How could startup ReadMe provide its innovative documentation-as-a-service offering to clients’ development teams worldwide rapidly and cost-effectively, without requiring large capital funding?
ReadMe selected IBM Compose Enterprise to host its services, relying on the fully managed service to handle database tasks while the ReadMe team focuses on developing beautiful documentation.
5,000users signed up within the first week of product launch
20%monthly growth rate, with 100,000th user by end 2016
Scalablecommercial model fuels growth with minimal need for capital investment
Business challenge story
Handling unexpectedly rapid growth
When founder and CEO Greg Koberger designed the initial concept for ReadMe, it was driven by his dislike of the time and effort required to create good documentation for software. As a developer himself, his experience was that potentially useful information was buried inside text-heavy, poorly designed static webpages, or obscured by out-of-date, potentially misleading information relating to older software versions.
Koberger explains, “My vision was for a platform that would equip developers with tools to reduce the effort of creating documentation, and save time for users in searching and navigating it. People immediately recognized the value in ReadMe. Our site appeared on ProductHunt months before we had planned on launching, and a week later we launched on Hacker News; between these two, we got over 5,000 signups and immediately became profitable.”
“Business picked up insanely quickly,” says Koberger. “I was expecting and hoping that the concept would catch on, but I expected it to be a slow process. In fact, from day one we had small companies, big companies, gigantic companies that were e-mailing us. One large enterprise’s entire platform team wanted to switch over to us, and we were like: ‘We’re just a small team—how can we deal with this kind of volume?’”
Koberger needed to focus on clients, service and support, and there was no time—or capital—to invest in heavy-duty on-premise hardware and software to meet these explosive levels of demand for the ReadMe software platform.
The big questions became: how do you scale from zero to 5,000 users in a couple of weeks, and how you continue to scale for potentially tens of thousands of additional users, to build a successful, super-fast-growth business?
IBM Compose does the heavy lifting
Underneath the covers, ReadMe runs on MongoDB, an open-source NoSQL document store. MongoDB’s data architecture is ideally suited to storing documentation, and also provides scalability, load-balancing and many other features that would be critical to running the service successfully.
Koberger points out, “When we started out, I set up MongoDB and started thinking things like ‘I have no clue how to back this up.’ I had never used Mongo before, and I didn't want to worry about those low-level problems: that's not exciting to me. Spending time doing DevOps and getting the database set up and making sure backups were working, making sure it was all secure—those kinds of jobs weren't a good use of my time when I had development work to do and customers to support.
“So I selected the IBM Compose Enterprise service to manage all those issues. I logged in, I loved the interface, I loved how easy it was to get set up. I was so close to quitting MongoDB, and then I started using Compose, and I was like, ‘Oh, okay, I actually can get started, and it works.’ Since then I haven't had a single problem with it.”
IBM Compose offers production-ready managed services of popular open-source database technologies, including MongoDB, PostgreSQL, RabbitMQ, Redis, RethinkDB, and many more. A simple online configuration tool enables users to select, initiate and run databases and applications within hours. Compose also handles backups, security, replication, system health and much more, all included in the monthly fee.
“The Compose Enterprise service offers rich, granular control of our environment, without adding complexity,” explains Koberger. “You can see from many other online services just how hard it is to set up databases successfully, but with Compose it was incredibly easy. I got it all working within an hour or less. In fact, there’s not much I can say about Compose Enterprise, because I don’t need to know too much about it: it just works.”
Winning developers’ hearts
Within the first week of product launch, ReadMe attracted 5,000 subscribers, followed by a 20 percent monthly growth rate. ReadMe has already attracted more than 18,000 projects to take advantage of its simple, beautiful documentation platform, and adoption continues to accelerate. Projects can range from a few pages to many thousands—but regardless of size, the need to reliably host, manage, protect and serve clients’ critical documentation places a premium on the underlying technology.
Ashley Chang, Product and User Experience Lead, comments, “Marketing to developers is a tough thing to do. Developers are very specific in what they like, what they want to try, how they want to try it, and how they like to consume it. The reality is that unless there's a need, unless there's a fit, and unless everything works how they expect, it's hard to sell to developers. The advantage of IBM Compose is that it lets ReadMe focus on building a compelling developer experience, and leave database administration in the hands of IBM’s experts.”
Koberger continues, “As a developer myself, I have always been slightly worried about having our data on a third-party server. I'm not worried about it now; it's actually much more secure on Compose than elsewhere. Compose Enterprise makes sure everything is backed up and protected, and easily recoverable via a beautifully simple management interface.
“As we're getting bigger, Compose Enterprise gives us more control over our data while retaining the flexibility and scalability of the cloud service. In short, ReadMe would not be where we are today without IBM Compose.”
ReadMe creates a rich project documentation management environment, provided as an online service for thousands of software developers worldwide. The company aims to reduce the effort required to build documentation, and empower developers to spend more of their time on productive development work.
Take the next step
IBM Compose is a cloud-hosted platform for building enterprise applications on open source database technologies. Offering a choice of the best in open-source software databases, ready to go into production within minutes to support web and mobile apps, Compose combines practically unlimited auto-scaling with practically zero administration. For more information or to try Compose, visit: ibm.com/cloud/compose