Tag: Spiceworks

Spiceworks’ New Headquarters Opens, Expansion Planned Already

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Scott Abel, Spiceworks Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer

Scott Abel, Spiceworks Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, photos by Susan Lahey

Spiceworks held an open house Friday for its new headquarters at 3700 North Capital of Texas Highway, in the same Hill Country-adjacent neighborhood as Bazaarvoice. The company, which provides a free network management IT community, reports 2,000 new members a day and has roughly 360 employees in its Austin headquarters.

Scott Abel, founder and executive board member, said Spiceworks modeled the new space after it’s previous space. “We cheated and replicated the old space because people really liked it. It’s very open. We experimented with a mix of open spaces and private offices. We played with high cubes and low cubes and no cubes and people really seemed to love the low cubes, so we stopped asking.”

Tour of Spiceworks' new headquarters

Tour of Spiceworks’ new headquarters

About 300 people can fit on each of the 50,000-square foot floors and Spiceworks has two of the floors in the building with an option on a third.

“There’s a rumor we might accelerate that option,” Abel said. “We’re probably going to end up growing a little faster than we thought.”

In addition to the open spaces where various departments congregate in one section, there are private meeting rooms with names like Badger Den, Rawr, and Spice Spice. There are also several very small rooms that can let two people work together privately.

Spiceworks' Kitchen

Spiceworks’ Kitchen

Abel was the one who recommended having a single communal kitchen for all departments on the first floor.

“If you don’t force people to interact they won’t,” he said. While each area has a little station with coffee and water, the food is all down in the kitchen. “There’s all this cross department pollination,” he said. Employees tell him often how much they like it because it introduces them to people in the company they would never have met otherwise.

“Culturally it matters immensely and employees tell me about it all the time. There’s this comfort level, feeling connected,” Abel said.

Spiceworks' gong, because what startup doesn't have its own gong?

Spiceworks’ gong, because what startup doesn’t have its own gong?

Spiceworks, founded in 2006, has raised $111 million in five rounds from six investors, according to its Crunchbase profile.

SpiceWorld App Center Announced at Austin Conference

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

ay Halberg, co-founder and COO, photos by Susan Lahey

Jay Halberg, co-founder and COO, photos by Susan Lahey

About 1,000 participants, plus 300 Spiceworks employees, converged in a giant orange mob on Austin Convention Center Tuesday and Wednesday for the seventh annual Spiceworld conference.

This year the Austin company, a professional network for IT professionals, debuted its new app center where Spiceworks network members can find, research and buy apps and cloud services, as well as a program to allow developers to use the Spiceworks platform to offer their own products to the network. The company has had a “one-off” program for years but finally opened it to the entire six million members, said Jay Halberg, co-founder and COO. The company is also offering a new network monitoring system.

The founders also talked about taking the company public in two to five years.

IMG_7100At a program entitled Coffee Talk with the Co-Founders, CEO Scott Abel said Spiceworks’ original business plan was for a desktop management system for small businesses that went for $30 a month. But then he looked at Google’s 1099, the company shifted to a model wherein the network, the software, the tech support and everything else would be free and the company would earn money by selling ads.

Co-founder Greg Kattawar was highly skeptical, said co-founder Francis Sullivan.

“He said ‘Nobody looks at ads!’” Sullivan recalled, “and he’s sitting there, wearing a Nike t-shirt!”

“I did not ever think we’d get to this place,” Kattawar said. “My belief was that this was a novel idea and early on it would fit in with some other company’s business model and we’d get sucked up.”

Instead, the company has raised $111 million including a $57 million investment from Goldman Sachs in February, that will allow it to develop and build products even faster. Halberg said that 70 percent of product ideas come from the Spiceworks’ community and 30 percent are projects that Abel, Kattawar and Sullivan undertake to keep pushing the company to the edge of innovation.

Currently, Halberg said, Spiceworks members comprise about 40 percent of the total market of IT pros. Most of its customers are in small businesses that use Spiceworks’ free software. But, according to Adam Schaeffer, manager of analyst and public relations with Spiceworks, many customers also use Spiceworks to test their products prior to launch and work out bugs. It gives them instant access to the kinds of customers they’re going after.
The company has kept its culture intact with careful management as it has grown. This year, the company is planning to grow again, by a third, adding 100 new employees. But the company is also working to figure out how to take Spiceworks public without ruining its culture. In an interview, Halberg said that even with 300 employees, at least two of the founders has to meet with and sign off on each new hire. Also, the company has a history of transparency. Every Friday afternoon, Halberg said, the whole company has a meeting with the dual purposes of relaxing together and updating employees on new products and the company’s finances.

“A lot of public companies wouldn’t share that,” Halberg said. “So it’s a question…how much information should we keep sharing?”

The two-to-five year timeline give Spiceworks time to make the transition without sacrificing its culture to the “bad behaviors” that strike some companies that go public, like factionalism and office politics.


Spiceworks's exhibition hall

Spiceworks’s exhibition hall

The name Spiceworks was devised, Halberg said, because they wanted to “spice up” the IT world which was notoriously boring. Then, eight years ago, the company decided to invite its community of IT pros to a conference. The first Spiceworld took place at the Alamo Drafthouse which “was funky and cool and so us,” Halberg said. But that first conference only had 100 participants. The conference has grown about 50 percent each year and Spiceworks wants to make it the go-to conference for IT professionals and marketers. This year it held its first Spiceworld in London. IT programs included presentations on changes in data storage, going mobile, improving your help desk, large project planning, and disaster recovery. But the conference also has a marketing track that covered issues like IT personas and multiple devices, as well as sessions on IT pros career development.

Wearing a costume that looked sort of like the The Flash, with a San Antonio Spurs jersey (because he lost a bet), Darren Schoen, Director of Technology Infrastructure for Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, gave a presentation on how IT professionals who aspire to leadership positions have to cultivate skills they previously ignored, like writing for publications, public speaking and networking.

Darren Schoen, Director of Technology Infrastructure for Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Darren Schoen, Director of Technology Infrastructure for Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Planners have tried to improve the conference every year. Last year, Halberg said, the exhibition hall was strictly vendor tables. This year the organization added giant Spiceworld displays, a Jo’s Coffee cart and more to make the event more festive.

But the important part, said Halberg, is community of people who share apps and intelligence online and get the opportunity to meet and connect in person.

Spiceworks Pioneers the Social Way to Do IT and Gets $57 Million Funding

Reporter with Silicon hills News

(L-R) Bacon suit-clad Spiceworks IT pro Darren Schoen interviews Spiceworks co-founders, CEO Scott Abel, CTO Francis Sullivan, VP of Development Greg Kattawar, and VP of Marketing Jay Hallberg at SpiceWorld Austin 2012.

(L-R) Bacon suit-clad Spiceworks IT pro Darren Schoen interviews Spiceworks co-founders, CEO Scott Abel, CTO Francis Sullivan, VP of Development Greg Kattawar, and VP of Marketing Jay Hallberg at SpiceWorld Austin 2012.

In 2005, four IT industry friends met at an Austin Starbucks to brainstorm a way for them to work together, have fun, and find a solution for common needs of system administrators. Scott Abel, Jay Hallberg, Greg Kattawar, and Francis Sullivan envisioned the social way to do IT: a free platform where IT professionals could connect with each other, learn about available technology solutions, and work more efficiently. These conversations led to the birth of Spiceworks in July 2006.

By the end of its first year, Spiceworks had 32,000 users. Now, about 5 million IT pros use the Spiceworks system to manage their help desks, networks, onsite software and offsite cloud services. These users—who influence or control more than $500 billion in annual spend on IT services and products—come to Spiceworks to get unbiased, user-written product reviews of the more than 3,000 technology brands that advertise on the platform.

Spiceworks’ popularity has inspired Goldman Sachs to invest $57 million, which CEO Scott Abel said will be used to ramp up efforts for a new Spiceworks’ goal: creating an app store for the IT industry.

“We were already going down the path (of creating an IT app store), but it was going too slow. A chunk of this new money will go to accelerate the effort of the development of the platform for that app store, as well as for marketing to get the word out and let developers know this is an incredible platform where they can reach 5 million IT pros and not only build products but also sell them and make money,” Abel said.

David Campbell, managing director in Goldman Sachs’ Merchant Banking Division, will join Spiceworks’ board of directors.

“The emergence of professional networks like Spiceworks represents the next wave of social innovation,” Campbell said in a statement. “Spiceworks has a unique platform for technology brands to directly access a rapidly-growing, critical, and underserved market of IT professionals that commands over $525 billion of spend today.”

Spiceworks’ funding began with Austin Ventures. More support followed from Austin Ventures and Shasta Ventures, then Institutional Venture Partners, Adams Street Partners, and Tenaya Capital, for a total of $55 million, prior to the Goldman Sachs investment.

The Spiceworks “spice”

Abel expects the company to add about 100 employees this year, which will bring Spiceworks’ count to 340 by year end. An upcoming challenge will be maintaining the company’s unique culture.

“We started this company for the four of us (founders) to start having fun again, and most of that revolved around how people behaved from day to day. One of the biggest challenges for me is how do we maintain the unique culture we have, given how fast we’re growing,” Abel said.

New employees start off with a program called Jump Start, where they interface with the company founders. A company goal is transparency and accessibility, Abel said.

Spiceworks’ users are uniquely enthusiastic. Many IT pros chat in the online community about some of their favorite food topics, like bacon and chili. Some have even gone so far as to tattoo the company’s mascot, an orange dinosaur called SpiceRex, on their bodies.

Houston-based infrastructure administrator Nigel Hickey appreciates the accessibility of the Spiceworks team of which he feels “like part of the family.” A former DJ, Hickey recently played music at the SpiceWorld conference in Austin.

Hickey, who is responsible for the computers of almost 100 employees and 10 servers in four different office locations at National Specialty Alloys, said he “looked like a champion” two years ago when he began using the Spiceworks help desk system.

When he arrived at his company, no help desk system was in place, and executives were consistently being interrupted with computer issues. Hickey was able to set up a Spiceworks ticketing system in four days. Now, when employees send e-mails to the company help desk, Spiceworks picks them up, converts them into tickets, and puts them in a queue. The system also shows which tickets are assigned to which employees.

From a marketing perspective, Katie Drucker, a vendor representative for South Carolina-based Unitrends, said her company is very happy with its investment in the Spiceworks community.

With any kind of shopping, Drucker said, the best research often comes from asking a friend’s opinion. The Spiceworks community offers IT pros a wealth of product reviews from users and access to information from vendors like Unitrends, a seller of appliance-based backup solutions.

Drucker is Unitrends’ “green gal,” or vendor representative, in Spiceworks. (Spiceworks users are color-coded: Vendors are green, IT pro users are blue, and Spiceworks’ employees’ are orange.) She spends about 75 percent of her work time interfacing with the Spiceworks community.

Although she can’t release numbers, Drucker said Unitrends’ spend in Spiceworks has a significant positive impact on the company’s sales. “We have really enjoyed being part of the community. It gives us great way to interact with our target market … and not only talk to people who are considering a new backup solution, but also help people who are currently using our backup solution at Unitrends.”

Unitrends has tried different advertising strategies in Spiceworks, including banner ads, e-mails and a live stream, Additionally, Unitrends has attended four different SpiceWorld events in Austin and London and are booked to do them again this year.

“We get what we give. By spending time in the community and helping people troubleshoot their issues … we’ve been able to gain a lot of friends and fans,” Drucker said.

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