A trip down memory lane
10 years ago, Praqma started, not in a garage, but in a posh apartment in the Copenhagen city center. Soon it became apparent that the dot-com bubble had already burst and it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
I (Lars) have been searching through some of the memorabilia and digital traces since the first steps, so buckle up, and I’ll take you on a trip down memory lane.
I was working as a self-employed consultant, I had an old friend, Michael, with whom I had a standing agreement, that some day we were going to join forces and start something together. We had made a few previous failed, half-hearted attempts, but one day he got back to me a said “It’s now, I’m ready”. It turned out that in the meantime, he had gone fishing (or canoeing - I think it was) with one of his current customers, Leif. And he was also ready to start up, so we would be three to begin with.
“The more the merrier” let’s get started. And that was really all it took. The company was officially established on November 1st 2007 and we started out in grand style in nice 180 square meter apartment at Israels Plads in the heart of Copenhagen.
The only customers we had was the ones I could bring in from my life as self-employed - but times were good, and we would soon be flying high.
We hired a (extra) ClearCase expert - a lot of our work back then was really about ClearCase. But surely we had seen the writing on the wall. Looking back in my mailbox I can see, that 9 years ago, is the time when I find the first mention of the word “Git” in my mail conversations and it’s also the year where I signed up to GitHub. We knew, that ClearCase wasn’t going to survive into the future, and when we onboarded two interns, we sent them off in the direction of implementing intelligent branching strategies in Subversion.
This was also the year where we managed to pre-invoice one of our customers more than 250K DKK worth of undelivered work - which is a major contributing reason why we’re still here today. The financial crisis was a reality, and the credit line we had in the bank, was not sustaining the cashflow of a startup.
Was the year when we moved our website from google sites to a self-hosted Joomla instance.
We had hired a junior Ops profile, we believed that the future of infrastructure was to be found in the realm of virtual machines, so we bought for DKK 35K worth of server equipment and installed it right there in the apartment. We spun op the whole thing on KVM - and spent 6 fruitless weeks trying to make the environment production ready, until we shut it all down and returned all the expensive machinery and got 60% of our initial investment return. We considered ourselves lucky - boy, did we burn our fingers. The technology wasn’t really mature - we told ourselves - but to be honest, we’re weren’t exactly ripe ourselves.
This was also the year where Michael, one of the three founding partners left us again. Leif and I bought back his shares 1:1 - the financial crisis was still upon us - so the story goes.
We moved to our office in Allerød. This was truly the year of the mountainbike. And there were a lot of forest in Allerød to ride. We didn’t have that much work to do actually (we blamed it on the financial crisis - not us).
We had our first paying gig on a Distributed Version Control System; Bazaar. This was the DVCS that came out of Cannonical, then masterminds behind Ubuntu - we were sure we had picked the winner in the Bzr/Hg/Git fight that was inevitable.
Is when I find the first mention of the words “Continuous Delivery” in my mail correspondence.
It’s also the year where I personally started a side-gig and began importing MTB gear from China; high-end MacMahone mountainbikes and LED headlamps for night-rides in the deep woods surrounding Allerød. It was our Blair-witch-project-on-wheels.
It’s the year where we released our first commercial Jenkins Plugin (which was even Hudson compliant!) the Matrix Reloaded Plugin - a nifty little thing, that would allow you to rerun a selected range of jobs in a matrix build - really useful if your matrix was a 10 by 40 matrix that would run for days, and which suffered for false negatives like network fall-outs or lack of licenses for costly analyzers at run-time.
It’s also the year where we kinda saw that Bazaar wasn’t gonna win the DVCS race and we finally nailed the winner as Mercurial - and we started using Mercurial internally.
…Is when I made my first tweet - on Twitter.
It’s also the year where we went to the Jenkins CI Conference in Paris and presented the ClearCase UCM plugin. It was so smart that it could automatically integrate branches into the
main branch based on simple naming conventions. The presentation caused quite some buzz in the Jenkins community mostly because it got some attention from Kohsuke, the Benevolent dictator of Jenkins; who tweeted: “That branchy approach in ClearCase is pretty interesting”.
So it became the year where you could read (maybe for the last time in history) the words “ClearCase” and “Interesting” in the same sentence.
This was also the year where we hired our first employee in marketing - a graphical designer and where we kicked off our first success out of many in terms of events. We hosted the first Jenkins CI User Event, topped up with a partnership and a blue stamp from Cloudbees. We had a sold-out Jenkins Event (90 seats) in Copenhagen.
On the evening of the event, after everyone had left - except Leif and myself, who were still tidying up the venue - we looked at each other and agreed “This was FUN - let’s do more of this”. It was the birth of our inbound, community building, branding strategy.
Maybe even the evening, where the financial crisis finally ended - even for us.
Is when Adam our first employee in sales took his first ride on a Praqma-owned mountainbike.
It’s when we launched our “Continuous Delivery for the Industry” tour, first in the dark inhabited areas of Jutland and later in the center of Copenhagen. We were definitely developing an edge to our company - it’s about Continuous Delivery and it’s about industrial companies.
These meetups were the foundation of JOSRA - the Joint Open Source Roadmap Alliance, which later became the Continuous Delivery Alliance.
It’s also the year where I find the first mention of the word “DevOps” in my mail correspondence.
And the year where we put the first private repository on GitHub - turned out that Git was the DVCS winner. At least we are the ones, who have the sufficient ballast, to say that with a convincing amount of ethos - we literally tried them all!
Is when we reached out to Mike, and brought him in as the 3rd partner. We had more customers in Oslo and Norway than we could serve, and we were looking to expand. I had reached out to a person at one of our Norwegian leads. I guessed from his mail address - which contained a ext- prefix to his initials, that he was a consultant. I tried to onboard him. He was happy where he were though, but sent me off to another pair of potentials that he knew, which might be interested. They too were happy and content in their current situation, but they sent me off to another bloke, a Scott-Australian who recently returned with his family from China and who started up by himself - also babbling about “DevOps” and “Continuous-this-and-that”.
Here’s a glimpse of the mail dialog:
From: Lars To: Mike We're a company based in Denmark. We have specialized in helping other software development team in adopting the principles of Continuous Delivery and DevOps. We're ten people, and it's all we do. We're currently looking to expand our business, we have more work coming in that we can overcome with our current staff and we want to recruit more people - either as employees or potentially as office mangers/partners in new offices. We're considering opening offices in Oslo Let me know what you think?
The day after Mike replied:
From: Mike To: Lars Hi Lars, Thanks for getting in touch. It looks like I meet the exact needs you have.
That was it then. This was also the first year of the “Continuous Delivery Conference” which essentially was the new and upgraded Jenkins CI User Event. We invited Mike to come and join, and meet us, and it was a wrap - Mike was onboarded - and Praqma Norway was a reality.
It was the same year that we started up in Aarhus, with another of our old-time friends, Jan.
The years to come we would actually grow at the speed of a startup - 7 years after we started.
It was also the year where I went to the last Rational Conference ever in Florida together with one of our clients, Flemming, and together we presented what was basically a recap of the Jenkins presentation from Paris, spiced up with real-life experiences. We got the last track, on the last day. The audience was like 20 (very dedicated) people.
I think it’s a fair statement to make, that Flemming and I did the last ClearCase presentation in the world! - 13 years after I had my debut at presenting “Branching Strategies in ClearCase” at the Rational User Conference in Denver - for a room packed with 200+ ClearCase admins.
We opened our office in Stockholm and we hired our first employee in communication.
The “Continuous Delivery Conference” became a three-capitals-tour with touch-down in both Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo.
Praqma opened a small satellite office in Copenhagen, co-located with Trifork, and praqma.com went live on Jekyll and GitHub Pages.
We still had customers who needed our help on ClearCase, but no one to deal with it, so this also became the year, where we would hire sub-contractors to deal with our customer’s ClearCase maintenance.
We turned the Copenhagen satellite office into the main office, when we moved to Amager (and the Allerød office then became the satellite). It’s the year of the first Continuous Delivery Academy, a free 5-day intense training for computer science students.
It’s the year where we introduced the “Mr. Wolf” metaphor as part of our story telling - a reference to “The Bonnie Situation” in the movie Pulp Fiction, and also the year where we, six month later, stopped using it again. Due to the possibility that it might offense someone, we wiped out every references to it on our website - like Vincent and Jules cleaned the backseat of that `74 Chevy Nova.
This year we conducted a series of “cultural interviews” - a one-hour interview with each and every employee on the topic of who are we?.
It was also the year where I started seeing a coach.
We have opened offices in Odense, Gothenburg and Malmö and we have moved our Copenhagen office for the third time.
It looks like we actually have more ClearCase work coming in - and definitely more Atlassian work.
We have grown big - at least in our own conception - and we have recently reorganized our management, to accommodate the challenges of running a big company.
The future for Praqma is definitely looking bright.
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