07 Mar

What Feature Flagging Management and a 4x Super Bowl Champion have in common

Recently our investors, SoftTechVC, had a panel with professional football players on “unleashing the elite” – how professional athletes need grit, determination, hustle and mental toughness to push themselves and their teams to the next level. The panel with was captivating and amazing. The pros talked about their unrelenting training schedules – the long hours not just working out, but studying game films and memorizing plays. They talked about sacrificing college parties, time with friends, time with their families, as well as injuries. Was the sacrifice worth it? Yes, they said. They were providing a better future for themselves and their families.

RonnieLott

Ronnie Lott visits SoftTechVC

After the panel, a friendly guy named Ronnie introduced himself and asked me about software development trends. I’d graduated from Harvey Mudd College, statistically amongst the worst football teams in the country, and Ronnie had graduated from USC as an All-American. Ronnie said my eyes lit up as we talked about whether software would soon be layers of AI building on AI. I said just as 20 years ago players didn’t have iPads to watch game film on, 20 years from now we’d be amazed at the technologies that software was using.

Then I wondered why football players were at a VC firm. Because they were investors in SoftTech. The money that Ronnie, his son, and the other players had hard-won on the gridiron was going on to fuel the dreams of entrepreneurs to build a better way to build software. I thanked Ronnie for his support of LaunchDarkly, and I hoped to return his trust in us. And in the meantime, as a down payment, he could have a LaunchDarkly t-shirt.
The first LaunchDarkly investors were literally myself and John, my-cofounder, putting our own money in. Then it was our colleagues who believed in us.  Even now that we have institutional investors, behind our institutions are still people, investing because they believe in us. Thanks Ronnie Lott, Malik Jackson, Duane Brown, and all the other investors in LaunchDarkly.

16 Feb

Net Promoter Score + Feature Flags for canary releases

Canary releases are a DevOps best practice of pushing new features to a subset of your customers. By pushing to a subset, this group can provide early feedback, verify functionality, and act as “canaries” to your entire population. Originally, canary had a negative connotation – miners took canaries down into mines, as canaries were more sensitive to bad air. If the canary stopped singing, the miners knew it was time to skedaddle.

Surprisingly, being a canary can actually make your customers even bigger fans! I heard a great use case from a LaunchDarkly customer People.ai,  AI for managing sales teams, who would automatically push new features out to users who had an NPS of over a certain threshold. Net Promoter Score (NPS) rates how strongly would a customer recommend your solution, so initially, this seemed bizarre.  Why risk showing your best advocates functionality that might be unstable, early, or fragile? However, the people who are happiest users (likely to recommend) are actually very excited about being the first to see new functionality. They love feeling plugged-in to new development. And in addition, with LaunchDarkly feature flag management, if a feature isn’t doing well, the team can instantly turn it off, reverting to the old, stable experience.

I love hearing stories about how customers are using LaunchDarkly’s segmentation capabilities to release better software, quicker.

 

10 Feb

LaunchDarkly Values

LaunchDarkly Team
  • Respect and integrity for our team, our customers, and our community.
  • We believe in teams, not fiefdoms. Leaders, not tyrants.
  • We’re building a place where you can learn and grow.
  • Work is not life.

When John & I started LaunchDarkly, we’d known each other for years, since being undergraduates at Harvey Mudd College. Part of why we started the company together is that we shared common values about the company that we wanted to work at. As a founder, you’re not only building a product – you’re building a culture.

As we got bigger, it was time to formalize our values from tribal “this is the way we work” knowledge to something more scalable. We surveyed our current team, and I was thrilled that, what I thought our values should be, the team already thought were in place. We reviewed our values at our last team meeting, and everyone gave an example of the time they’ve seen them practiced.

“Values are valuable when you have a hard decision to make,” is John’s and my view. By making our values public, we hope both our customers and our team can know who we are.

01 Feb

Leading Feature Flag Platform LaunchDarkly announces industry topping NPS

I’m thrilled that LaunchDarkly, the leading feature flag management platform, has a Net Promoter Score of 50! Net Promoter Score is a measure of how much customers are willing to recommend a product. 30 is an average score for a tech vendor, so to be in top tier of tech vendors is wonderful validation for us. But the NPS score is just a scalar. What I really enjoyed hearing was customer appreciation of how LaunchDarkly’s feature flag platform was easy to use, reliable and powerful. We help less risky better releases, allowing business users and developers to collaborate for an overall transformative experience. LaunchDarkly customers are happy that they don’t have to build a feature flagging platform in house. Don’t take my word for it – here’s what our customers have to say:

Transformative

  • “Feature flags are the future, you help reduce the barrier-to-entry.”
  • “It’s amazing – changed the way we release new features.”
  • “It’s cool tech that works well. Encourages good develop and release practices.”
  • “Launch Darkly is a really good service and should be used for good software practices.”

Ease of Use

  • “Very convenient and fast way to roll-out new feature to users.”
  • “Very easy to use. Easy to setup targets. Easy to roll out and rollback if needed.”
  • “It offers more flexibility and ease of toggling new/development features with the rollout and inclusion/exclusion features than our previous solution.”
  • “Much better way to introduce a new or changed functionality, compared to configuration changes”
  • “Easy to use. Great UI”
  • “Really like how configurable things are in LD, esp access controls, etc. Very easy to use”

Reliable and Powerful

  • “It’s an incredibly powerful feature flagging system, the best I have ever come across. So far it the uptime, and performance is perfect.”
  • “Its awesome and is a key component in hitting uptime targets”
  • “so easy to turn on and off functionality . Efficient, performance – wise.”
  • “The service has been really reliable.”
  • “We’ve had a case where a third party failed and was causing our systems to crash. Lucky we had a feature flag that covered that part of the code and was able to turn it off until the problem was resolved.”
  • “Instant availability of changed/created flags. Super easy to create and change flags.”

Less Risky, Better Releases

  • “I like the concept of using feature flags as it allows us to ship new features without having them complete. I’ve already recommended LaunchDarkly to a few of my developer friends. :)”
  • “It has made releasing new features less stressful and made the release of features along with training and marketing materials a snap”
  • “The ease of use through the user interface of the exclusion and inclusion is really helpful for my day-to-day. I can easily set up two different users, environments, etc. to test against a feature on vs. off. It also makes the release process less stressful!”

Buy vs Build

  • “Feature toggling is critical and nobody should be writing code to solve a solved problem.”
  • “Great tool replacing custom flagging mechanism, cost effective.”
  • “It is easy to use, and way better than having to implement your own functionality”
  • “It’s cheaper than developing the capability yourself. Generally if something is not core to your business or something that differentiates you in the marketplace then I think you should try to outsource it to a 3rd party. Feature toggling is an excellent example of that.”
  • “Provides all the functionality plus more that teams internally were building themselves”
  • “It is a better “buy” of feature flags than any of us would reasonably “build”.”

Business Users

  • “It allows us to offload management of which features are exposed to whom to our customer success team, so the engineering organization doesn’t have to make a change in our database or build our own internal launch darkly.”
  • “Saves our devs time and allows me to quickly tailor settings before demos, trainings, etc.”
  • “Has completely changed how we’re able to manage our release process. We now implement flags on each new feature and we can keep deploying as long as the build is green, the product/marketing teams are then responsible for launches once they’re satisfied.”
  • “Controlling features on the dashboard is incredibly easy for engineers to non-tech people”
  • “Was really simple to get the developers to adopt, almost as frictionless to explain the concepts to the product/marketing teams.”

As CEO & founder of LaunchDarkly, I love passing along kudos to our team:

  • “Thanks for making such an awesome product!”
  • “Keep up the good work. Keen to see what you’ve got coming up.”
  • “keep up the good work :)”
  • “Awesome job!”
  • “keep doing what you’re doing’
  • “LD seems like _such_ a small thing, but I think you’ve made a really good product”

As good as 50 NPS is, we still have room to improve, so we’ve set a target for 60. I’ve personally read all your feedback, and we’re looking forward to improving so our customers are even more likely to recommend us. Feel left out? Want to make your voice heard? Look in your email for your own invitation to our NPS survey – I really do read every one.

20 Dec

LaunchDarkly raises $8.7 million for feature flag management: Separating business logic from code

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve raised an $8.7M Series A  with Josh Stein of DFJ leading the investment and joining our board. John (cofounder and LaunchDarkly CTO) and I are thrilled about the next chapter for LaunchDarkly, the leading feature flag management platform.

Our A funding is a marker to reflect on our progress since we announced our seed round in June 2015. Then, we were a team of four with our product in private beta. Now, we serve billions of feature flags (daily) to amazing customers like AppDirect, CircleCI, Lanetix and Upserve. Microsoft recommended LaunchDarkly for feature flagging, and Atlassian showcases how we help them do DevOps right. As a former Product Director at TripIt, I initially thought our target market would be mobile app developers. I was right – mobile app developers do love us for how we can help them iterate faster. However, the market is so much bigger – LaunchDarkly is feature flag management for literally anyone who codes. ANYONE. Whether that team is reducing riskmanaging subscription plans or  microservices – we can help them. Part of our funding will go towards hiring more amazing engineers to continue to build feature flag management. We’re hiring!

We believe firmly that using feature flags allows software teams to build better products, faster. Really what we allow teams to do is separate business logic (who gets what, when, how) from code. There are amazing benefits not just for developers, but for operations, product, marketing and sales, who suddenly can control functionality. As such, we have literally written the book on how to feature flag. [I’ve also written on the wrong way to feature flag] We believe so passionately in the overall movement, that we also open-sourced the book on GitHub. Want to contribute? Open a PR! Excited about helping evangelize feature flags? We’re hiring!

One of the funnest parts of founding a startup is not just building a product, creating a category, and hearing from happy customers – it’s building an amazing team. I am so proud of how much the original eight of us have achieved. But as we continue to grow, it’s clear that we need to have dedicated resources on making sure we’re providing the best customer experience. One of my favorite customer emails read “I can’t believe that the sweet lady who answered the phone and helped me was actually the CEO.”  I’m pleased that Russ Thau, former VP of Sales Intercom, is joining us to build out a team of sales, support and customer success to help our customers get the most out of feature flagging. Interested in joining? We’re hiring!

I hope you see a persistent pattern – we’re looking forward to continuing to build a great product, customer experience and team. A favorite customer email was from Behalf, who said they enjoyed being on the journey with us. Thank you to our customers, team and investors, and I hope you are as excited about our next chapter as John and I are.

05 Dec

Cultural Changes of Feature Flagging vs Branching: Defrag X

I was honored to give a talk at Defrag X on “The cultural changes of feature flags vs feature branching”. Feature flags initially enabled developers to separate deployment from release. Now an entire organization (product, marketing, sales, customer success) can shift from a waterfall way of thinking to a more iterative, customer- centric release. Afterwards, I was thrilled by how many people came up and said they appreciated my talk. 

When I first stDenverDefragarted LaunchDarkly, I met with an Engineering Director, who was excited about feature flags but was still on a six month release cycle. That same Engineering Director was at Defrag. He’s now at a different company with a quicker release cycle and is ready to move forward with feature flags. I’m happy that as release cycles get quicker and quicker, so to does the need for feature flag management.

Thanks to Defrag for ten years of great conferences, with even a bonus snow appearance.