Tyk raises $35M for its open source, open-ended approach to enterprise API management

APIs are the grease turning the gears and wheels for many organizations’ IT systems today, but as APIs grow in number and use, tracking how they work (or don’t work) together can become complex and potentially critical if something goes awry. Now, a startup that has built an innovative way to help with this is announcing some funding after getting traction with big enterprises adopting its approach.

Tyk, which has built a way for users to access and manage multiple internal enterprise APIs through a universal interface by way of GraphQL, has picked up $35 million, an investment that it will be using both for hiring and to continue enhancing and expanding the tools that it provides to users. Tyk has coined a term describing its approach to managing APIs and the data they produce — “universal data graph” — and today its tools are being used to manage APIs by some 10,000 businesses, including large enterprises like Starbucks, Societe Generale and Domino’s.

Scottish Equity Partners led the round, with participation also from MMC Ventures — its sole previous investor from a round in 2019 after boostrapping for its first five years. The startup is based out of London but works in a very distributed way — one of the co-founders is living in New Zealand currently — and it will be hiring and growing based on that principle, too. It has raised just over $40 million to date.

Tyk (pronounced like “tyke”, meaning small/lively child) got its start as an open source side project first for co-founder Martin Buhr, who is now the company’s CEO, while he was working elsewhere, as a “load testing thing,” in his words.

The shifts in IT toward service-oriented architectures, and building and using APIs to connect internal apps, led him to rethink the code and consider how it could be used to control APIs. Added to that was the fact that as far as Buhr could see, the API management platforms that were in the market at the time — some of the big names today include Kong, Apigee (now a part of Google), 3scale (now a part of RedHat and thus IBM), MuleSoft (now a part of Salesforce) — were not as flexible as his needs were. “So I built my own,” he said.

It was built as an open source tool, and some engineers at other companies started to use it. As it got more attention, some of the bigger companies interested in using it started to ask why he wasn’t charging for anything — a sure sign as any that there was probably a business to be built here, and more credibility to come if he charged for it.

“So we made the gateway open source, and the management part went into a licensing model,” he said. And Tyk was born as a startup co-founded with James Hirst, who is now the COO, who worked with Buhr at a digital agency some years before.

The key motivation behind building Tyk has stayed as its unique selling point for customers working in increasingly complex environments.

“What sparked interest in Tyk was that companies were unhappy with API management as it exists today,” Buhr noted, citing architectures using multiple clouds and multiple containers, creating more complexity that needed better management. “It was just the right time when containerization, Kubernetes and microservices were on the rise… The way we approach the multi-data and multi-vendor cloud model is super flexible and resilient to partitions, in a way that others have not been able to do.”

“You engage developers and deliver real value and it’s up to them to make the choice,” added Hirst. “We are responding to a clear shift in the market.”

One of the next frontiers that Tyk will tackle will be what happens within the management layer, specifically when there are potential conflicts with APIs.

“When a team using a microservice makes a breaking change, we want to bring that up and report that to the system,” Buhr said. “The plan is to flag the issue and test against it, and be able to say that a schema won’t work, and to identify why.”

Even before that is rolled out, though, Tyk’s customer list and its growth speak to a business on the cusp of a lot more.

“Martin and James have built a world-class team and the addition of this new capital will enable Tyk to accelerate the growth of its API management platform, particularly around the GraphQL focused Universal Data Graph product that launched earlier this year,” said Martin Brennan, a director at SEP, in a statement. “We are pleased to be supporting the team to achieve their global ambitions.”

Keith Davidson, a partner at SEP, is joining the Tyk board as a non-executive director with this round.


Testing platform Tricentis acquires performance testing service Neotys

If you develop software for a large enterprise company, chances are you’ve heard of Tricentis. If you don’t develop software for a large enterprise company, chances are you haven’t. The software testing company with a focus on modern cloud and enterprise applications was founded in Austria in 2007 and grew from a small consulting firm to a major player in this field, with customers like Allianz, BMW, Starbucks, Deutsche Bank, Toyota and UBS. In 2017, the company raised a $165 million Series B round led by Insight Venture Partners.

Today, Tricentis announced that it has acquired Neotys, a popular performance testing service with a focus on modern enterprise applications and a tests-as-code philosophy. The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition. France-based Neotys launched in 2005 and raised about €3 million before the acquisition. Today, it has about 600 customers for its NeoLoad platform. These include BNP Paribas, Dell, Lufthansa, McKesson and TechCrunch’s own corporate parent, Verizon.

As Tricentis CEO Sandeep Johri noted, testing tools were traditionally script-based, which also meant they were very fragile whenever an application changed. Early on, Tricentis introduced a low-code tool that made the automation process both easier and resilient. Now, as even traditional enterprises move to DevOps and release code at a faster speed than ever before, testing is becoming both more important and harder for these companies to implement.

“You have to have automation and you cannot have it be fragile, where it breaks, because then you spend as much time fixing the automation as you do testing the software,” Johri said. “Our core differentiator was the fact that we were a low-code, model-based automation engine. That’s what allowed us to go from $6 million in recurring revenue eight years ago to $200 million this year.”

Tricentis, he added, wants to be the testing platform of choice for large enterprises. “We want to make sure we do everything that a customer would need, from a testing perspective, end to end. Automation, test management, test data, test case design,” he said.

The acquisition of Neotys allows the company to expand this portfolio by adding load and performance testing as well. It’s one thing to do the standard kind of functional testing that Tricentis already did before launching an update, but once an application goes into production, load and performance testing becomes critical as well.

“Before you put it into production — or before you deploy it — you need to make sure that your application not only works as you expect it, you need to make sure that it can handle the workload and that it has acceptable performance,” Johri noted. “That’s where load and performance testing comes in and that’s why we acquired Neotys. We have some capability there, but that was primarily focused on the developers. But we needed something that would allow us to do end-to-end performance testing and load testing.”

The two companies already had an existing partnership and had integrated their tools before the acquisition — and many of its customers were already using both tools, too.

“We are looking forward to joining Tricentis, the industry leader in continuous testing,” said Thibaud Bussière, president and co-founder at Neotys. “Today’s Agile and DevOps teams are looking for ways to be more strategic and eliminate manual tasks and implement automated solutions to work more efficiently and effectively. As part of Tricentis, we’ll be able to eliminate laborious testing tasks to allow teams to focus on high-value analysis and performance engineering.”

NeoLoad will continue to exist as a stand-alone product, but users will likely see deeper integrations with Tricentis’ existing tools over time, include Tricentis Analytics, for example.

Johri tells me that he considers Tricentis one of the “best kept secrets in Silicon Valley” because the company not only started out in Europe (even though its headquarters is now in Silicon Valley) but also because it hasn’t raised a lot of venture rounds over the years. But that’s very much in line with Johri’s philosophy of building a company.

“A lot of Silicon Valley tends to pay attention only when you raise money,” he told me. “I actually think every time you raise money, you’re diluting yourself and everybody else. So if you can succeed without raising too much money, that’s the best thing. We feel pretty good that we have been very capital efficient and now we’re recognized as a leader in the category — which is a huge category with $30 billion spend in the category. So we’re feeling pretty good about it.”


What’s in a name?

StarbucksAs you may have noticed, I have an unusual spelling of the name Graham: it is in fact a Scottish spelling. This was never a problem for me when I lived in the UK where this spelling is almost as common as the usual form, but since coming to the US it’s been a constant battle spelling my name or listening to people butcher it. It’s actually humorous watching people read my name from a piece of paper, and wrestle with it in their mind, trying to figure out how to pronounce it. I never mind if people get it wrong, I just smile and enlighten them. It’s not their fault.

About a month ago, while picking up my favorite beverage at Starbucks, I decided to start a new game. I’d seen so many different spellings of my name on the cup, that I set out to collect the variations. I’ll reveal the results of my experiment at the end of this post, so if you can’t wait just scroll down and look at the picture.

This got me thinking about names in general and particularly names in books. Why are characters named the way they are? Why are some names distinctive and legendary, while others are forgotten a month or two after reading. It is possible that many authors just pick the first name that comes into their head, but I suspect that most are chosen with great care.

Contemporary fiction is easy, almost any modern name will do, be it Mary, Peter, Jonathan, Jon or even more exotic names like Jebediah. Typically the author picks names relevant to the culture of the character concerned or of the book as a whole, such as American names, Chinese names, or Viking names. This sort of naming is obvious and very easy for the reader to accept and think little of, until the rules change. If you’re reading a book set in contemporary America with characters such as Amy, James and Brian, the moment Mustafa enters the scene the readers mind goes to work. This can work for or against the author. Some writers purposely avoid names that offer symbolical or hidden meanings, so that the reader comes at the character with a clean slate, much as we do when we see an unknown actor in a movie. Sometimes the writer just likes the sound of the name. Other writers will choose a name precisely because it conjures an image.  Such stereotyping is common and saves the writer a lot of work. Luke Skywalker sounds heroic, Jar Jar Binks sounds humorous, Darth Vader sounds ominous.

The most common reason for choosing a name is to fit the genre. Galadriel conjures the image of a gorgeous elf Queen. Fantasy names are normally made up to sound magical. Meeting Joan in Lothlorien just doesn’t have the same impact. In historical fiction aristocrats typically go by the moniker of Miss Haversham, Duke Wandsworth or Bertie Wooster, or double-barreled names like Wellington-Smythe or Campbell-Black, while commoners are often named for their trade such as Bob Carter, or William Tanner. What sort of character do you expect when you come across Basher and Bert? What genre do you think of if I list the names Black Lotus, Sly Dragon, Black Widow and Gray Shadow? Or Captain America, Superman or Wonder Woman? Which is the prostitute, Molly or Emily?

Careful selection of names add to the authenticity of the book, and poor choices can be disastrous. There used to be a trend in science fiction for alien names that were totally unpronounceable with lots of K’s and Y’s and apostrophes, like Klak’Lk’Krazzj. Thankfully we seem to have grown out of this! The author must follow through on his choice of names, since the reader is likely to be confused should the character named Mae Fairweather turned out to be the heinous villain at the end, unless this is part of the plot twist of course.

Names can be used as a plot device too. Imagine a story about a character called Alex where the reader doesn’t find out the gender of the character until the end of the book. That could be clever. Some characters don’t have real names at all, and are just known as captain or doctor. This too can be a plot device: not knowing the real name of Dr. Who makes him more mysterious. JK Rowling was careful to give her real-world characters conventional names, like Harry, and use more fantastical names for the characters associated with the magical world, such as Hagrid. Alliterations in names go in and out of vogue, like Bilbo Baggins or Severus Snape, and roll off the tongue nicely.

In my book Ocean of Dust, I wanted the kids names to be familiar and innocent, like Lissa, Alice and Pete, while the sailors bore rougher names, like Grad, Farq and Jancid. I kept my names short, as if they could be nicknames or shortenings of their true names. The cook is simply known as Cook, while we never hear the Captain’s real name until the end. Farq sounds like a villain (hopefully!), while I thought Lyndon sounded more stuck up, more slimy, than Pete. My favorite fantasy names are those that sound almost Earthly and familiar, yet with a fantasy twist.

Here are a couple of articles I recently read on this subject: Naming Fictional Characters, The 7 Rules of Picking Names.

As promised, here is a collection of names courtesy of the wonderful baristas at Starbucks:


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