Mapping Dublin’s tech ecosystem, one human at a time.
I am the co-founder of Hosted Graphite. The name is probably unsexy and difficult to build a brand around, but it perfectly describes what we do to our target audience! Our monitoring product helps developers measure what their tech is doing and how it’s performing and what their users are experiencing when using their application. Nowadays every business has some technology to monitor and improve; everyone needs monitoring.
In my spare time I create art in my workshop and have done a few pieces for Burning Man.
Before founding Hosted Graphite, I was a software engineer for Demonware. I was the customer for such a monitoring system, but we didn’t have the human resources or hardware to do it properly. It was hard to follow what effect even a small feature would have on the performance of the game.
I figured if we were having this problem then a lot of other companies must be having it too. I shared my frustration with Dave Concannon, a friend who would become my co-founder.
I had met Dave back in DCU through the networking society Redbrick, which brings together all of the university’s computer clubs. We developed a friendship over many years. We talked over IRC in pure text, and had none of the fancy modern emojis. We had to become good at reading each other’s emotions with little context. That would become extremely important when we started Hosted Graphite as he had moved to US.
We learned how to vet good and bad ideas and how to evaluate the state of the industry. Every month or so, one of us would come up with an idea for a business and would mention it to the other. We learned how to communicate with each other about the value of ideas, without irritating the other person. We learned how to kill ideas when necessary, and to do it quickly, ruthlessly, and with data.
The monitoring tool was the one idea we couldn’t kill. After venting my frustrations to Dave, we came up with an idea for a monitoring product. Usually, we would find the flaws within half an hour, but three weeks later we still hadn’t killed it. We couldn’t find a reason why it was a bad idea. The only risk we found was to the savings we would spend getting the business off the ground and testing it, so from this privileged position (which we fully recognise) it was an easy decision to give it a go.
In 2011 we both quit our jobs and began to build our idea.
We spent the first nine months building the wrong thing. We killed that product and started over. Hosted Graphite was the result.
Did we realise the extent of the problem we were solving at the time? Certainly not. We were scratching our itch. I don’t think there was a great foresight in this; it was mostly just luck.
Keeping all the spinning plates in the air has been the hardest challenge. I had no idea how to hire or fire anybody before any of this. I didn’t know how to find an office or ask for legal advice. It took a long time to become comfortable doing an 80% job of most tasks, then letting go because of all the other tasks that desperately needed my attention.
There are 16 of us now and we expect to be 20 in a few months.
I’ve had lots of advice from the former Techpreneurs Dublin group, which Sean Blanchfield ran. It provided excellent contacts and helped us hire people, find office space, and do other business operations that we nerds had no idea about. Having a group like that on my doorstep was a big deal. Sean hosted us in his office back when we were small. This culture of help and giving in Dublin has made a big difference in our story. Now we are paying forward the favour by providing desk space to smaller startups in our office in the city.
One thing I have relied on the people around me for is making our job ads as inclusive as possible. I have tried to make sure we’re a sensitive workplace and a nice place to be. That is reflected in how we approach hiring. Our job ads always state that we look for nice people. We can teach tech skills but we can’t teach how to be courteous and be easy to work with. If you’re not a caring individual when you come to us, we’re not going to be able to teach you that.
The cost of living was a big factor in the early days because I was eating my savings and Dublin helped keep the burn rate low. Even back then it had a significant startup buzz which is much bigger now. It’s helpful to see the city’s startup ecosystem growing up around you – it helps keep you focused and connected to more than what’s going on in your own little company.
We love being in the centre of Dublin, we’re never short of options for lunch and coffee. I can’t see us moving far.