Chef, a startup based in Seattle that offers “IT automation for speed and awesomeness,” has fewer than 200 employees, but is used by some of the biggest companies out there.
Chef changed its name from Opscode in December 2013, five years after launching in 2008, and it offers tools to automate how companies configure, deploy, and scale their servers and applications.
Chef CEO Barry Crist told Business Insider that about 70% of its company’s sales come from Fortune 1000 companies. Right now, Chef uses its automation tools to work with GE, Facebook, Target, Yahoo, Cheezburger, and more. Riot Games, which makes League Of Legends, uses Chef to power the games of its more than 27 million players per day.
Crist says that an increasing number of companies are realising that they need to deliver their goods and services digitally to survive (for example, another big Chef client, Nordstrom, had to build a web experience that matched the one it had in stores). The people using those services expect excellent, speedy experience, and, to scale, companies need to use automation systems that they don’t have the expertise to build in-house. So, they come to Chef.
Chef’s namesake tool is open source, and Crist says that many engineers have been a huge part of what the company has built. Companies that don’t want to use the open-source version of Chef can pay to use the Enterprise version. The company’s tools are designed to work with both physical and virtual serves, which means that even “hybrid” businesses can take advantage of its tools.
When we asked him about the challenges the company was facing moving forward, Crist said that the biggest hurdle would be continuing to grow and scale. When we spoke, Chef had 150 employees, but was trying to grow that number to 200 as soon as possible.
“We won’t starve to death,” Crist says. “We need to worry about drowning.”