, basically, unbeknownst to me at the time, James was a bit of a kingmaker and he told the investors this, this is going to be the CI company you should invest in, in this one, and they had talked to all the other CI companies as well. And so I'm not sure exactly what I did that was or what we did. That was that you sort of separated a say it from for the back, but that was the that was the thing that really got the round together and, you know, even got the series a together a couple of years later as well. Okay, now it's not talking very much, but once you complete around like that and you've got this money drop into your bank account, what really happens after that? You go on a hiring spree. Like what do you have to kind of figure out that point. We started hiring before the round was done. So when we had our first couple hundred thousand commitments, we we figured, like, the round is going to happen, let's you know, let's get it going. However, we didn't expect it would take four months. So we had we had three people start and then we were like, Oh shit, you know, we're we're not going to have the money. Like, you know, the money's not the bank yet. We're waiting for this round to close. So we basically contacted a bunch of the early angels and said,...

...you know, can you give us the money now? And they worried their money with with no note, no you know, no no term sheet, nothing. They just like sent us the money and that, I think, you know, we that was like a k and that that was like what we needed for for the two or three months salary what until the round actually closed. Okay, and how does it feel after the round closed? You got all this new staff, do you just sort of see feature of peaches rolling out so much quicker? Is it like, Oh, finally we can get back to them massive list of errors that we wanted to solve? Is that that kind of is it very satisfying? I think I think it just like makes things go faster, and faster is more terrifying. So we now have more customers. We now have I think the first things we started doing was like adding more monitoring over our infrastructure, sort of being able to keep an eye on what was actually happening, adding support from more things. So at the time my job was basically doing customer support. I was I was answering all the emails and, you know, kind of reporting bugs and getting them fixed, and so, you know, I was just like on fire all the time. It's just like constantly having to deal with the thing over here, a thing over here, thing over here. So yeah, I would say more than anything, raising money turns into this sort of like terrifying experience after the money comes in. Yeah, because people don't talk much about that other than you know, stuff happens after you hopefully you keep going. Are we reaching the point soon where you decide to sort of step back as an active employee of the company or how much longer did you stay with circles CI? Another three years. So I stayed to grow two thousand and fifteen. Yeah, it was. I raised a series a which was six million, which at the time was a pretty decent number. Not so much anymore, but I stayed with it until until we're at about like two and a half million in revenue. And we were we were twenty five people at around the time that I was making this, making this decision, and you know, we had no managers, we had no there's no like middle anything. It was like me and twenty five or twenty four. I sees, I realize, like I'm not doing a good job of this in fact, an investor said it to me, is like, you know, I believe that you can do a good job of this, but you're not doing one. And I was working with with a coach at the time and I was like, you know, I actually don't like this job, this, the CEO thing, this, this isn't fun. Like, you know, I'm spending all my time thinking about culture and process and hr and you know, all this sort of thing. I really just like working on products. And by luck we had acquired this company called Distiller which did CI for Ios, and those guys, Gem and rob were better management material. So that that is actually what I ended up happening. Jim took over first to coo and then CEO rob became CTO and they they run circle there. So they've been. They've been running circle for I think nearly six years now. Okay. And so how did you transition? Like is a case of you you make it sound like this only wasn't the end of any animosity or and know, like twitter, they founders swapping backstabbing each other back and forth. It No me and my my cofounder had had a break up and that there was certainly you know that that was a difficult time for everyone and that was challenging. But when it when it came time for me to step down, like the certainly you want to to keep a certain amount of control and you know, certainly had fear and like investors and and that kind of thing, for probably for no good reason, just the standard paranoia. You know, I had a lot of trust in Jim and rob and then when, you know, sort of over the next few months, I stayed a CEO. Jim was effectively running the company of CEO. But you know, the main difference was that things were a lot smoother. There was you know, morale was was high. There wasn't there wasn't a whole like revolt against the new management or everything just, you know, there was just quiet, competent execution and everyone on the team saw, okay, things are like they were before, but more competent and more organized and, you know, less less kind of frantic. You said you were there for this six million dollar next round. You're seeing is a yeah, it was the valuation of the company at that point. Oh, it's like twenty, twenty five million, I think. Okay, what point? Because, like you said, the start today, as we talk, it's been valued out. One point seven billion is in still private, if I'm correct, right of it is still private. Yeah, yeah, you've like stayed, you know, an equity owner in the company, so you've seen it go from that twenty issue million to one point seven billion. Your role has obviously become, like you said, you're more on the board now. You're a board member WHO's an actual user of the product, but you're not functioning as in you're not doing the customer service, you're not being the CEO, not programming like all those things you used to do.

It's funny how use is. I'm working full time on dark right so I love to talk about that too. But it is funny the evolution. You went from like being the first person to program version one, get the first few customers, then you do a raise, you find yourself in customers service, which is probably not the best use of your strength because, but yeah, I know, I I think it actually was. I think, okay, that time spent in like understanding what customers need like that was absolutely vital to making a working product. I guess it makes sense from a start up standpoint, but it sounds like you're a skill set just you know. I mean I can imagine if you got feedback and then you were the one who is programming the fixes. I get that, but yeah, it feels like you could put someone else there. But I also understand founder is it's great for them to stay in touch, right you we did switch at some point to to all the engineers of rotating through support and doing one day a week support each. So it was it was only, you know, the first like the first year maybe that that that I was doing at all. And then, like you said, you transition to CEO of more like a bigger company, more people than you. Tend to focus more in hiring hr and then you have an acquisition. You have people who are more, you know, managerial CEO types. They take over. You step step away. A couple of things. What has it been like, as you stepped away, to watch it grow with you're not there on a day to day basis? is a kind of like watching your child grow up? Do you feel very proud, like what's the feeling? I think I think that's a good it's a good metaphor. Yeah, it's back when I left it was a very niche product. Still like people, certainly people used it and certainly I had had people come up to me and be like, Oh, you know circle C I we use that. That's that's a much more common occurrence now. It's kind of weird. I went to some startup event recently in New York and, like people, you know, people not just knew about circle that, they knew who I was and that, but that whole thing is a very weird is a very weird situation, minor celebrity status. It's a very, very minor in it a very, very small niche, very strainie group people. Yeah, I have experienced that to a conferences and yeah, it is. I was a bit Oh, yeah, you listen to my podcast or something like that. Yeah, and you have a podcast too, so I know you know what that's like. I am curious at one aspect of the circle sea experience for you, Paul, the the company. I know you probably, like most startup founders, would have had a, you know, average or even below average salary as that company continue to grow and then you sort of step down and you would have watched it grow in valuation and, like everyone, you probably thinking what's my equity worth? At some point you would have known my equity is now worth more money than I really need. I don't have to worry about my basic needs being met anymore. I can choose to do anything I want. What was your mindset like then and and did that influence what came next after you step down from your role? So we didn't really reach that point until relatively recently. So about a year after I left circle, I was on I was on sabbatical and I had I had budgeted. I had about eighteen months of personal runaway before I was befar as broke. Actually budget a bit poorly, so I was I was less than broke when when I started dark but I was definitely thinking about that with the all right, you know, I'm going to have to go back to work. I need to like figure out what I'm going to do with my life. Do I want to job? Do it like? Do I want to job as an engineer? Do I want to start another start up, a small start up? Probably? I considered starting a big startup and rejected that because I was like, Oh, you know, the venture path, it's all. It's all like a lot of work and growth and anxiety and all that sort of thing. And so I was looking at building small startups or or getting a job some sort of like rent as CTO or something along those lines. And in the end I actually I actually decided to do the big start up again, and for dark it was, it's certainly the biggest idea I've ever worked on. It's both technically and in terms of of the market sizes. It's just like a very big opportunity and very like a lot of technology that's involved in it, and I hadn't expected that I was going to go back and do that. But I think if I had been cashed out or in a situation where where I didn't really have to think about money at the time, you know, I'm not sure that I would actually have started any job again. I might just have like Saturday out on the beach right that that pen I mean I'm sure like I had already I had already gotten board of being on the beach and but, you know, probably have sat it out and just like coated and stuff. Yeah, done what you do, what you enjoy. Okay. Well, I do want to know about dark, dark laying, which I'm assuming it's like dark language, before we dive in the technicalities of what that is. This just want to clarify so you you your runway was running out. You decided, okay, I'm going to do another startup and I'm going to go adventure back. So did you kind of Rinsing your peat? Or Right, I got to find a cofounder, going to try and get into why combinator, or going to try and find my first investor? Was that all the case? Again? Yeah, so spent spent about two months looking for car fander. Did a...

...big search and talk to like fifty co founders, had a big, you know, questionnaire, all the all that sort of thing. You looking for. It like what was I was looking for a consumer pm who could code. Why? What was what with us? Not, because deaf tools is essentially a consumer thing. The adoption of deaf tools is very similar to to consumer startups and the the Bab stuff is like very learnable. But the the consumer in the adoption side of it. But also the reason I was looking for pm was was just the size of dark of what we were building was out of control and so we, you know, I felt I needed someone to help like rain that in and to get the actual the size of what we're building under control. What is dark exactly? Just for US ours Leman's so it is. It is slightly complicated to explain what dark is, but I think the problem that that we're solving is very is very easy to resonate with like it is. It is very hard to code. It is especially hard to build cloud services. The dealing with things like Amazon and aws is is a nightmare and the the amount of things that you need to do to get a product successfully running in the cloud and sort of scaling in the cloud is it's very expensive in in sort of developer time, and that that that is. That is a huge problem. And so the the idea we had is like what if we could make it so that people could just start immediately building stuff in the cloud without, without any of that complexity, without having to deal with technologies like Amazon, obviously, but like couper Nitti's deployment and Apis, these these things are all like just very there's a lot of complexity with it, and the idea was really, how do we build without that complexity? And it was working backwards by listing out the complexity that we wanted to get rid of and then trying to come up with a with a solution so to allow people to build in the cloud with as little work as possible, and so the conclusion that we came up with is a programming language and an editor and an infrastructure all in one. so you write things in our editor, in our language, on our cloud, and if you do that you can get instant deployments into into the cloud, instant databases, not have to think about scaling or infrastructure anything. It just it just works. And that meant that what dark is as an actual product is a cloud programming language and a and an editor, and we call it dark line because that's the that's the thing that sort of like gets people excited. Developers like new programming language. It's better than like dark cloud, although actually that's that wouldn't have been a bad name either. So it's good name. Ya, it's very ominous. Okay, it's thinking. It's remind me, as I think back to early days of blogging, where I was involved, when word press, especially the hosted version word press, came along and it was like this idea of you don't need to learn html, you need to set up your own server and rent space. Is before cloud. You essentially open up an editor, you add images, you click publish, it goes live. That sounds similar to what you're trying to do, except for the developer of this kind of world where I want to code, to create something without worrying about all the functions that make my code work, all the APIS is only one language, databases, infrastructure, server, all that. It sounds ambitious, right, its exactly. It's for people who want to Code, want to write the the logic, but where the environment at which they do that now is just very inefficient. Okay, what's the opportunity here? Like, are you trying to replace essentially every single other language and server environment out there with this? So we certainly were. Certainly when I was, when I was pitching the seed round in two thousand and seventeen, it was it was very much like, you know, this is going to replace aws, this is going to replace every every cloud thing that's out there, because this is just going to be something that is, you know, a hundred times easier, hundred times faster to build software using this. So, like, why wouldn't anyone use this? This is it's going to be the default. And so yet the time that we were that we were pitching, was just like added this world. People didn't even question us on it. It's just like if this works, you know, everyone will use it. And so the thing that really came up when we were talking to investors what is will this work? And that's still to be determined. or or where are we up for years later? So so we are still preproduct market fit. We release an MVP in Twos, two thousand and nineteen, coming up to coming up to two years ago, and I think that the things that we were trying to do, I think that were that were new. So the not having to worry...

...about infrastructure, the instant deployment, those those work and those are those are quite quite effective and those are the big sort of questions, like you, can this be done? It's like yes, it can be done, and so the question that that we're really focusing on now is is can it be good? Because it wasn't good and it still isn't good. And the reason that it isn't good is because you come in and you use this, you know like Oh, it's super fast, very exciting. Okay, now I want to call like the stripe API, and it's like, Oh, well, this note, there's no package to use the stripe API. There's no there's no SDK. Okay, well, you know now I've to write out HATTDP calls myself. That's ridiculous, you know. I'm just going to go back to using node or whatever work can type in like stripe dot pay instead, and so that that's that's the challenge that that's ahead of us. But you know, as part of doing that, when we where we got to the company to the point where we're realized that was the problem. Every time we would start to add things in that direction, we sort of, you know, got got hit by shortcuts that we took earlier. So at the moment, dark is at the moment, dark is just me and it is just undoing all of the shortcuts and the bad decisions that we made on route to here before we start building actual new stuff out again. Right, yeah, I can. It's funny. You guys. You subscribed all that. I'm thinking this sounds a lot like the circle CI period where you had to bring it back to sort of focus on Ruby ran right scale out and with circle that took a month and with dark that has so far taken two years and we'll probably take another another two. Why, like, is it just you now? Because you you did raise funding, which we were raising, raised three and a half million. We had the team up to a bed, eight people, and then we we tried to raise a series a and we just didn't have the traction for a series a. So we were we were kind of close with a couple of investors were were interested and we were relatively close to ten million series a, but it didn't actually happen. So then at that point, you know, we're spending a hundred fifty k month. We raised two million from our from our current investors and a new investor, and so we're looking at the two million in the bank and looking at the hundred k a month that we were spending and basically realized there was no way to get to where we needed to go spending spending that money. So it the the end results of that was, you know, my cofounder wanted to go one way, I wanted to go the other way and the came down to a board decision like a fan and end up leaving and then I laid off the rest of the team. Okay, so we're kind of catching you at a turning point with where absolutely is going. Okay, interesting, so be good to keep tabs on. This is an ambitious idea. I feel like, like you said, you got to find that Proto market fill. I got to find the Ruby people for this. Yeah, it's a thing that you can use today, like you can go to a dark linecom and you can you can sign up, and what what I'm trying to do is trying, or what I'm trying to sort of adapt dark into at the moment is making it more seem like a project then a startup. is where the startup you go in with very high expectations and you're expected to be in a place where, frankly, dark is not and so I'm trying to like set the expectations low, continue to get people excited about what is enabled by dark, that that doesn't exist anywhere else, because there's there's a lot of that and I want people to see that. But the same time I want people to know like this, this is not something that you're going to be building your startup on this, this has a lot of rough edges, but, you know, hope that people can see the potential. Okay, is that because you want to kind of open source it where your community will help you build it, or not? A little bit. So we're not open sourcing, it is source available. There's a whole thing in the industry at the moment about, you know, your open source infrastructure stuff and then Amazon runs it. And then I mentioned earlier how the money to sustain Dev will startups is often in the infrastructure and arging for it. You can't do that if Amazon's the one who's actually running it and getting the money for it. So a lot of focus has been on how to make dark sustainable, both financially but also from a community perspective. So we made a source available. You know, people do contribute every now and then. It hasn't been at a point where people can contribute because there is a large technology of rewrite going on. But I expect that that the that when that's done, the contributions will start picking up again and and it will be I'm certainly aiming at at being a community project where people are contributing and they're participating and and we are running the infrastructure be supporting all that. Okay, and maybe I shouldn't ask you this, but did the why combinated second trip? We got kicked out into this. No, no, I it wasn't really. That was all...

...about the vaccines. So I tweeted about a couple of people in y combinator had like told others how to like get vaccines that in one case they definitely weren't entitled to. In another case it was a little more vague and and I tweeted about that because that's unethical, a shit and the I simultaneously, or along the same lines, there was there was some discussion internally where I had aired some grievances where I felt that, you know, why combinator was, I think the way I put is as I'd fallen out of love with why combinators. To pay though up all, are you in? We you in? Why? Coming it with dark? Was that? No, no, said this was an alumni. So when you go through our commented to your part of the community, there's a there's a sort of a private social network and slack group and all that sort of thing. You weren't in a batch. You were just I wasn't in a batch. No, no, I got kicked out of the community. Right, you've got ostracized from autocon its. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, okay, yeah, right now. Not. I kind I can see where this is going. Like you, you have a ideological disagreements around things and right, right, right. The when you don't like what something has become and but you're still part of it and it's still useful and you're like, you know, vaguely flailing to try to make it better. And you know someone realizes that, like you're actually just being disruptive in the community. It's like, okay, Yep, I can totally see it. Okay, so, while you just to come wrap this up in a good time, was sort of finish up dark. I can tell of the fuels very much like something where you see a vision for something pretty big. While you were building that over the last four years, and obviously you went through co founder and initial funding and then scaled back and it switched from being a start up to a project, like you said. Well, that's all happening. Circles. The eye is going from it's twenty million to its one point seven billion dollar valuation. Would you have considered, let me sell some of my shares and then on the secondary market so I can put it into dark? I know that's very risky, putting probably your biggest source of net worth into a project. Did that cross your mind at all? Like, what and where are you now with all this? so you dark still has money. When we run out of money. You know, it's going to be on up to me to fund you know, I'm a I'm the biggest owner of dark and you know this is this is a thing that I'm going to be working on for the next, you know, ten, twenty years. I'm convinced that it works. I think that other people who use it, you know, can see how it will work as well. But you know, it's going to take time. I think the most likely thing is that I expand the team to sort of three other engineers maybe, and over the next like two years, bring it to bring it to something which is which actually has product market fit. And you know, if we run out of money on the way, and then that'll be up to me to fund it, I think at least. Okay, so you may consider taking some of your circle equity in, depending what happens, would circle of course, that they become a list of company, that becomes easier for you to do that and so on. Right, right, and I've sold I've sold some secondary already, so you know the certainly I'm viewing this as a place where they're probably just despite the the frothiness of the markets. You know, dark is not in a very strong position to fundraise. So need to get it to somewhere where it's in a good position to fundraise again and or to be cast for a positive yeah, are hard to see where things going to be in two years, but that's that's kind of how I'm thing about it. Yeah, that makes sense. If you have that those paying members again or some sort of incomes, exactly, it makes it. The thing I'm thinking about at the moment is we're not going to get a whole lot of usage out of it. Like the if we charge you for usage, you would pay far more than you would on a table ass or something like that, and so the probably a membership fee of you know, Standard User pricing is as much more palatable these days. So some sort of you know, it's free for something and it's paid for for something else, standard sort of like saucy kind of thing is probably how that's going to end up. Okay, Great Paul, taken a lot of your time. I'd maybe a route. Was One last question that I am curious about. So you've certainly had a variety of experiences here. You've you've been an early CEO, Co founder of what's become a Unicorn. You've seen also when it was time for you to step away, which you know, which takes some consciousness about what you're doing and what your skill sets are, and you've then dived into an ambitious project that again clearly taps into your skill set. I can see the overlap. It's like expanding what circle see. I kind of was to the entire technological framework, but it's bumpy. You're trying to figure out the use case and make it work for scale and potentially funding. And even prior to that you've been an academic, so you know the really in the...

...trenches coding for the sake of just expanding ideas and language and so on. My question out of all of this is especially for those listening who are technical founders. Like they, like you, they have engineering capabilities. They've wanted to or even currently are building their own something technical, as a startup or as a project, but more looking a start up. I'm really curious what, from your point of view, is actually the hardest part to make that work, as when you are a technical person coming into a startup, there's a tendency of engineers to to sort of build it and they will come, and I think that that's especially true in depth tools. I think it is. It is maybe becoming less true in in other errors, but in in devils you often hear people, I just needs a little more before you, before I launch it or whatever, and this is especially true in sort of like the community first side of things, where people build an open source project and then try to turn that into into something later. So my my sort of advice that I give earlier fanders is to sort of like put the keyboard away and, you know, go ahead and talk, to go out and talk to humans and go ahead and talk to like actual users and get people to try and use it and try to, you know, actually understand what is needed to get this thing to product market fit and just to have this sort of like relentless focus on on what actually is product market fit for you and and how do you get to that? Because I really nothing else matters, and in fact you sometimes see people skip product market fit and managed to like raise without it and and that ends up being a complete disaster. So we're really like pointing people towards that, that focusing on on product market fit. MMMM it's in just think it's the same advice you probably give every single founder out there. Really right as a matter of your technical or not, that and going product. Yeah, if it is the most important thing. Well, the non technical fenders tend to to have their eye on that a lot more than the technical fanders. Yeah, makes sense, especially when you're capable of building something. Yeah, it's different than being the marketing person where you know you've got to find customers and get sailed or something with that. So, Paul, thank you for sharing the full story. I really appreciate thank you so much for having me this one. Great. Where can we send people to? Obviously round projects. Yeah. So, so you should check out dark linecom and I guess follow me on twitter. Paul, bigger. Okay, we'll share those links with the show notes. Yeah, we'll keep on track with with dark and they could be huge. So look forward to following you and obviously circles C I you know, great success. Congratulations on that one. That's that's obviously a nice you've got that forever badge where you can say you built a Unicorn, and so that's always any but that opens doors no matter what you do. So we'll then. All right, thank you so much. Thanks. Well, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Paul. It was a long story, one of our longer episodes. Clearly, you know Paul coming from a background of being very technical, I appreciated the time you took to explain to us some of the more technical aspects of the ideas he had, the solutions he built and came up with with circles, CI and, of course, dark is his current project. It's clear Paul as well as a little bit surprised at how successful circle has become. I don't think you saw it becoming a billion dollar company as it is today, but it was great to see and hear what he did during the early days to get that company going. Think what was especially insightful to me was understanding the effectiveness of having an investor who is going to be your evangelist. Like most people, tend to think of an investors as great for certainly funds, of course you know you need money, but sometimes also helping with like hiring finding people to join your company. But perhaps not talked about that much is investors are often well connected. They may have other companies they own or their shareholders in. They certainly know lots of other founders. So when you have a technical company and investor WHO's involved with lots of other technical companies. Can be a great doorway into your first initial customer base. As Paul said, he got his first somewhere to twenty to fifty customers from this one investor. That's enough to, you know, get to the point where you've got a successful start up, at least, you know, for the first round of funding potentially. So that is the power of a strategic investor and that's probably not talked about enough, I think. So it is great to hear Paul talk about that and how important that was to really provide those initial test cases, those first few customers to build this solution around. And then, of course, I was also very interested to hear how they kind of niche down into ruby on rail's customers specifically and kind of solve the needs for them first and then expand it up from their great story. Hope you got to love this interview with Paul. If you've not done so already, please subscribe to vested capital. You can find other interviews like this one with Paul, other start up founders, other technical people, but also people doing different things, venture capitalists. We've had professional poker players on, people doing different types of business. Is Not always so technical. In fact, coming up soon I've got founder of a cat sitting business. It is technical. It's...

...kind of like Uber for cat sitters, but that's coming up. And just before a couple episodes before Paul, we had the founder of Uber for Lawen Care, as I mentioned in this interview as well. So certainly getting a diverse range of guests sharing their amazing stories and I love sharing them with you. So, if you haven't done so, subscribe. You can do that in your APP. Just click the plus button or the follow button or the subscribe button. That will give you access to all the episodes invested capital and a notification for every new episode when it is released as well. If you're not sure how to do that, just head to my website, Yarrow, Yarro dot blog blog, hit the podcast button in the navigation link and you'll see all the links there to open up, whether it's spotify or Google or apple or Amazon. All the different options for subscribing to the best of capital podcast are there, plus all the previous episodes too, if you wanted to listen to them through the live stream on the website itself. So that's Yarrow Dot blog or vested capital podcastcom I've got that domain name as well. Okay, that's it for me. I look forward to talking to you on the very next episode of vested capital. My name is yarrow. Speak to you soon.

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