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“It’s a shortcut, not an exit.” – Why I’m thrilled that Lightstep is joining ServiceNow


Ben Sigelman

by Ben Sigelman

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Ben Sigelman

by Ben Sigelman


05-10-2021

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If you didn’t know already, it’s a huge day for Lightstep. I am beyond excited about what this ServiceNow acquisition means for my wonderful colleagues, for our product, and for our mission! But before we can look forward, let’s first set some context by looking back:

bhs laptop 2013

In 2013, before we even incorporated, I rented a desk at a coworking space in SF. I took the photo above on my first day there. All I brought was my laptop, an empty lab notebook, my janky keyboard, a pen, and a hardcopy of my favorite Matt Groening cartoon (visible off to the right). At that point, I didn’t even know what my company was going to do! All I could say for sure was that I wanted it to have a lasting, positive impact – it needed to have a mission that spoke to me.

Fast-forward to 2021: I’m a cofounder and the CEO here at Lightstep, surrounded by an inspiring group of talented and thoughtful teammates, and we’ve been working for years in pursuit of just such a mission: to provide clarity and confidence to the teams building the software that powers our daily lives.

Sounds nice… but how? Well, for startups, realizing a mission has only ever been about three things:

  1. Reach the market where your mission matters most,
  2. Develop a product that delivers on your vision,
  3. Most importantly, build and support an amazing team that can connect all of those dots.

How does ServiceNow accelerate all of this for us?

Accelerating our Path to Market

ServiceNow’s business is nothing short of astounding. ServiceNow has built the fastest-growing ≥$1B software business in history, presently at about $5B of ARR, with 6,900 enterprise customers, including nearly 80 percent of the Fortune 500. Oh, and a 97 percent renewal rate.

Lightstep’s market penetration numbers are not public, but suffice it to say “they are smaller than that.” :) Since our mission is about “the software that powers our daily lives,” we still have a lot of work to do. This acquisition is going to help a great deal: ServiceNow’s customers run many of the most critical software applications in the world! As part of ServiceNow, Lightstep will be in a far better position to reach these customers, deliver our product, and help them innovate faster – with clarity and confidence.

Accelerating our Product Vision

I’ve written previously about how observability is about explaining changes, how Lightstep has made “change” the core of our unified observability product, and how observability is about the org chart, not just the software. Lightstep enables DevOps engineers and SREs to make planned changes with greater confidence and velocity, while also allowing them to mitigate and diagnose unplanned changes without having to become experts in observability: we take insights drawn from many telemetry types and across service boundaries and make them accessible within everyday DevOps and SRE workflows.

But is that enough? Could observability benefit teams beyond “just” the DevOps and SREs? Should it?

“Yes” and “YES.” If enterprises want to remain relevant, they don’t just have to use powerful software, they have to build powerful software; and every team whose workflows rely on that software should benefit from observability, too.

As a standalone company, it would take Lightstep 5+ years to reach that much broader set of people and processes. But ServiceNow’s platform today already addresses workflow needs across the enterprise! So as we build out a thoughtfully integrated solution, our customers will be able to experience the value of observability across their organizations: they can automatically alert support reps when specific accounts are seeing reliability issues, understand how individual deployments affect cloud budgets, flag new and suspicious traffic patterns for a security team, and so much more.

Finally, with these new personas come new streams of data. We look forward to bringing them into the fold via OpenTelemetry, where we will continue to show leadership and invest for the benefit of the larger OSS community.

Accelerating Growth for Our Team

Most importantly, ServiceNow recognizes that Lightstep’s culture and execution are something to be both supported and accelerated, and that we have an enormous opportunity in front of us. That’s why every single one of Lightstep’s employees are getting offers to join ServiceNow. We’re keeping our brand, our amazing HQ in SF, and we’re growing our hiring plan (PS: please join us, it’s going to be awesome!).

Exits and Entrances

So, this is why I’m so excited. To my co-founders, Spoons and Cronin, you two are such a joy to work with, at any stage, in any situation, and in any Slack channel. I am infinitely grateful that we were able to get to this milestone together. To our incredible investors and board members from Cowboy, Harrison Metal, Redpoint, Sequoia, and Altimeter: thank you so, so much for believing in us, for supporting us, not just with money :), and for helping us reach this milestone as a company. And, I suppose, for you this is an exit!

But for me – and for the team at Lightstep – this isn’t an exit, it’s a shortcut, an entrance, and a massive accelerant as we continue to pursue Lightstep’s mission.

As part of ServiceNow, I am confident we will get there years earlier. That’s a great thing for our customers, for our product and business, and for progressing the cutting edge in observability… but most importantly it’s a good thing for everyone who depends on “the software that powers our daily lives.” And that’s, well, everyone. :) So I, for one, could not possibly be more excited.

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