How Jyoti Bansal’s Harness aims to simplify the software delivery process
The Indian startup ecosystem is dominated by the likes of Flipkart, Paytm, Ola, Swiggy, and Zomato, but there are also many deep tech startups that solve core software engineering challenges. Among these is Harness, a Silicon Valley-headquartered technology company that has its research and development centre in Bengaluru.
Co-founded by Jyoti Bansal, who shot to fame when his earlier venture, AppDynamics, was acquired by Cisco for $3.7 billion in January 2017, believes in providing exposure to engineers early in their career by giving them tough problems to solve.
“There are two kinds of engineers: one scared of hard problems and others who get excited about solving them,” Jyoti says. Harness is cultivating, building, and nurturing software engineers passionate about solving tough problems.
The startup aims to simplify the entire software delivery process so that software engineering teams can "move fast and ship code effortlessly". It is doing this by bringing the "industry’s first Continuous Delivery-as-a-Service platform to market".
The startup does this through its technology platform where it has built various automation tools, and is leveraging technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data.
Focusing on tough problems
“We are always looking for people who are passionate about solving hard problems. The big question is always how to simplify the lives of those millions of software engineers by making it easier for them to deliver the innovations they are creating,” Jyoti says.
Here’s where Harness comes into the picture. It gives young engineers or technologists, many of them fresh out of college, exposure to the problem they are solving. “We gave them full ownership to ship major features in our products. Personally, I was very impressed with the kind of work they had done,” Jyoti adds.
This kind of ownership of a software product enhances the skills of the engineers, as Harness is also able to teach them about delivering high-quality technical engineering.
As Jyoti says, “Solving a problem is not just about writing the code, but providing the complete solution, which means owning the entire product.”
This has led Harness to grow its team rapidly in India - from just two people about a year ago to over 40 R&D members. It aims to be more than 100-people strong in the next one year.
The right aptitude
As the startup looks to expand, it is looking for a certain aptitude in engineers. “We look for engineers who have the desire to learn, get better, and constantly improve themselves,” Jyoti says.
As a result, Harness has started hiring engineers directly from the IITs. However, Jyoti says it is not necessary to pick engineers from only top tier colleges, but seek top quality engineers from any educational institute.
Harness is quite clear that its India centre is not an outlier post for US-headquartered firms.
Teams at both locations are solving core problems in the same product areas, resulting in healthy interaction among people from both locations.
An alumnus of IIT-Delhi, Jyoti has now spent considerable time outside the country and has been impressed by the growth of Harness in India.
“I am amazed at the talent we have here. There is a lot of excitement about building great products. We are training them in how to be customer and business-centric while solving technical problems,” Jyoti says.
Jyoti also laments the fact that many a times engineers remain quite "distant" from the problem statement of customers or markets due to other layers. However, Harness has broken down these barriers, he says.
“Once the gap between the customers and engineers is narrowed down, the best innovation happens,” Jyoti says.
At present, Harness is hiring people from across multiple domains – data scientists, product engineers, software developers, etc. – in India.
Harness, which was spun out of BIG Labs, a startup studio, in 2017, has raised $85 million of venture capital from top tier investors such as Menlo Ventures, IVP, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Unusual Ventures, and ServiceNow Ventures.
As Harness looks to build on the talent pool in India, Jyoti says, “Hiring is one part; people should enjoy what they are doing and feel that they are making a difference. This is what keeps engineers happy.”
(Edited by Suman Singh)