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New CloudBees CEO eyes IPO, M&A to build DevOps tools

CloudBees co-founder Sacha Labourey will lead product strategy for the company's DevOps tools, while new CEO Stephen DeWitt readies the business for its next stage of growth.

DevOps tools vendor CloudBees emerged from 2020 poised for a new stage of growth, according to its founding CEO, who handed the reins of the company this week to a new chief executive.

Stephen DeWitt, who served most recently as Chief Strategy Officer at Robotic Process Automation vendor Automation Anywhere, takes over for Sacha Labourey as CloudBees CEO this week. DeWitt brings 35 years' experience in the tech industry, which includes experience steering businesses toward exit strategies, whether initial public offerings (IPOs) or acquisitions by larger companies. As CEO of HR software firm WorkMarket, DeWitt oversaw the firm's acquisition by ADP in 2018, and also led Linux server-maker Cobalt Networks when it went public in 2000; it was later acquired by Sun Microsystems for $2 billion.

SearchITOperations caught up with DeWitt and Labourey during DeWitt's first official week as CloudBees CEO to discuss their plans for the company's DevOps tools roadmap and business operations in 2021.

Why this, and why now?

Sacha Labourey: We've reached $100 million in [annual recurring revenue (ARR)]. As I was preparing for this about six months ago, I realized that personally, I would have a much stronger impact if I could focus a lot more on what I really enjoy doing above all, which is product strategy.

The role that you're taking on, Chief Strategy Officer, what's that going to entail?

Sacha LaboureySacha Labourey

Labourey: It's going to be a mix of overall strategy that includes a lot of product strategy, which is an area where I can never spend enough time. Some of the strategic alliances, I think, are very important and where I'd like to spend more time. From a public communication standpoint, I've not been as visible in the last couple of years as I was before. And I think it's important for us to pitch our story.

Stephen, as you take the helm, what are your goals for the company?

Stephen DeWittStephen DeWitt

Stephen DeWitt: At $100 million in ARR, you are a material supplier to your end customers, meaning they're spending lots of money on you -- in the post-COVID world, that means you're a priority. They expect you to rise to that moment. Product strategy and driving that is a full-time role for a team. Capital raising, the operational guts of a company, is another discipline that also requires world-class execution.

My three areas of primary focus are product vision and leadership in our category; scaling our go-to-market capabilities and our brand; and building the operational expansion of the company. Behind the scenes, that means [a focus on] our investments in product teams, how we run multiple parallel engineering paths, and how we reconcile inorganic growth as well. We're putting in a lot of disciplinary stuff, how we track our business, because in order to take next steps, maybe go public down the line, you've got to have operational sophistication, and predictability in your results.

When you say reconciling inorganic growth, does that mean acquisitions?

In order to take next steps, maybe go public down the line, you've got to have operational sophistication, and predictability in your results.
Stephen DeWittCEO, CloudBees

DeWitt: Yeah, we have a history of that over the last couple of years with Electric Cloud, etc. I think it's fair to say we will be acquisitive, moving forward.

What's ahead on the roadmap for CloudBees DevOps tools in 2021? Is there any hint or plan you can share?

Labourey: A lot of the work we've done in 2020 was to absorb big acquisitions from 2019. We're starting 2021 fresh in the sense where, from a software standpoint, all of the offering, including what we got from Electric Cloud, is now part of a single SKU, and from a SaaS standpoint, we we've also released [Software Delivery Management]. One thing that we will accelerate is new services on the SaaS front, because COVID has accelerated the clock when it comes to SaaS -- we'll definitely bend [our] investments more towards SaaS going forward.

Any technical areas of focus you can share for new features or acquisitions in 2021?

Labourey: Not that we want to talk about. Everybody wants to have this unified DevOps platform, but the way we want to go after that is slightly different to the rest of the market -- we're not trying to make a one-size-fits-all offering. We recognize the need for best-of-breed third-party [products] in terms of security and other domains, because that's where innovation will always be stronger, with those independent thought leaders. However, we cannot simply have a normal type of integration with that market. From a buyer's standpoint, they truly want to have a single throat to choke and be done with it. We're going to have to step up our game on that front to make sure that we get both this extensibility and marketplace, if you will, with other vendors, but that the type of integration we do is rock solid.

DeWitt: We've got competitors taking the all-in-one, generalized approach, but we think that ultimately won't rise to the expectations of the enterprise. We'd rather partner with the best to deliver the best.

There's consolidation expected in cybersecurity, and everybody wants in on the DevSecOps buzz. What I hear when you talk about 'a single throat to choke' is folding in some security and DevSecOps IP, probably through acquisition.

DeWitt: We didn't specifically say that. Is that a high priority for the enterprise right now? Absolutely. And of course, we're going to have a position.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning 15-year veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

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