Photo: YouTube/Michael Coté
Enterprise startup Puppet Labs is growing so fast, we named it one of 25 enterprise startups to bet your career on.And the story of its founder, Luke Kanies, is downright amazing.
For starters, Kanies spent his early childhood “on a hippie commune that had 1,600 people on it,” in rural Tennessee, he laughs. “Now I’m running this multimillion-dollar company and I didn’t have a toilet until I was 8 years old.”
That compound, known as The Farm, is still there today, home to some 250 people.
Those roots gave him the scrappy attitude that let him build a successful software company against all odds.
After college, he had been working as a systems administrator—a sysadmin, as they’re known—but didn’t want to fix computers forever. He took a job as a product developer for BladeLogic, a software company now owned by BMC, but hated it and quit after six months.
He was broke.
“I didn’t have a network, I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know any software executives or anyone in the industry that could connect me,” he remembers.
So he did the only logical thing and started a company.
He wrote the open-source Puppet software himself, which is used by sysadmins to automates tasks in the data centre.
From 2005 to 2008, he pounded the pavement. In 2008, he logged 90,000 air miles in six months while his wife was pregnant with twins at home.
“I was actually on a plane when my kids were born,” he says.
By 2009, Puppet Labs was at last profitable, making “a couple hundred thousand” dollars in revenue, Kanies said.
And that’s when the venture capitalists started calling.
Today, his investors and his network are impressive. Backers include True Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, and Cisco. Last month, he hit the jackpot when VMware ponied up $30 million and struck a partnership.
Today Puppet is wildly popular, with 3.5 million downloads in the last 12 months alone. More than 200 coders voluntarily contribute to the open-source project, he says.
It’s a happy ending, but Kanies never forgets the struggle.
“I look back and think, ‘What was I thinking?'”