Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Fast Iterations

I’ve been away from Engine Yard (officially speaking) since May 1, so that’s just over 2 months. The main thing I’ve done in that time is create PollyTrade – a service to buy & sell stocks by sending tweets. The service is basically a bridge between your Twitter & E-Trade accounts. The idea was spec’d out on June 3rd and the site started accepting beta users on June 26th. We got on TechCrunch on June 28th and we were in The Washgington Post the next day!

It turned out to be hard to get serious beta users, and E-Trade turned out not to like the idea of trades originating on Twitter. I don’t have any hard feelings toward E-Trade; they are doing what they feel is in the best interests of their business. I of course hope that they or another broker will give PollyTrade & Twitter a chance in the future.

But there is a silver lining in all of this that’s a more important realization.

The experience has reminded me that with the right tools (Ruby on Rails, Engine Yard, Basecamp) and the right people (an efficient developer & a free-lance website designer), it’s possible to execute an idea really quickly and for relatively little cost. QHI spent a sum total of about $9K for all the above development, plus just a little over $100/mo for hosting.

I’m developing a couple of other ideas – one Twitter-related and one not – and will of course use the same combination of ingredients above. But even then, there are elements that can be tweaked to get even better results.

Fast, cheap iteration is a really good thing! I remember when the same cycle took 6 months or a year!

Engine Yard’s in great hands, and I’ve done what I wanted to do

I’ve thought about this a lot on my 4 weeks off. Engine Yard is in great hands and it’s time for me to try something new – something “scrappy”.

I truly believe that EY has a great exec team and a great overall team from top to bottom, and it’s going to have an excellent 2009, 2010, and beyond.

Although I won’t be in the office, I’ll remain attached thru many great friendships. It’s really been a very rewarding journey!

In bullet points…

* I’m leaving Engine Yard, effective May 1st.

* I’ve taken Engine Yard through the stage I like most and where I add the most value: the very early years, up to 70+ employees, the first 400+ customers, the days when I personally signed for equipment leases and Amex cards – the scrappy years of proving the market.

* Engine Yard is beyond scrappy now. The market is maturing and Engine Yard has a very strong executive team and some of the best investors in the world. Engine Yard will go a long way in the next few years – I’m confident of that!

* I’m going to revive Quality Humans, Inc. QHI acted as an incubator for Engine Yard and will play a similar role as I look at several opportunities.

* My experience at Engine Yard has been absolutely great! I’ve learned a lot and really enjoyed working with everyone. In no particular order, thanks to everyone I regularly interacted with over the past few years: Michelle, Riki, Corey, Ezra, Jayson, Tom, Don, Taylor, Leah, JohnH, Chris, Nick, Ben, Michael, JohnD, Marcy, Vivek, Randall, Brad, Greg, Shawn, Sunil, Nailia, Jamie, Loren, Evan, Brian, Yehuda, Joe, Ed, TimCS, Wayne, Dawn, Jash, Ronelly, Lee, Peter, Mitch, Pete, Matt, Alan, Rob, Melissa, April, Andy. (Sorry if I forgot anyone.) And of course, thanks to everyone who works hard to build Engine Yard whom I may not have known very closely – your work late at night in some home office somewhere to help our customers and/or build software is just fantastic!

* I remain a friend of Engine Yard and a shareholder. I hope to speak of Engine Yard in future years as we speak today of Apple, eBay, and Amazon. It’s amazing to think that those last two were literally smaller than Engine Yard roughly 10 years ago! Despite the current setbacks, our economic system really is the best designed so far!

* I’m going to continue my indoor rock climbing. If you’ve thought about trying it, you should – it’s fun, social, and good exercise! Go with a few friends and 2-3 hours pass like nothing.

Good luck to everyone! Have fun in Vegas! I may pop in – haven’t decided, yet.

If you’d like to contact me, my personal email is: lancewalley@g*** (hint: huge search company’s mail service). I’m also on Twitter at @lancewalley.

Email alias for former EY people

Earlier this week, we let go 15% of our workforce, or 12 people, in account management, Linux sys admin, Ruby/Rails app support, DB admin, and general business admin. This represented a change across several parts of the business and was part of a plan that includes new products and services.

We really appreciate the efforts of everyone at EY and we’d like to help provide opportunities for people whom we let go, so we’ve set up an email alias for former Engine Yard employees and contractors.

This alias is opt-in, meaning that it goes to former EY people who told our HR department that they want to be included.

If you’re interested in communicating with anyone in the group, just send an email to the following alias. Those who opted in will receive your email and reply if they’re interested.


— Lance

This week’s changes at Engine Yard, with more detail


I was on our weekly customer call this morning and I heard directly from customers that we haven’t done the best job of communicating some changes that happened earlier this week at Engine Yard.

First, let me apologize for this. We’ve tried to be open about important things, but sometimes it’s not always clear how much or how little detail is right.

To our customers, partners, and the Ruby and Rails communities at large, I want to reassure you that we are financially very sound and we intend to be here for years and years.

Our new CEO and everyone at Engine Yard are making the company better and making our long-term goals more attainable.

I hope the following timeline will help clarify things:

* Tom and I started Engine Yard in 2006. We brought in Ezra and Jayson as founders #3 and #4 a little bit later in 2006.

* Tom and I shared the CEO role in 2007.

* I was CEO alone in 2008.

* During 2008, we took investments from Benchmark, New Enterrpise Associates, and Amazon. We were growing fast and this sped things up even more.

* By the middle of 2008, all 4 founders agreed that Engine Yard was growing so fast that we needed someone with the experience to grow the company WAY beyond my/our abilities. I have experience running companies with simple operations in Support, Finance, Sales, etc. Engine Yard grew to 80+ people by the end of 2008 and the organization has grown more complex right along with our customers and the market.

* Someone with prior experience scaling a business from small to medium to large can benefit Engine Yard and its customers a great deal, and I can learn a lot from such a person. Thus, I see this as a good problem to solve.

* We started a search and interviewed a number of fantastic candidates in the Summer, Fall, and Winter of 2008.

* The 4th quarter of 2008 saw a lot of change and analysis. We brought in some great consultants to help us better understand our market and the internals of our business (how to run a financial organization in addition to bookkeeping, where we could operate more efficiently, etc). Add to this the changing landscape with things like cloud computing and we found ourselves needing our first formal budgets and plans for the coming year.

* The overall plan encompasses everything from slightly changing our support, sales, and account management organizations; to bringing out new AWS-based services; to open-sourcing our Vertebra software. The plan took months of input from every part of the company. With regards to layoffs, we decided it was best to wait until after the holidays.

* Back on the CEO search, we were getting into the holiday season and John Dillon stood out as a superb candidate. He’s a great guy and has fantastic experience. At earlier points in his life, John was CEO of, CEO of Hyperion, and he held sales & engineering positions at Oracle & EDS. John earned a degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and an MBA from Golden Gate University.

* We made a deal with John over the Christmas break and it was decided that he’d start when the holidays were over.

* Which leads to this week. We did the layoffs on Monday – the same day John started. I want to clarify that there’s no connection between John and the layoffs, nor between my stepping down as CEO and the layoffs. The timing is simply because Monday was the first full work week in 2009.

* Some have asked about my role moving forward. My role is supporting John as he learns the details of Engine Yard, its customers, and its community. I will define a new role for myself where I can use my 3 years at Engine Yard to help us make the best possible decisions.

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at: lwalley at engineyard com


Engine Yard Organizational Changes

Engine Yard has grown quickly and we’ve seen a lot of changes since we took our first customer in 2006.

We’re on track for a strong 2009 with new and modified services for existing and new segments of customers.

As part of these overall changes, we’re moving some people within the organization and letting others go. The net effect is a 15% decrease in personnel.

We deeply appreciate the efforts of everyone at Engine Yard and those who are departing will be missed.

We’re setting up an email alias that our departing people can opt into. If you have an interesting opportunity, you can email the alias and anyone who’s interested can email you back directly. Please check back this week for details about the email alias.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at my email address below.

— Lance Walley (lwalley[at]

Rails & Merb, working together!

You probably know the news: Rails & Merb are coming together to make Rails 3.0 in 2009!

You can read details from many sources, including:


And I’m sure others (sorry if I forgot anyone!).

We started Engine Yard because of Ruby on Rails and we’re very happy to support this cooperation between the two communities. Engine Yard folks who were working on Merb are now working toward Rails 3.0.

Thanks to everyone working on Rails and Merb for making the world a better place! I honestly believe that easier app development (and of course, deployment) does improve the world: it allows more people and their ideas to flourish, and that’s a good thing!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Watching Reindeer

I’m in northern Finland, watching reindeer. They really can fly! I would not have believed it if I weren’t witnessing it!

Hello world!

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Fun Stuff & Business History



I co-founded Parallax in 1987 with my best friend. We were both fresh out of high school. We grew from a bedroom operation to a $3M/yr business.

I learned a TON at Parallax! We strugged for several years to find a market we fit, but once we did, were were able to "pivot" (today's term!) into that market and then execute on manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. We didn't even know the term "VC", so we *had* to make money! We took $20K from friends & family and had day jobs to bootstrap those early years.

As I left Parallax in Winter 1996, Radio Shack started carrying our BASIC Stamp computer.

I spent a few years trying to make money in the mobile-messaging space. Unfortunately, I learned lessons about how to spend all of my cash chasing a market that simply was not yet developed enough. I wish I had known about VC :-)! I closed up shop and put up a notice saying "goodbye" to my customers.

Which led to a San Francisco VC-funded startup in 1998. They were in the mobile-messaging space and were on the normal VC route as everyone else back then. Unfortunately, it didn't end pretty, but my friends and I learned a lot through the CEO, who was nice enough to tell us how things worked with his Board, the investors, etc.

I got laid off along with most other tech folks in SF in 2000. What does one do at a time like that? Start Quality Humans, Inc. as a way to offer my programming services to clients. QHI grew to employ 8 guys working around the USA.

My friend and QHI consultant, Tom Mornini, saw Ruby on Rails coming over the horizon, so we started offering Rails consulting. Within a few months, Tom noticed that Rails clients didn't want to worry about details; they just wanted to deploy their apps.

That led me to co-found Engine Yard in 2006 with Tom, Ezra Zygmuntowicz, and Jayson Vantuyl. We built a great business and then took VC after a year from Amazon, Benchmark, New Enterprise Associates, and others. I served as CEO until Jan, 2009, when we started building an executive team who can take EY up a few more notches.

I reflected on major pain points we experienced at EY, and recurring billing was one of them. That led me to Chargify.

In Chargify, I joined great folks from Grasshopper. It's been very cool working with the team as we grow Chargify in 2011.



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