Reflections and Lessons Learned from a Decade of Working with Hundreds of Scaling Companies

Frank Macreery




After a decade of building and scaling production infrastructure, we’re just getting started

Today is Aptible's 10th birthday. Ten years is a long time to be in business. According to Failory, somewhere around 90% of software startups fail. So why has Aptible been one of the lucky ones?

I believe it’s because we’ve stuck to our mission since the beginning, building and improving a core competency that our clients continue to love and want more of. We’ve delivered real features that so many companies need to solve their cloud infrastructure problems.

While we took a little detour that didn’t exactly turn out the way we expected, we never stopped doing what we do best. And now we’re focused on bringing our successful self-service features to more mature companies with growing engineering teams. 

It’s a tall order, but the solution is buried in our DNA. It’s only a matter of time before it comes out.

Solving HIPAA compliance for startups

Aptible’s journey began in 2013, when HIPAA forced a whole new class of companies to become regulated businesses. We knew that thousands of digital health companies were about to have an instant compliance problem, and we really wanted to solve it for them. 

I was a software engineer who relished the challenge, and my co-founder, Chas Ballew, had just ended his service in the U.S. Armed Forces as a regulatory lawyer at the Pentagon. While we came at the problem from different angles, we were both passionate about putting the puzzle pieces together. 

We had a very clear mission to simplify HIPAA for developers in healthcare. Developers are at the heart of innovation, and our goal was to keep compliance out of their workflow, so they never had to worry about it.

And we did it: we brought a platform to market that made HIPAA compliance achievable from day one. We were fortunate to cultivate a few instant clients, who we met while renting office space from Blueprint Health, a startup incubator in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.

Growing alongside our customers

In our early days, from the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2014, clients such as Hint Health, Aidin, Healthify, and ChartRequest helped us evolve our platform with a viable product. We quickly established Aptible as the go-to platform as a service (PaaS) for digital health startups, and soon began expanding our scope to support HITRUST, SOC 2, ISO 27001, and other compliance frameworks. 

In May 2014, Y Combinator accepted our application and gave us incredible guidance, along with exposure to investors and other clients. A single story published in TechCrunch that summer was the match that ignited everything for us. 

From 2014 to 2018, we scaled entirely from inbound calls and referrals. It was a wild ride, and for the first two years it was all we could do to keep up with the growing demand. 

By 2018, things started to stabilize. Customers kept coming and we were very close to profitability. We had some breathing room to start thinking about what we were going to do next. 

Over all these years, we have continuously focused on supporting our customers’ evolving needs. It allowed our engineering to be 100% focused on delivering improvements to our core platform. And it’s paid off:

Considering the odds of failure in the startup world, I think we are in a fantastic place in 2024 and we’re positioned to do even better.

Building the future: How companies will manage cloud infrastructure

My amazing team at Aptible still believes strongly in the strength of the product we’ve been delivering since the spring of 2014. By improving developer self-service for our clients, we’ve helped them master their infrastructure more affordably and gain incredible advantages when it comes to cost and efficiency.

With that initial success and great feedback, we’re now working on delivering what we do for startups to more mature companies. 

To mature organizations, everything built for startups looks like a Fisher Price solution, and no one we know of has been able to build a viable developer self-service platform internally. As companies grow, infrastructure just naturally gets more complex and harder to maintain. It eventually gets to a point where there's a giant mess of infrastructure, with only the remaining “old-timers” truly understanding how and why things are the way they are. 

This is not a new problem. It’s cyclical and feels perpetual. Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Platform debt: Every company ends up with infrastructure and automation that they are attached to. Replatforming is disruptive and expensive, yet nobody feels great about what they have. So they end up “stuck” in a place they don’t truly want to be.

  2. Too much to manage: It is very hard to understand what’s happening in a large ecosystem. Forgotten MongoDB instances inflate cloud bills for the better part of a decade before a new engineering leader finds them. Similarly, devs have 17 different places to check before they understand the status of a deploy. This stuff is everywhere.

  3. Too hard to innovate and improve: Investing in platform engineering—creating scripts or golden paths for internal devs to use—is expensive, slow, and usually creates a complex and inflexible mess. Engineering leaders and platform teams are racing to support every new workload while maintaining company requirements for security, compliance, reliability, performance, and cost.

And yet, developers want new capabilities that implement the latest best practices. They want new services and automation to make their work less manual. It’s intense! Everyone wants to take away the pain with solutions like internal developer platforms, but it’s an immense undertaking.

Thankfully, we have a solution.

The future of Aptible

A decade ago, we were passionate about helping healthcare startups instantly comply with HIPAA. Today, we bring that same fervent enthusiasm to solving a new problem: helping mature companies across all industries get control over their infrastructure. The answer isn’t “autonomous infrastructure” or AI-driven. It’s all about delivering developer self-service.

The answer has always been in the core of our product: giving users control over infrastructure to standardized golden paths that allow devs to quickly do what they need without compromising on security, compliance, reliability, performance, or cost.

We want to help DevOps teams know everything about their infrastructure and correct any problems they find. Here’s what that looks like:

  • Discover: Instantly integrate with your cloud infrastructure and understand what you have in place today in your own existing accounts.

  • Analyze: Quickly analyze the current health of your infrastructure, like whether it meets company requirements and how it is interconnected.

  • Standardize: Turn what you have into a standardized set of golden paths: ephemeral environments for staging and QA, intelligent and fast workflows, and seamless integration into your existing toolchains.

We’ve laid the groundwork for a new type of platform and are testing it with our customers. We can’t wait to show you what’s coming.

The best is yet to come

We’re homing in on what it will take to help the vast swath of companies that are “too big for PaaS.” In recent months, we’ve been discussing the issue with companies who’ve come to a point of pain that’s motivating them to find something that works. 

We know that companies are shopping for solutions. Some organizations are combining point solutions like Vercel and Temporal. Others are implementing portal builders like Port or Cortex, or adopting an internal developer platform builder like Humanitec. We’re even seeing PaaS solutions embrace new models for extensibility (like Porter running on k8s in your own AWS account). A lot of investment and activity is taking place, but nothing is solving the problem successfully.

We understand, better than anybody, the infrastructure struggles plaguing large companies’ development teams. For hundreds of companies, Aptible has become the general-purpose platform the whole development team uses. Leveraging that hard-won knowledge, we are wholly dedicated to crafting an elegant solution that simplifies infrastructure management and empowers developers in any industry to remain singly focused on the kind of innovation that drives sustainable growth.

Looking back on the last decade, it’s clear that our journey to becoming the company we were always meant to be is just beginning. Here’s to another 10 exciting years!

10 Years of Aptible—Highlights from a Decade of Growth

  • October 2013: Chas and Frank quit their jobs and start Aptible in New York City

  • March 2014: Aptible’s first customers deploy production apps on the platform

  • May 2014: Aptible is accepted into Y Combinator’s S14 batch

  • January 2016: Aptible hits Employee #10! With two team members in New York, two in Europe, and six more in the U.S., Aptible fully commits to distributed work

  • May 2018: Aptible raises Series A funding led by Maverick Ventures and begins building Gridiron (later “Comply”), a compliance automation product

  • November 2019: Aptible hits 10 million operations across apps, databases, and SSH sessions

  • August 2021: Aptible spins off its compliance automation product into a new company, Conveyor

  • October 2023: Aptible launches its first self-hosted production customers, each running Aptible in their own cloud accounts

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© 2024. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy

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© 2024. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy