Semmle, originally an Oxford-based startup, has set up their Copenhagen branch on the second floor with four team members. The company, which provides software engineering analytics, landed their first major paying customers in 2013 and now they help companies like Dell and Bank of America. With what exactly? Well, imagine that your business depends on many pieces of software created by teams of developers. Some of those are employed by you, some are consultants, some are based in offshore locations. Semmle analyses all of their contributions and provides insight on developer productivity. This includes pointing out the weak spots (look, here’s some bad stuff that can make things blow up in production) and identifying the true heroes in your teams, allowing developers to improve their contributions and managers and executives to make informed decisions based on facts rather than gut feeling.
We sat down with Semmle’s Account Executive Christian Øhrgaard (previously part of Pandora’s growth team) and presented him with a bunch of stereotypes from the startup scene. His task: Determine whether they ring true or false based on his experience.
Stereotype 1: Failure is good.
“We try out new things all the time, fail frequently, and then we try something else. I have a commercial role, so it is difficult to celebrate the failures that cost you money. But being in a growth-stage company is about taking risk. Sometimes taking risks results in failure, but success rarely comes without doing it.”
Stereotype 2: You cannot avoid bootstrapping at some point.
“Luckily it did not happen yet, as I joined when Semmle was a viable startup. Most of my entrepreneur friends had a day job on the side in the beginning, so they avoided a live-on-water-and-bread-situation.”
Stereotype 3: Get a foreign VC onboard and you made it.
“We took in an $8 million series A investment from Accel Partners in 2014 and for us it has been a vehicle for expansion. It made the Copenhagen office possible, but as important it connected us to Accel’s network. Through them we have been introduced to potential customers and entrepreneurs that recently tackled challenges, we are facing. While the A round was an enabler for the company, we would like to avoid a B round. ”
Stereotype 4: Working in a startup is “hit the ground running” every day.
“Feels pretty true. I have definitely been doing a lot of stuff that was not part of my intended role. The loose structure appeals to our customers. One of them, a COO in a large fintech company, said to me: “The minute a tech company starts hiring marketing people, you know they started putting too many layers on”. The majority of our 50+ global team is still on the technical side.”
Stereotype 5: If your platform did not go down, it was not a real launch.
“Our product is license-based enterprise software and our customers use it on their own infrastructure, so luckily we haven’t experienced that. However, this summer we’re launching something really exciting in the cloud focused on a wider audience than our traditional enterprise customers and the demand might be so dense that our elastic cloud server can’t take it. I almost hope so.”