Plumbr story: from a research lab to the global market

There is no doubt Estonia is a nation of tech start-ups. The media is teeming with articles about start-ups born at nerve-wracking hackathons, which are testing one’s abilities and pushing them to the limits. The beginning of Plumbr’s story is completely different.

Plumbr is no typical start-up in several reasons. Firstly it did not start with a hackathon; it started from scientific research. It was on a sunny day in 2011 when four top players of Nortal, one of the largest and most successful IT companies in Estonia, decided that the research Vladimir Šor had been carrying out for his PhD in the University of Tartu was more than interesting. It showed something that could change all present perceptions on how malfunctions in IT systems should be handled. Plumbr developed a performance monitoring solution for software running on top of Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It is now the only solution that automatically detects the root causes of Java performance issues by interpreting application performance data.

In three months 1,000 downloads

Plumbr’s cofounder and CEO Priit Potter admits that when they made the decision to quit work and focus on Plumbr, they were not convinced whether this kind of tool would be needed, and by whom.

As more than a 1,000 users registered for the product still in beta testing in just the first three months of 2011, it was clear there were others interested besides the four guys themselves. By now, Plumbr’s development had taken a giant leap forward and the initial promise to handle a specific problem of memory leaks had grown into something much bigger.

Today, Plumbr is a solution for avoiding software errors, detecting the reasons behind IT system malfunctions automatically and helping find a solution before the errors start disturbing the work of end users – that means all of us who do things on the Internet.

Please send us a competitor!

The need for performance monitoring solutions arose with the first business critical IT systems. However, most of these have concentrated on measuring user experience and alerting the admins when something seems wrong, leaving the task of figuring out what caused the problem at the hands of the administrators.

“As strange as it is, there is a huge hole gaping in this area, as there are practically no tools like Plumbr,” Potter says. Although various monitoring tools are getting better and better, none of them is able to offer resolution instructions automatically. This is how Plumbr is different. “Plumbr will detect the root cause and provide step-by-step instructions on how to fix the problems,” he adds.

Estonian guys aim to conquer the world

“We are in the middle of some truly interesting times right now, as huge global companies, e-shops, portals and internet banks have started to see how much time and money they can save when they can skip the troubleshooting activities and immediately start solving problems as soon as they appear,” Potter explains. Plumbr automatically performs tasks that usually take weeks in real time, and the company’s own estimates say its customers have saved USD25 million on infrastructure and labour costs. Plumbr is especially handy for those tech companies who cannot afford a situation where users are not able to complete a purchase or a transaction because the portal is too slow or stops functioning altogether.

This year, Plumbr is hoping to set up their sales office on the east coast of the US, which means adding talented and well-connected local sales people to their team. “The States is our key market, and there’s one very simple reason for that – in the US time has a big price tag which is why American companies are the first to understand what they could be doing with the time saved by Plumbr,” Potter says. Already, more than half of Plumbr’s clients come from the US.

A start-up where working after hours is not cool

“As people, we have a characteristic trait – all four founders are family people with children, so this has taught us to value time even more. We want to do things that make sense. We do not celebrate working after hours and we don’t spend extra time at work; we are inspired by achievements instead,” Potter points out when talking about the Plumbr team. He doesn’t deny that the plan is to make Plumbr big, and they are building the company with a long-term vision in mind.

“I don’t care if this is a cliché, but it takes exceptional people to make an exceptional company. For example, our technical expertise level is very high, and this is no secondary matter, because you have to keep your home tidy. Lately, we have also been looking around the world to find talented people, and today we have people with experience from Yandex, for example, working with us. We are building a world-class team,” he adds without a trace of false modesty. The company currently employs 17 people and the number is growing.

Plumbr has also just raised USD 700,000 in funding round. The investors include Jaan Tallinn, one of the cofounders of Skype and Kazaa, as well as Matt Arnold and Sten Tamkivi. That takes venture capital investment in the company to USD1.8 million.

According to Potter, Plumbr has seen two outstanding shifts in its four years of activity: first, an idea has become a company thanks to talented people; and second, a piece of code has become a product used every day by NASA, Dell, TeliaSonera, HBO, EMC, Experian.

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Cover: Plumbr’s CEO Priit Potter.

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About the author: Lilian Nõlvak

Lilian Nõlvak considers herself to be extremely fortunate, because her job, such as it is, simply entails doing what she like. She is fascinated by talented people everywhere, let it be in technology world or her home village, and she writes about them with great pleasure. Lilian lives in the countryside not far from Tallinn, Estonia and from her window she can see how seasons change, children play and sheep eat grass.