Sumo Logic has come a long way, becoming a public company with its IPO of 14.8 million shares at $22 per share. In this TechStrong TV interview Christian Beedgen, CTO and co-founder at Sumo Logic, joins Alan Shimel to discuss all the hard work that lead to this major accomplishment.
Alan Shimel: Okay. Big special event today here on TechStrong TV DevOps.com. I’m Alan Shimel. Thanks for joining us. Our guest is Christian Beedgen. Christian, for those who don’t know, is the CTO/co-founder of Sumo Logic and it’s certainly a big day for Sumo Logic and all of their people and customers as well as the DevOps world. Hey, Christian. First of all, congratulations.
Christian Beedgen: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me, sir.
Shimel: Thank you. So Christian, you know, today is a – no matter how you slice and dice it, this is a major milestone, a major day for the Sumo team. Of course, everyone, you know, they see an IPO and they say, “Oh, another one of these dot com tech startups,” but what they don’t – you know, they don’t realize the blood, sweat and tears that gets us – that gets one to today. Why don’t we start off by – give us – you’re a cofounder – give us the history of Sumo.
Beedgen: Yeah. So look, we started in 2010. Our hypothesis was that – your machine data analytics in the widest sense was sort of right for disruption and sort of a thing that we felt we could bring to the table was this insight that this type of product had to be taken away from sort of the classic enterprise software delivery model where a bunch of developers write code and then throw it over the wall and customers are sort of stuck with installing and running it and basically turn it into software-as-a-service. So Sumo Logic is a machine data analytics software-as-a-service offering. We got there from our own experience, like doing security analytics and security information and event management at ArcSight
I ended up being an early employee there – so was my cofounder – and we kind of went through growing up with that company and did basically SIEM for nine years. It became very successful itself, and towards the end it became clear that we ended up just spending way too much time talking to our customers back then about how to kind of – you know, how to sort of take care of the system rather than actually using it, right? And then so the system servers were supposed to be there to monitor for various things. Same with Splunk at the time, right? You know, monitor the uptime reliability and security and becoming these giant systems that somehow needed to be maintained, and then you could actually – you had a hard time monitoring themselves, right?
And so I think we turned all our security people into vendor storage admins and all that, but like that was just not cool, right? We felt that by turning it into software-as-a-service that was going to be a much better story because we don’t just end up building the product; we’re also running it, which we feel we’re probably better equipped than 2,100 customers are right now or whatever number of customers we will have in the future.
Beedgen: So that was sort of the basic idea, right? And so it started with us putting together a scalable org management backend. So folks could _____ their logs. We initially focused on application monitoring, et cetera, use cases, so more sort of on the operational analytics side. But right away folks started using that part of the product for security stuff as well just because it really solved the problem pretty elegantly and they could just put in the data and get insight out of it, and we kind of kept adding to it and over the last 10 years, fast forward through various trials and tribulations we managed to establish that SaaS was a valid delivery model for machine data, that it was a valid delivery model for this type of analytical platform, that folks that need to keep their systems reliable and secure can easily rely on a SaaS solution and that it is in fact a better solution, right?
And that kind of what brings us to today. We ended up going back into security bigtime over the years as we matured and felt that – you know, the thing is in a startup is you’ve got to have some amount of focus in the beginning, but we always knew the security stuff was very interesting. It was always part of the plan. We were lucky to grow the company and get to the level of maturity where we could then double down in that we made two acquisitions to speed that up. We have a cloud sim in the market today and so that’s kind of how we got there, right? And I think maybe sort of the biggest hurdle that we jumped over there was going back to the initial days, sort of the doubters, the people who thought it couldn’t be done, which if you don’t have those then your idea’s probably not good enough, right
Beedgen: Then ArcSight came around the block and Hugh and his folks back then just basically proposed that you could do real-time correlation on security events. People also say I’m crazy; I can’t do that, right? So we kind of learned from that a little bit, and we said, “Hey, you know, that’s – we’ll use that as positive energy.” And the thing to overcome really was the idea that we could do it as a service, this incredibly large scale data processing, which now in the light of cloud-based, cloud-delivered data lakes and so forth it’s now much more commonplace, but 10 years ago it wasn’t and that was not an easy sell necessarily and for people to even take you seriously
But the other thing also was as a SaaS a customer has to basically jump over that hurdle of realizing that their data is now managed in a software-as-a-service solution and not necessarily on prem anymore. We did a lot of work early on to sort of figure out how to make that work for our customers, right? And I think ultimately a combination of that and the fact that the product is just compelling managed to get us to sort of really put our hook in the market in the first couple of years, and we had the opportunity to sort of grow out from that
Shimel: Absolutely. Look, ArcSight was a great product in its time. I’m from the security world, right? It was – you know, in the age of sim it was the high water mark. I think certainly though what you were able to kind of capture lightening in a bottle with Sumo was to build that next generation of what you could do with an ArcSight in a cloud, SaaS-based environment, but at the same time it wasn’t all about security
I think, as you mentioned, Splunk kind of touched on this, some of the others, but you also were able to ride what we call the DevOps, this whole wave of DevOps and now we’re calling observability and monitoring and so forth to capture data, not just pure security feed, but all kinds of data that people are interested in, doing it in an uber scalable way by using the cloud and SaaS which really brought down the cost versus your average ArcSight investment was a couple hundred thousand dollars, right? So you could do this in the cloud much cheaper and it allows you to do more, right? Because now it’s not prohibitive to capture more data, analyze more data. It’s not cost prohibitive. And so Sumo really becomes what we can do with today’s technology and using what people think are important today; and look, kudos to you guys for recognizing it, building it, capitalizing it, and here we are today
Right? So I’ve got to ask you this. So personally – right, ArcSight never went public. ArcSight, for those who may not know, was acquired by HP for a nice penny back then, right? But it never had – you never did this whole IPO thing. How does it feel
Beedgen: We did actually –
Shimel: Oh, really? I don’t remember.
Beedgen: Yeah, we did. No, actually what happened was that the company actually went to – this was actually super interesting. So ArcSight, like leading into 2008, I think kind of passed a sort of revenue bars and those various things and in the end they actually went public. They just about managed to squeeze out in I think it was February 2008, and it was a tough environment even then, and then of course went completely to shit, you know, later in 2008, but even so it was – you know, being there it was quite a rollercoaster. It taught me a lot of things, including not actually refreshing the stock price on a daily basis or even on an hourly or minute basis. I probably just look at it once a month or so, you know, because sometimes you’re not going to like what you’re seeing
But early in 2009 recovery kicked in, Obama came around and this sort of cybersecurity speech and people started believing in cyber in particular again and people started looking for investments, and they put money into ArcSight. Stock came up to actually I think, you know, quite a nice level, and then what happened was in late 2010 – I was not with the company anymore at that time. I exited in late 2009 to then start focusing on what eventually became Sumo, right? HP actually did pick them up, so yeah, so they were public for about two years.
Shimel: About a year.
Shimel: You know what? It’s long enough ago I forget. But how does it feel today?
Beedgen: Oh, it’s complicated, right? It feels good, obviously. You kind of like zoom into that a little bit more. It’s a little bit overwhelming. There’s a lot that kind of goes in that there’s this sort of – there is a sense of release when this finally happens, and we always thought that this was a company that had – you know, given the market was pretty well figured out and we always thought that if we managed to execute properly then this was a company that from the beginning would stand a chance to actually go to this level, and so a lot of this kind of like coming through, kind of proving itself today.
But, you know, the reality is it had actually been proven out year over year already, right? And so I feel that, as I’ve said in the past, it’s kind of a marathon but the marathon metaphor sort of implies that there’s a end, but if you kind of build and continue to build a successful company it’s actually an infinite race, right? But even so there are lapses and there are markers and milestones and all of that, and for everybody – of course I don’t want to downplay it, you know, being – becoming a publicly-traded company is a huge milestone, right? It’s beneficial it gives us a chance to sort of raise more money and use that money to continue to kind of do what we do more and better, and it does also provide – you know, it creates wealth on some level for hundreds and hundreds of people that have been working their butts off to get the company to where it is, and I think – let’s not forget that that’s also sort of – you know, that’s really your _____
Shimel: That’s what it is, it’s value to the shareholders and the employees are some of the shareholders there. Christian, I know it’s got to be a busy day for you. You’re all the way in Germany and it’s probably been a busy, busy morning and day there. I want to first of all congratulate you and the whole Sumo team, right? I mean it’s – this is – no company goes public on one man’s back, right
Beedgen: Oh, it’s true. [Laughs]
Shimel: As you mentioned, right? It’s – and it is a lot of hard work. These are not overnight successes. We wish you the best of luck. We also – look – you know what, Christian? This is a beacon for other companies in the space, in the DevOps space, in the security space, to see that, you know what, it can be done
And the team at Sumo, you know, took their lessons from ArcSight, built a better mousetrap, a better solution, a solution for today, and you’re being rewarded for it and rightfully so. So congratulations to you and all of the Sumo team on your IPO. We’ll be – we’re not going to watch the stock price every hour either, [laughs] but –
Beedgen: It’ll be fine. It’ll all be fine.
Shimel: Yeah, you guys do what you do and everything else will take care of itself, right?
Beedgen: That’s kind of how – that’s what got us there and we’re not gonna change that. [Laughs
Shimel: Absolutely not. Hey, congratulations.
Beedgen: Thank you very much.
Shimel: Come back and join us soon. Hopefully we’ll be able to see each other in person soon one day.
Beedgen: That would be great. That would be great. Anytime.
Shimel: We’re tired of being in the house. Alright. Christian, Beedgen, CTO/cofounder of Sumo Logic on their IPO today. This is Alan Shimel for TechStrong TV Digital Anarchist. Thanks, everyone.