In celebration of Uptrends 10-year anniversary, we sat down with two of the three Uptrends founders for a conversation to reflect on the past, present, and future of the company. As we began the conversation, we quickly realized that Niels Brinkman (CEO) and Coen Backer (CTO) aren’t your typical C-level executives, and therefore Uptrends is not your typical software company.
When you think of C-Level executives, you think big, competitive, type-A personalities, but with Niels and Coen you get a quiet but confident demeanor. The mutual respect is quite evident, and you can quickly see how this duo was able to take Uptrends from a startup to the fully realized company it is today.
Not just any startup
With nine out of ten startups failing it is a wonder that anyone would try, but Uptrends wasn’t just any startup. Uptrends was not Niels’, and Coen’s first startup. About 12 years ago, the two founders worked together on another startup, OneStat. Niels and Coen had already successfully launched the web analytic tool and developed a strong following when Google released their free analytic tool. Knowing that the free Google tool would limit the growth potential for OneStat, the founders started looking for a new concept.
Coen: “We thought about a new direction for the company. We had been thinking about web monitoring, and it was a natural transition from analytics. Now it has come around full circle again because the RUM (Real User Monitoring) product we are about to release is more or less a kind of analytics tool that uses a script on the user’s browser that collects data. All of that experience we have in web analytics comes back into play in the RUM product.”
Uptrends began as a subsidiary of OneStat, and now OneStat is a subsidiary of Uptrends. April 17th, 2007 the Uptrends product went live on the web.
Coen: “We wanted to offer a competitive solution for web monitoring. There already were a lot of high-end, fairly expensive solutions and a of couple low-end solutions that didn’t really do anything. We wanted to build on our experience with OneStat and position ourselves in the middle, with an affordable solution that really adds value for a broad range of customers.”
Slow and steady wins the race
Startups fail for a variety of reasons; with insufficient capital being the second highest reason for failure (no market need being the first), the Uptrends founders chose to keep their costs down by only adding staff and services as the budget could handle the expense.
Coen: “Of course, you always want to go fast in development, but we are self-financed. We don’t use any investment companies or venture capitalists, and instead, we chose to grow organically.”
As with any new product or service, the early product offering was a modest one with basic availability monitoring only. The monitoring network consisted of five checkpoints in Europe, two in the United States and one in Australia.
Coen: “We didn’t start with Full Page Checks and Transaction Monitoring, back then we only had some basic uptime checks and a small network of checkpoints. We had eight checkpoints, and now it is up to 165.”
As time and resources allowed, over the last ten years Uptrends expanded their offering beyond basic availability monitoring to include other forms of Synthetic Monitoring including Transaction Monitoring, Full Page Checks with waterfall reports, Real Browser Monitoring, Mobile Monitoring, and Internal and External Server Monitoring. Real User Monitoring complements Synthetic Monitoring and allows a brand to measure actual user experience.
As stated earlier, the number one reason for a startup to fail is a lack of need in the market. Web monitoring had its own challenges in regards to market need. After the failure of the dot-com six years before, many businesses saw little value in their websites.
Coen: “The Internet wasn’t evolved as much as now. Many companies only had their brochure on the web, and they didn’t conduct business on the web. In 2007, a lot of customers couldn’t understand why they would need something like a monitoring product.”
Niels: “Back in 2007 we really had to convince prospects how and why to use web monitoring. Because we are not that expensive, a lot of companies said, “Why not, what do I have to lose?” Nowadays, most everyone knows it’s important to monitor your online business, but in 2007 the market wasn’t so mature.”
As the customer base grew, the need to establish satellite offices arose. First came the office in Germany, followed by the US, and then France. Each new office meant new complications.
Niels: “The law, culture, and taxes are all different for each country, and we had to find people, so yeah, it was quite a challenge. Managing the bookkeeping is very difficult. First, we hired someone in San Francisco, and I worked in the evening because of the time difference. That person quit, and we decided to hire someone on the east coast because the time difference isn’t so big, and it isn’t so far away for us to fly. We got some advice from some international law companies, and now we have a good place in Boca Raton, Florida.”
Uptrends already supported both the English and Dutch languages on the website and in the application interface, but having offices in Germany and France meant supporting those languages as well.
Coen: “We always had an international customer base in mind, and not only in the Netherlands. Our product isn’t tied to one country, we always knew that this product was made for an international audience. Supporting other languages is always a challenge though.”
Time sure does fly
Ten years later Uptrends has evolved into a full-spectrum monitoring service with services that rival the big monitoring companies but without the big monitoring companies’ higher prices. The founders have worked hard to stay true to their commitment to quality at affordable prices, organic growth, and keeping all development local. In ten years, the company has grown at a comfortable, sustainable rate to become the competitive product it is today.
In the beginning, Jean-Pascal and Coen did all of the development while Niels managed support, sales, and marketing. Over time, these tasks became departments with the three founders as active leaders. With time, eight checkpoints became 165, one office became four offices in four countries, and a single data center became two.
Coen: “I always felt we could be a part of the performance monitoring community, and as we grow, we get to do more. We came from a small starting point; it’s nice to be able to sell this edition of the product. I still see a lot of potential.”
Niels: “For myself, I wasn’t aware that it was already ten years. Time flies. If you consider where we started, this is a big achievement. We started with zero customers, and now we have more than 20,000 users in 50 countries.”
A future filled with promise
If you or your company always places profits and growth ahead of everything and everyone else, you might have trouble grasping how Uptrends conducts business. Everyone at Uptrends works hard, but the focus is always on building quality over quantity. The quality extends to the work environment and the work/life balance of each employee. Because Uptrends is a privately held company, there is no external pressure to produce more product and more revenue. By creating a hospitable work place, setting obtainable goals, and taking an interest in the roles and lives of every employee, the founders have created an environment that nurtures creativity and dedication. A positive environment naturally supports sustainable growth that benefits employees and customers alike. The founders share a unified vision for the future.
Coen: “A SaaS product is never finished, so we keep polishing our product suite, we have so many new and exciting things planned. We want to to integrate our external and internal monitoring into a single complete suite. We plan to continue to grow organically at about 25 to 35 percent every year. We aren’t interested in aggressive, fast growth. We will continue to grow organically, and we think there’s a lot of potential. Just like before, we can grow into new areas in our business, while expanding and improving our products.”
We are proud of our history. A history that couldn’t have happened without all of you. Thank you for helping make Uptrends the strong company it is today. Please tip a glass to us as we tip one to you. Oh, and have you heard about the t-shirt giveaway? Just add $50 worth of SMS credits or new monitors to your paid account before May 19, 2017, and we will send you an awesome t-shirt. Seriously, you need to get one.