People who know Charity Majors describe her as a force of a nature, a combination of smarts, grit, hard work, attitude, wisecracks, and a genuine knack for fixing broken things.
They also know she’s a secret weapon among the tight-knit community of the Valley’s star engineers, those folks that can command salaries of $US1 million a year between pay and stock, by helping them find the cool new job openings before anyone else hears of them.
Developers all over the tech industry know Majors from her work at Facebook and at Parse before that. Parse is the startup Facebook acquired in 2013 for $US85 million. It helped developers run their mobile apps and supported over 500,000 mobile apps at its peak.
Majors was running the massive infrastructure for that, managing dozens of people at Facebook. Before that, she cut her teeth at Linden Lab, the company that built Second Life, one of the first virtual reality worlds.
Majors is so in-the-know that when top engineers decide to look for work, they often call her first to find out who’s hiring. She even keeps a spreadsheet of where her friends are working, she told us.
“I like connecting people,” she laughs. “I’m like a repository of jobs and candidates. I would be a great recruiter, but it’s just a fun thing for me.”
And that’s how she wound up in 2016 as the CEO of her own startup called Honeycomb.io, with her cofounder, Christine Yen, also from Parse.
In 2016, Facebook announced it was shutting down Parse. It wanted developers focused on Facebook’s mobile apps, like Messenger, not on half a billion other apps. With Parse gone, Yen called Majors looking for the skinny on jobs. Instead, Majors told her about her idea for a startup. Majors wanted to build a tool that fixes problems with live apps running in the cloud, inspired by an important tool used internally at Facebook called Scuba. Yen loved the idea.
Funding wasn’t a problem. As two well-known Facebook engineers, VCs “were throwing money at us,” Major said. Investors started calling them “as soon as word got around that we might be possibly doing something,” she said. They fairly quickly landed $US4 million in seed money. “It was really easy. We didn’t have a single line of code written. We had five slides.”
It also helped that the former CEO of Parse, Ilya Sukha, invested as an angel, as did Instagram’s cofounder and CTO, Mike Kriegeran.
Her startup is only 1.5 years old, but it’s already making waves in the programming world and generating revenue, Major said. If Honeycomb succeeds, it could help spur a brand new market some are calling “real-time observability,” much the same way that a startup called Docker helped spur a new industry for developers called “containers.” Containers are now expected to become a $US2.7 billion market by 2020.
Beyond fixing broken infrastructure, helping her fellow engineers seems to have become her calling.
“I get so sad whenever I hear about people talk about leaving tech, getting burned out and wanting to teach or rest,” she said. “We are so lucky. We get paid so much money and have prestige and power and we are in a special moment in history that’s not going to last forever. But right now, we can change things.”