James Governor's Monkchips

Code before Company. Saucelabs, Selenium, Santi: Community Contributions and Hiring in Argentina. Scala, LIFT, @DPP. Dexy, Ana Nelson. On engaging early.

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I met with Jason Huggins of Sauce Labs recently, the creator of Selenium. He is a goldmine of stories and all round awesome, but I particularly liked one particular story he told about how the firm is hiring.

The story is simple, and talks directly to an inescapable trend – the best jobs are the ones you create yourself, just as the best startups are based on code, rather than slide deck business plans.

Sauce Labs is very much an early stage company – currently only 15 people work there. Most are based in Chicago – because Jason is very much a “Chicago Tech Mafia” guy. But one hire stood out.

“We have a bunch of guys in ChicagoSan Francisco and then there’s Santi in Rosario, Argentina… He was the most prolific contributor to our forums, so we hired him when we got money.”

RedMonk is seeing a lot more of this kind of stuff. As I tweeted last week – we’re engaging with startups at earlier and earlier stages: another great example is the company David Pollak is establishing to commercialise Scala and his LIFT framework.

We have been supporters of Dave since he came to RedMonkOne at CommunityOne, and helped Bryan Cantrill work out what some Ruby code was doing during a DTrace demo. Bryan is no slouch – in fact he is one of the best systems engineers on the planet right now- he just didn’t know the language in question. But Dave was a standout.

David also showed his chops when he emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, to help some SAP community hackers (Anne Katherine Petteroe, Dennis Howlett, Richard Hirsch, Vasill Dichev, Darren Hague) build the experimental ESME enterprise messaging platform, which brought microblogging concepts to SAP back ends long before platforms like Chatter and Streamworks were on the cards. Oh yeah- we gave ESME some free advice on licensing too, which led to the decision to go with Apache.

LIFT is to Scala as Rails is to Ruby  – that is, a scaffolding to accelerate Scala application development. Scala is a functional language, or should I say a statically typed object oriented language with closures. Its designed to take advantage of concurrency – and crucially runs on a Java virtual machine (JVM), which is one reason its seeing enthusiastic adoption by Java ninjas. It allows for high scale messaging based apps, and takes advantage of JVM optimisation for performance. And you can take advantage of Java class libraries in building apps.

When David ran his LIFT OFF event in London a couple of months back, he told me that online betting and high end financial services firms in London were some distance ahead of Silicon Valley in Scala adoption and maturity. He also told me he was getting funded and was going to sign up RedMonk as an advisor as soon as he did. He did, and he did. Events and actors (see Akka) and cloud, maybe Derek has a point.

My point, after that long winded digression (or was it the main argument?) is that we engaged with David because he was clueful, he taught us something, and he had solid, productive code to pimp. For some weird reason he thinks RedmonkOne was big deal, but we just wanted to feature language diversity at our first event, which piggybacked on JavaOne (rather less diverse).

Anyway – you will hear a lot more from Pollak, and Huggins. They formed companies to sustain their code, rather than the other way around. They value community more than investors. That’s getting it right.

The latest awesome piece of code I’m hanging out with right now is Dexy. You will be hearing a lot more from my good friend Ana Nelson – if you ever write about code she can help make you awesome. And who knows- she may even end up as a RedMonk client. Maybe in three years or so.


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  1. Good post, although I’ll point out that there seems to be some sort of technical problem – the same blocks of text are included repeatedly.

  2. >Sauce Labs is very much an early stage company – currently only 15 people work there. Most are based in Chicago – because Jason is very much a “Chicago Tech Mafia” guy.

    Jason is the only Sauce Labs guy who is based in Chicago. Other than Jason and Santi, we’re all in San Francisco, in the same building as Reddit, Wired, and Wikia

  3. Matt thanks! the perils of last thing friday posting- i suspect the technical issue was – how you say – user error…

    Joe – thanks for the clarification. Jason pinged me too. Not sure where that came from… given i thought i had direct quotes from him from our conversation in London. but jason is chicago tech mafia… 😉

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