In many ways, it was a match made in heaven. Mitchell Hashimoto taught himself programming at age 12; Armon Dadgar started college when he was 16. You get the picture.
The two met in the University of Washington's computer science department in 2008. Dadgar says he knew immediately that his future HashiCorp co-founder had a genuine interest in computer science. Many of their fellow students, says Dadgar, set their sights on careers with Seattle's Microsoft and Amazon, and saw programming as a means to a relatively lucrative end. Only a handful were truly passionate about the field. "Mitchell was one of those people," says Dadgar. "It was exciting for me to meet a peer who was like this."
In 2010, while the two were still in college, Dadgar emailed Hashimoto. "Hey Mitchell, I was wondering if you would be interested in launching a startup?" he wrote. Hashimoto's reply: "Armon, ah, you don't know how long I've been waiting for an email like this. If I were to enumerate my goals entering college, the top of my list would've had 'find co-founder(s) for potential start-up.' "
But the duo's venture wouldn't materialize until three years later, after Hashimoto had convinced Dadgar to accept a position at mobile advertiser Kiip. Hashimoto had started at Kiip in the fall of 2010, where he continued work he began in college on Vagrant, a tool that creates virtual environments for the development and testing of software. He left Kiip to found HashiCorp in late 2012 and Dadgar joined him as a co-founder in the summer of 2013.
Today, their data-center management company, which has seen a 300 percent increase in revenue over the past year, employs 35 people. HashiCorp's DevOps software serves as the interface between infrastructure development and product development. Hashimoto and Dadgar use the metaphor of the power grid infrastructure to explain their tools. Think of an app as a toaster, and HashiCorp's services as the transmission lines that carry power to the toaster--except, instead of connecting electronics to electricity, HashiCorp helps the internet of things stay connected to the cloud servers that keep products and services running.
CTO Dadgar describes CEO Hashimoto as someone who can disappear into a void for weeks and then come out with a solution to a complicated problem, which he can express in two clean sentences written neatly in his notebook.
Vagrant continues to be widely used by programmers. A plugin for Vagrant was the first offering from HashiCorp, and Dadgar says it helped the company draw customers when it launched.
Dadgar, who describes his strength as the willingness to take risks that move the company forward, insisted on raising capital to finance growth and hire more staff. So HashiCorp raised a Series A round of $10.2 million from VC firms True Ventures, GGV, and Mayfield at the end of 2014, bringing total funding to $10.7 million. That allowed the company to launch additional open-source tools, including a system called Atlas that unites its tools in a centralized dashboard.
HashiCorp's tools are designed to work "on an immense scale," and users include Dropbox, Stripe, Square, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, according to Dadgar. HashiCorp builds for big companies and then scales features down to fit smaller clients. "We sort of over-engineer as a cultural practice," says Hashimoto.
Companies looking for data-center management solutions tend to have two options: all or nothing, says Mark Barnhill, development automation manager for the live-streaming video platform Twitch, and a HashiCorp customer. Either they can opt to buy into a wholesale package, or their own engineers can work through data-center management piece by piece. With HashiCorp, it can be all, nothing, or a general solution with the option of customizing or dropping features. "It's a fairly small company and it's really impressive how much they've been able to produce in a short period of time and with not a lot of people," says Barnhill. "I think it really speaks a lot to the leadership and the talent they have within the company."