Can Jellyfish Become The ‘Salesforce’ Of Engineering

The global market for software development tools is estimated to be worth $5 trillion in 2022, growing to more than $11 trillion for 2028, according to the Digital Journal.

Yet for all the enormity of the market and the investment almost every company makes in software development, few tools exist to measure and track the impact of that investment on business outcomes. Engineering Management Software platform company Jellyfish was created to help change that dynamic.

Founded in 2017 by Philip Braden, David Gourley and Andrew Lau, the Boston-based Jellyfish assesses contextual business data and engineering signals to offer full visibility into how engineering organizations work and operate.

The entrepreneurial trio had worked together at business search company Endeca, which was acquired by Oracle for $1 billion in 2011. “In 2016, we found all three of us available again. We really respected each other’s way of working together and our skills and so we wanted to see if there was a way that we could get together again,” says Jellyfish CEO and cofounder Andrew Lau.

The idea for the company was born out of a gathering at a sushi restaurant in downtown Boston, when each of the founders wrote down some of the aspects of the company they wanted to build. They discussed the team, company culture and the business model they wanted to create focused on B2B, innovation and new markets before they even discussed the idea for what would become Jellyfish.

“How the Jellyfish concept itself was actually born is a little bit of a funny story. I remember we’re sitting the three of us rhetorically joking, ‘Who wants to run the engineering team? Cuz that job sucks.’ But then we asked, ‘Why does this job suck?’ And the answer was, well, because people are always yelling at you. And because the job is hard. Because the engineers don’t understand how the business works. And the business doesn’t know how the engineers work,” says Lau.

They likened the predicament to what sales management was like before the introduction of Salesforce CRM and Siebel Systems and posed the question, Can we do for engineering what Salesforce did for sales? “If you look over the last 20 years, every part of the business has gotten the visibility to make that connection from the business to the function. And the only function left that doesn’t have that is actually engineering. All the while, it’s become the most strategic and expensive department for every company. Yet it’s the only department left where no one understands what’s going on back there. So we said, ‘Hey, can we take the parts of the Salesforce analogy, which is around alignment, visibility, all these things, but do it in a new school way for a different function. Because the engineers have the tools they love, but those things are unintelligible to the business. Let’s tie into those systems and make something that actually helps align the business and engineering team,” says Lau.

In brainstorming a name for the company, they picked Jellyfish as a placeholder after looking through random names of plants and animals. They liked jellyfish because they’re flexible, dynamic and transparent. They went to 99 Designs and paid a small amount of money for the logo, figuring they’d change it down the road. But the name stuck. “We found that people really loved the name. It doesn’t sound like any other corporate name and people had fun with it,” says Lau.

Today, with over 175 employees, Jellyfish is positioned as the pioneer Engineering Management Platform that enables engineering leaders to align engineering work with strategic business objectives. By analyzing engineering signals and contextual business data, Jellyfish provides complete visibility into engineering organizations, the work they do, and how they operate. Companies like Acquia, Priceline, Mastercard, Toast, Bazaarvoice and Zoominfo are customers, providing the momentum for the company to more than triple the business in 2021, according to Lau.

The company’s growth and upside market potential has attracted $114.5 million in venture funding to date, including its latest Feb, 1, 2022, $71 million C round led by Accel. Additional investors include Tiger Global Management, Insight Partners, Wing Venture Capital and Half Court VC.

Lau grew up in Oakland, California, one of two children of engineer parents. His dad is a civil engineer, and his mom was a programmer. He has a sister who is a chef. “My mom started on punch cards and in some way, she must have blazed the trail for me. She taught me when I was probably just a kid to do something that’s like coding. It’s a style of key combinations that actually goes back to probably the 70s and had a big influence on me,” says Lau.

Looking back, he said he always had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak in high school, and thinks some of it is innate from his dad. But mostly it’s his curiosity and interest in learning new things that put him on a path to business building. “If you look at my early jobs, I spent a little time at IBM. I spent a little time at Microsoft. And I learned along the way to chase what things were interesting to me,” says Lau.

He found his way to Massachusetts when he attended and graduated from MIT with a degree in computer science. After graduating, he had short stints at Wind River, IBM, Microsoft and Inktomi (now Yahoo!), before becoming VP of Engineering at Endeca, where he worked with his other co-founders. After the Oracle acquisition, he then founded two companies, Broadway Commerce and LoopIt before spending two years as Chief Strategy Officer at Nanigans, before teaming up with Braden and Gourley again to found Jellyfish in 2017.

As for the future, Lau and team have large ambitions. Can they indeed become the “Salesforce” of Engineering Management Software in both size and scope?

“Our aspiration is to be a multibillion dollar independent software company. We know leading a large engineering team is hard, not because necessarily of the coding, it’s actually the intersection of technology and the business. And we think that net result is that companies actually make bad decisions because they’re acting inefficiently, not rowing in the same direction. If this is the opportunity, and every company in the world today is a software company, well, then the sky’s the limit,” concludes Lau.