Nand Kishor Contributor

Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc... ...

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Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc...

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CEO Coder Lew Cirne Created New Relic To Measure Software Code Performance

By Nand Kishor |Email | Jun 16, 2017 | 8952 Views

A Series of Forbes Insights Profiles of Thought Leaders Changing the Business Landscape:  Lew Cirne, Founder and CEO, New Relic.

Lew Cirne is a CEO who writes code, not unlike the Capo di Tutti of CEO coders, Bill Gates. And while the publicly-traded company he helped found, New Relic, would have to undergo a quantum leap in growth and success to approach Microsoft, it succeeds in a category that any software coder would appreciate - software performance management.

"Ever since 1982 I've been in love with building software as a developer, and became a professional developer at Apple in '92. And one of the things I learned early in my career was that, if you're building commercial software or production software, it's vitally important to monitor it or see inside it in order to have confidence that it'll work," says Cirne.  That's what New Relic does today - provide transparency and visibility into what's going on inside Web sites and Web and mobile applications It's super easy for our customers to know exactly how their software is behaving so they can deliver a great customer experience."

Cirne first sought to tackle the challenge of automating the process of measuring the viability and integrity of software code back in '98 when he helped found Wily Technology. "It was in the very early days of Web 1.0, and this technology called Java was used to build most of the Web sites in the world, and Web applications in the world. And Wily created a category called  'application performance management'."

Wily was acquired in '06 by CA for $375 million, which by most standards was a successful exit. But soon after that acquisition and integration was completed, Cirne was not done. He felt he still had something more to give based on his learning's from building Wily.

"It was 2007 or '08. The cloud was just getting started, mobile was just getting started, and I saw this opportunity to take the kernel of the idea of measuring software when customers are using it, and bring it to the future in a cloud first-world, in a mobile first-world, in a digital world," says Cirne.

Cirne believes that every business is becoming a software business, and that a company's digital experience is the essence of a business' brand.  If that's true, then Cirne also believes every company needs a dashboard for their digital projects. "And that's what we do for our customers."

By way of example, Cirne points to one of his recent customers Domino's, who recognized early on that to make a huge difference in their market that their customers found it far better to accurately and quickly order their pizza over the phone than to have a long conversation over the phone with a human being who may or may not get the customer's order correct.  Domino's built an application to make it a quick and easy two tap experience from the phone, which according to Cirne helped drive the growth of their business.  "And it's not by coincidence that Domino's is one of our customers and we're the dashboard to measure how healthy is that application, not only inside the phone, but you can imagine on Super Bowl Sunday, if everybody is ordering their pizza at once, you better have the capability to handle all that load on the servers," says Cirne.

Cirne explains how it works. "We built this technology we call "agents" that our customers will bundle inside their software. So, when you download the Domino's app, the New Relic agent measures how good the customer experience is, and then reports back to New Relic on how fast it is. We don't record any sensitive personal information, we're just reporting on how fast and whether there as an error in that experience. We do that not only inside the mobile app, we also do it on the code running on the server, and in the cloud."

Where did the name come from? "That's an interesting one because early on when I was starting the company I just had a placeholder name, but I needed something to incorporate under. I tried my initials; LKC. They were taken. I didn't want to name the company after myself, so - but you can find these anagram builders online. So I went online to an anagram builder and typed in Lewis Cirne and a bunch of things came out, including Lice Wren. Not a good name, but New Relic kind of caught my eye. Yeah, it's an oxymoron, but it's also an anagram of my name. So it seems to work," says Cirne.

Today, the San Francisco-based company has over 15,000 customers, including many big household names like AirBnB, Domino's, GE, Morningstar, MLB Advanced Media, REI, and Under Armour.  The company just finished its fiscal '17 year and recently announced on an earnings call that the business grew 45 percent, year on year, while making 15 percent operating margin improvement. "So, we're growing really fast but we're also improving the profitability of the business. We forecast a breakeven business by the end of this fiscal year. It's still a high growth company, but not growth at all costs," says Cirne.

Cirne grew up in a little town an hour east of Toronto, called Port Hope, Ontario. His working-class parents moved there from Manchester, England in 1966.  An only child, Cirne became the first person in his extended family to attend college. "I was fortunate enough to get financial aid and go to Dartmouth College, which I was attracted to for a lot of reasons, but partially because I was from a small town and I wasn't ready to be in a big city for college, or a big environment, and I loved the intimacy of Dartmouth," says Cirne.

Cirne points  to Dartmouth as pivotal to his life's trajectory.  The school had a very strong computer science background, but also placed an emphasis on breadth of education. "So it's not just that you're a computer scientist; you're also someone who thinks about philosophy. I was a classical studies major for a brief time. I didn't finish he classical studies major, but the point is, I had a broad set of interests and that was encouraged in my environment."  Dartmouth was also one of the first schools at the time to standardize on Apple Macs in '89.

Not surprisingly, Apple was recruiting heavily out of Dartmouth at the time and Cirne found himself at Apple as a software developer. "I couldn't believe I was getting paid, and paid well, to write code. I thought, 'This is a dream come true. Don't tell them, but I'd do this for free (laughs)."

While thrilled to be at Apple, Cirne was oblivious to the reality that the company itself was struggling at the time. "It was in between Steve Jobs' tenures and after a couple of years there were questions as to whether or not we'd remain independent and all that. But I was just so blissfully happy to be getting paid to write code in sunny California, it was - I just saw nothing but positives out of the experience and I learned a lot.  He decided to leave Apple and worked for a few years at a small enterprise software company called Hummingbird, based in Toronto closer to home.

"It was about $100 million revenue company, which was small enough to give me the opportunity to learn what the marketing people think about, what the sales people think about. Also, it was an enterprise software company and recognizing that that's entirely different from a consumer technology company," says Cirne.

While there he was charged to research this new technology called "Java" and explore whether there was anything to it. "I started as a skeptic and within like two weeks I fell in love with it, said, 'This is the future.' So I was obsessed on Java. During my journey in exploring Java, it suddenly hit me; 'What if I could make everything Java work better?' And the first ideas and innovations came out of me thinking about that, and I suddenly had this ah-ha moment, and I was literally driving through the Santa Cruz Mountains on this windy, twisty road. The idea hit me. I almost drove off the road I was so excited."

He had an idea to start a company, but no money or any idea about how to seek investments in a new idea. So he bootstrapped his first company pooling $5,000 each from seven friends. "Within a couple of days I had $35,000 and I thought, 'That's an infinite amount of capital. I can live forever on that.'"  That became the seed capital for Wily Technology.

The CA acquisition was a great outcome for all the stakeholders. "It was life-changing for me and my family. The day the check cleared my dad turned 65, and they put their entire retirement savings into my education. So it was an opportunity for me to pay them back and was a wonderful way to close that chapter with Wily."

But the Wily success wasn't easy or followed a straight path to growth. Cirne stepped away from the company for a year and brought in an outside CEO, Dick Williams, who had a successful career in scaling businesses. "I learned how he ran the business, but I also came to recognize that how Dick ran Wily was the right way for Dick to run Wily and it wasn't the right way for me to run my company. I think the best leaders are comfortable in knowing how they can be effective leading their organizations. And I'm a student of that. I'm always trying to learn that."

Cirne no longer is personally responsible for writing his company's code, but he does set aside about four weeks a year to go away undisturbed and write code, as a way to think, and sometimes comes back with a prototype that turns into a feature or a product. He sees his coding background as more of a management tool and source of thinking about the company's future.

"I love building software and I love building companies, and I want our software to be great and I want our company to be great, and what that means to me is obviously we want our customers to be successful and to love the work we do and value the work we do." Continue Reading>>

Source: Forbes