JFrog swampUP: DevOps Culture Is a Powerful Force

The notion that culture is such an important part of DevOps and high-performing IT teams gets plenty of lip service, but not every organization really buys into it. In my years covering the DevOps space, I can count only a handful of companies that truly represent the epitome of “DevOps culture.” One of these companies is JFrog.

Every time I have the chance to interact with “the Frogs” and their community, I am reminded of what a powerful force culture can be in forging success. At the recent swampUP user conference in San Francisco, the JFrog secret sauce was again on display. From the little things, such as designing and decorating the conference themselves, to the bigger things in terms of the theme of the sessions and activities, swampUP was a great and learning time for all. Our Digital Anarchist team was on hand and we did a bunch of videos that you can watch up on DigitalAnarchist.io. The videos are with speakers at the conference, attendees, JFrog employees and partners.

One of my favorite videos from swampUP was the one I have embedded here. It is the three co-founders of JFrog—Yoav Landman, Fred Simon and Shlomi Ben Haim and I discussing business and what makes JFrog’s culture so special. Have a listen and maybe get some insight into making the culture of your own organization better.

Also, if you are in Israel Sept. 24, check out Yalla DevOps, a first-time conference JFrog and others are producing that looks like it will be a great event. The Digital Anarchist team will be there covering with video (even broadcasting live), along with John Willis as a keynote speaker; Jayne Groll, my co-founder at DevOps Institute; and others.

In the meantime, enjoy the video:


Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, it’s Alan Shimel for DevOps.com on Digital Anarchist, and we’re here in San Francisco at JFrog swampUP 2019. It’s been a great conference, and I’m really, really lucky and happy to be joined—I feel like I’m at a Beatles reunion, for some reason. I’ve got Ringo, Paul, John—

Shlomi Ben Haim: Who’s John Lennon? I’m afraid. [Laughter]

Shimel: – done. Anyway, but no, we’re not at a Beatles reunion, but we do have the three JFrog co-founders here with me. I’m gonna let them introduce themselves. We’re gonna go to the far right to Fred. Fred, go ahead.

Fred Simon: Hi, I’m Fred Simon, co-founder and Chief Data Scientist today at JFrog and I’m really happy to be here. Thank you.

Shimel: Thanks, Fred.

Yoav Landman: Yoav Landman, CTO and co-founder of JFrog.

Ben Haim: I’m Shlomi Ben Haim, CEO and co-founder of JFrog.

Shimel: Three co-founders on one panel—there you go. So, guys, first of all, congratulations on another great event.

Simon: Thank you.

Shimel: You know, you know this, but you guys don’t know this—my wife wants to come work with you.

Simon: [Laughter]

Shimel: Because she loves the company and the culture and the buzz that she gets when she’s around the Frogs that, you know, when she grows up, she wants to come work at JFrog.

But all kidding aside, it’s a tremendous—you can’t come to a JFrog event, whether it be swampUP or SwamPower or Meetup or whatever without kinda feeling the love, right? Feeling that culture. And it’s an interesting dynamic. Take it from me—I go to a lot of conferences, I deal with a lot of companies. They don’t all have that. They don’t have that culture.

So, I wanted to talk a little bit about—look, 2009, you started Artifactory, right? What was the idea on the culture, here? How do you instill that culture—not in the community, right now. Let’s talk about the company, because every high performing team ranked culture as important. How do you instill that pride to be a Frog, we’re all in this together, we’re making the world a better place? Who wants to answer?

Simon: You want to start? You started this mess! [Laughter]

Yoav Landman: So, yeah, Artifactory started before JFrog. So, Artifactory was there to solve a real pain, and we were all developers, and it’s our second—except for Shlomi—it’s our second venture.

So, I guess this idea of solving pains, being very connected to the community, to customers, speaking a lot with customers, getting feedback from every engineer and every employee in JFrog that comes and says that they think that something should work differently or that we should develop something that may contribute to more success of our product is something that is instilled into the culture of JFrog.

Shimel: Excellent.

Simon: Yeah, we got lucky that everybody else who is working at JFrog is working for someone like him. So, that’s scratching our own itch. So, at the end of the day, you are a developer at JFrog and you hear about a customer having an issue, you feel it, because this is your job. You’re writing code, you’re a developer, and you know that what you are doing is impacting people. And so, this strong care about the customer and the strong feedback of the culture was here right from the beginning.

And then Shlomi one day decided, “Oh, that’s too big, too full of a culture. I’m gonna try to write it down.” [Laughter]

Shimel: [Laughter] And Shlomi, with all due respect, you like to deflect and you let him talk, but you’re the CEO. At some point, the buck stops here, right? You know, it’s important to you, but how do you build this culture? How do you get this loyalty, this feeling of buy-in from people?

Ben Haim: That’s, you know, I’m listening to the question and I’m  getting excited like it’s my first day at JFrog. I think culture matters. Everybody knows that, everybody said that. But it’s hard to practice. It’s hard to maintain it for 10 years. And this—this goes back 18 years. I think I’m with these guys before I got married, and what you see in JFrog is that when you have the right culture, it’s viral. But it’s not just an internal move, it’s also reflecting outside of the company.

And you spoke about Artifactory and how it started, and when we started, the only thing that we had was the technology that we believed in and ourselves. And it’s very hard to start a company when nobody understands what you do on the technical level, nobody understands what’s the pain. There is no budget line for it. So, the only thing that you can fight with is your team.

Shimel: Right.

Ben Haim: And just yesterday, as we set up this amazing conference here, I saw more than 70 JFrog employees. You know that we do our conferences ourselves.

Shimel: Right.

Ben Haim: No producers, it’s just us. Our team built it for the community. And I saw them here walking, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s building Artifactory or Xray or JFrog Pipelines or JFrog Distribution or swampUP—same culture, same values, comes over and over again as our one very big advantage.

Shimel: Absolutely. But now—so, that in and of itself is fantastic, right? But now, there’s a second key ingredient to the success. How do we take that culture that we built at JFrog and let the community, infect the community with it, right, to use a security term? How do we transform the community with that same—not transform, infuse that community with that same culture, with that same passion?

Because that’s something that always, again, it screams, right? It’s easy to see. And building that kinda community is not easy, because at the end of the day, today’s software world with open source and everything else is community, right? It’s all about—so how, is that something that’s done on purpose? If so, how? What do we do?

Landman: I can try and start.

Shimel: Go ahead, Yoav.

Landman: So, part of being driven by input is also being very direct. And it all comes down to people—at the end of the day, it’s all people. So, the way that we interact with the community, the way that we interact with customers is not very much different than the way we interact internally in JFrog.

So, by bonding with people, by investing in clear and open discussions with no fluff, I think that drives results, at the end of the day.

Shimel: Fred?

Simon: First of all, I don’t think it’s intentional. I mean, it’s just the way we are and the way—and it’s pure and it’s just true, okay? We truly care about the suffering of our customer, and the customer feels it. So, once he feels it and then he’s part of it—and sometimes, it’s a little bit disturbing for the customer, because the customer feels like he’s gonna get more help and better integration with the JFrog community and with JFrog than with his peers inside the company, because of the [Laughter]

Shimel: Yeah, exactly.

Simon: – some cultural clash between the company and JFrog. And so, by, you know, not saying, “Okay, whenever a customer is telling you something, just be compassionate”—we never told our employees, “Please be compassionate about the customer.” This is just, this is who we are, and this is what the—and they see, and the customer feels it, and he sees the effort we put to make sure that… And it’s like here, the communication, also. The effort of communication, the effort of knowledge, knowledge transfer. We are not shy on transferring what we know, what we need, what we did. It’s just—yeah, I think truth and natural truth is a [Cross talk].

Shimel: So, the word that comes to my mind is genuine, right? You can’t fake this. It has to be genuine. And if it’s not genuine, people see through it and it smells, right? So, I think that’s a key ingredient of that, for sure.

And the transfer, too—I mean, I’ve done, I don’t know, maybe 10 interviews, 12 interviews, maybe more today, to a lot of customers. And that knowledge transfer and sharing in this kinda—it’s huge to them.

So, now—so, we’ve got the culture to the community. Now, we’re gonna talk, Yoav, you said Artifactory existed before there was a JFrog, right? It’s 10 years, right? In technology terms, that’s like dog years, it’s 90 years, you know? It’s almost 100 years old already.

Landman: Frog’s years. [Laughter]

Shimel: Frog years. How do you—so, obviously, the Artifactory today is not Artifactory, what it was.

Landman: For sure.

Shimel: JFrog today is not what JFrog was. We mentioned something things—JFrog Pipelines, there was the Shippable acquisition, Xray came out about two years ago now, right? Two, three years ago—Xray. JFrog today—let’s talk about the technology, the tools, the solutions. What are you most—you’re CTO, Yoav. What are you most proud of with that?

Landman: Artifactory was the centerpiece and it still is. It’s the place where you put—we call it the golden bits. It’s what you’re going to, at the end of the day, put in production, right? But the world has changed dramatically since Artifactory was written. It was just a very basic Maven remote proxy. And then other features came about, but the whole DevOps and the whole pipeline automation process that we’re seeing today within companies, it didn’t exist back then to the same level of automation.

So, bringing in security into the pipeline is an integral part, with Shippable, making sure—we can maybe talk about this later—making sure that we can drive the pipeline, adding functionality to give you insights into the pipeline. These are all things that came along and are going to be injected into the pipeline from JFrog, from other companies, but this is the natural evolution. Artifactory is still the base of what you’re going to shift, but all the services around it is what makes JFrog a lot bigger and why it’s very different than what we started.

Shimel: Fred, I wanna come to you in a second, but I have a follow up question for Yoav. So, Yoav, I think another great example is—so, in the last year, you announced you’re gonna start a repository for Go, yeah? And so, that’s an example of, you see what the community is doing. I spoke yesterday to a Microsoft fellow here who’s, like, their advocate for the Go community—so happy to be here because JFrog’s supporting him with that.

Where does that come from? Like, where—the idea of saying, “Hey, we should do something for Go?”

Landman: So, it comes from, I think, two angles. The first is purely technical, just being able to be there first. The other one is, I think, a little bit cultural, just being able to instill innovation into the company, even before the market adoption happens. And it kind of goes together. Both goals, they serve one another. So, we did the same, by the way, with Docker. With Docker, we had support for the Docker beta versions, even before Docker was a thing.

And the same thing we wanted to do with Go, even when the standards were not that stable yet and we had to rewrite our implementation once the standards have stabilized. But yeah, this is the source of this motivation.

Shimel: Fred, I wanna go to Liquid Software with you, right? So, it’s a book, we can probably have someone throw us a copy for a prop, if we can get Brian maybe get us a Liquid Software book over here, it’s right by Netta.

But you’re one of the co-authors, Yoav, Baruch is one. So, that’s another concept, right? This whole concept of liquid software and what it is. Talk to us about that. What do we—where does that come from? How does that fit?

Simon: Yeah, so the—by the way, where it goes to Go and all these kind of communities and things like that? The origin of manipulating software and trying to put software in production into an environment, we always try to manipulate it as boxes. A box where we put a bunch of software and we try to run it. And with the advent of releasing multiple ________ multiple versions and making all those services micro-micro-microservices—basically, the flow of those packages got higher and higher and the size of the packages got smaller and smaller.

And so, instead of thinking about it in terms of ship management and supply chain management of shipping packages, it didn’t make sense any more. It was really, really a big burden on the tagging.

And so, when you want to put a piece of software in production, you have the final run time, which is the software in the hands of your end user, the one that really, really wants to use it. And deploying software is actually easy. You just created a new piece of software, you just run it for the first time, and it’s quite easy, and then you run. What’s hard is to update it, okay? Deploying is easy, updating is hard. And the only way to update it is to get the new version. And if you keep thinking about it in terms of blocks, you’re stuck. You need to think about it in terms of pipes and liquid and this is the liquid software. Is that, as soon as you create a run time that can receive software, you need to think about all the pipes that you need to plug to get the liquid to it and to update it continuously.

And it changed all the way to the developer. This is—it starts from the pressure from the end users from, like you said, your wife, your daughter or whatever that wants to get the latest software all the time without any, and it put the pressure all the way to the developer. And what’s funny in our environment is that it’s hard for a developer to do it correctly, and a lot of times they said, because they are used to it, when they interact with technology, actually, the developers are a lot more, first, reluctant to update software. If you see all the developers and their phones, iOS and Android, they have the most, the oldest version, the one that doesn’t update. [Laughter] And they want to control [Cross talk].

Shimel: It’s the mechanic’s car.

Simon: Yes, exactly. [Laughter]

Shimel: Never drive the mechanic’s car.

Simon: And so, for them, it’s not that complicated to do a complicated update. So, it really comes from the pressure from the market, and life is ________ is a really good, it’s life pushing it and so liquid software is gonna happen whenever it’s gonna happen.

But the change that we need to push is to put the tools and the mechanism and the practices into the hands of the developer. Because it’s not that hard. It’s hard, it’s some work and stuff, but it’s not as impossible as the community of developers think.

So, it’s a book, I highly recommend it.

Shimel: Here’s the book. We’ve got the book, thanks to the folks offstage.

Simon: But it kind of tried to remove this fear from the developer community of writing liquid software. It’s possible.

Ben Haim: And, you know, Alan, I think that the experience of being in a very successful company for over eight years and not being able to explain what is it that we are doing, why it’s more than just managing your binaries, why it’s more than just providing you with a better repository. And when Fred came up with this phrase, liquid software, it was one presentation that everybody in JFrog understood and immediately aligned to it. Because this is actually what we believe in. And when you go and raise your Series D and you say—

Shimel: Which was this year.

Ben Haim: – this last year, last October, seven months ago. And when we said—nine months ago.

Shimel: Yeah. [Laughter]

Ben Haim: When we said, “We are the liquid software company,” we had all kinds of eyebrows moving, and people are asking us more and more about that, because they start to understand that this is beyond just the vision of JFrog. This is where the world is going. We are just one of the enablers of the liquid software world.

Shimel: Absolutely. So, first of all, I still can’t explain to my family what I do for a living, but that’s another story.

Ben Haim: [Laughter] The story of my life.

Shimel: Yeah. But, you know, in some ways, this is also the story of JFrog, because 9 years ago, 10 years ago, Artifactory, I would’ve told you, “Liquid software? What is it? What do you”—stop.

Ben Haim: Yeah. Stop with the drugs.

Shimel: Right. But yet, the kernel of what is liquid software according to you was there in Artifactory 10, 11 years ago. Yeah.

Landman: The essence is.

Shimel: Yeah. and so, it’s—you know, I learned once, what we do in technology is, 99 percent of the time evolutionary, not revolutionary. And so, this is the revolution of it.

So, I’d like to, now, if we can—and Liquid Software is available, you can get it. The book’s on Amazon. I think it’s on—

Simon: Audible. It’s Audible, also.

Shimel: Yep. We had it on DevOps.com on a link, too, at one time. We probably still do, obviously.

But I wanna now turn a little bit, you mentioned D round was a couple dollars, 165,000,000—that’s not even shekels, dollars.

Ben Haim: [Laughter] It sounds better in shekels, by the way.

Shimel: Yeah. It’s like the speed of light. But you know what, when you raised—Yoav and I were talking earlier—you raise that kind of money, with a lot of money comes a lot of responsibility, a lot of expectations. Where does JFrog go from here, right, and how do you chart that course, right? As a CEO, CTO, developer advocate, technology—how do we, where do you, where do you go? How do you know where to go, right? You’ve got tremendous resources now at your disposal, probably more than you might have dreamed you’d have to do.

Where do we go and how do chart that course?

Ben Haim: So, I’ll try to answer that from a high level and then, of course, Fred and Yoav can take it to the technology solution. I think that JFrog has done something really big. And when you see what happened in the world, it’s beyond the developer. It’s beyond the people who are actually using our solution. It’s the destination that was changed. And what people expect to have is a fast and fluid software update. And if JFrog, with 5,000 customers today and growing fast, can be the company that powers this need, then I think we have a very big story.

So, when we raised our money—you know, when you raise such an amount with such an evaluation, you also understand that the dream about M&A and exit is kind of pushed away and the list of acquired got changed to maybe three or four companies.

Shimel: Very small—a handful.

Ben Haim: So, you have to go and ask your wife about it, because this is 10 years, together 30 years of investment that our family was part of this journey. And I asked Donna, my wife, and I said, “Donna, you understand that there will be no exit soon. We have to go all the way—all the way towards it.” And the answer that I got is that, “If this is really what you say it is, if it’s really changing the world, if it’s really about electricity and water and aircraft and cars and everything you do, I’m so excited about it, and I’m not even a technologist, then you guys should go after it.”

So, I think we have made the right choice, and you’re right, there is a lot of responsibility here. It’s a responsibility not just to our VCs, but also to our employees that trust us and follow us, and also to our customers—

Shimel: And the community.

Ben Haim: – that comes and uses it and over and over again, we are growing at 150 new logos per month—new logos per month. These are people that adopt this solution and say, “This is what we are going to do in the next 10 to 20 years. We are making software liquid.”

Landman: So, JFrog for a long time is not just the sum of the founders, it’s much, much bigger than that, and we have wonderful people in the company that leaped forward with JFrog and take the company forward, basically, for us and for the other investors.

One thing that you have to understand is that, today, JFrog is taking the responsibility of serving huge organizations and our end customers are also sharing this responsibility of serving the automation for huge organizations, and the automation patterns that we are seeing, they are not constant. They are changing and they keep evolving over time.

So, this is kind of great, an ever growing challenge for us to develop a new set of tools, a new set of solutions, new pains to cure. To tell you that we exactly know what the next pains are going to be—we don’t. If we would, it would probably be too boring to continue going, like Shlomi said. But this is basically what drives us and keeps us committed to this responsibility.

Simon: Yeah, still a ton of work to do. I mean, the liquid software vision, there’s still a lot, a lot, a lot to do. And like Yoav said, the responsibility that we have as being a critical piece of keeping those pipes, making sure they don’t leak, making sure nobody’s injecting stuff into it. And making it happen and making the water system trusted and the software delivery trusted is a huge amount of work, responsibility, and systems that we have to create on the way, we have to build, and we have to scale to worldwide—really, worldwide impact and environment.

So, you can say that 160 is a lot of money, and when I see the amount of things that need to be done, maybe not. [Laughter]

Shimel: Yeah. Well, there’s always more out there. Guys, we’re way over time, but I wanted to end it with this. I sold my first company in 1997, and I sold it to, well, a guy named Brad Feld who’s a pretty well-known venture capitalist himself. But his mentor was an older Jewish man, Len Fassler—a little older, he was like my grandpa. I couldn’t negotiate against him.

Ben Haim: [Laughter] No, it’s impossible.

Shimel: It was like negotiating with your grandpa. But Len had good—he did several billion dollar companies, rollups and good stuff. And I then worked for him and we did 30 acquisitions in 36 months, and we wound up taking the company public in the dot cot days.

And one of the things he always said to every founding group, whether we bought the company or not, was, “Any time you can build a company that someone’s willing to reach into their pocket to invest in and write you a check, you have a lot to be proud of,” right? To write a check for $165,00,000.00—that’s plenty to be proud of. But even beyond the money, when you look out at swampUP, when you look out at all those Frogs’ faces, you guys have a lot to be proud of, so congratulations.

Ben Haim: Thank you very much.

Shimel: Thanks for joining us.

Ben Haim: Thank you.

Shimel: And continued success. Hey, we’re gonna wrap it here in San Francisco from JFrog swampUP, this is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com and the Digital Anarchist.

Alan Shimel

Alan Shimel

As Founder, CEO & Editor-in-chief of MediaOps, the company behind DevOps.com, Container Journal, Security Boulevard and Digital Anarchist, as well as co-founder of the DevOps Institute, Alan Shimel is attuned to the world of technology, particularly cloud, DevOps, security and open source. With almost 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, Alan has been instrumental in the success of several organizations. Shimel is an often-cited personality in the security and technology community and is a sought-after speaker at industry and government conferences and events. In addition to his writing, his DevOps Chat podcast, DevOps TV and Digital Anarchist audio and videos are widely followed. Alan attributes his success to a combination of a strong business background and a deep knowledge of technology. His legal background, long experience in the field, and New York street smarts combine to form a unique personality. Mr. Shimel is a graduate of St. Johns University with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Politics, and holds a JD degree from NY Law School.

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