Loft Labs is one of those startups that’s disrupting the cloud space by focusing on Kubernetes self-service. “Our mission is to help any enterprise scale access to Kubernetes from 10 to 10,000 engineers,” says Lukas Gentele, CEO of Loft Labs. Gentele calls his company an open-source rooted company that maintains four open source projects that are catering to a larger cloud-native community.
The company started off with a $2.6 million investment led by Fusion Fund, along with RTP Seed and Emergent Ventures a few months ago. However, looking at the company’s growth and customer pipeline, these investors decided to invest another $4.6 million in seed funding.
The second round is led by Fusion Fund, with participation of RTP Seed, Emergent Ventures, Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, as well as angel investor and Puppet CTO Abby Kearns, who recently joined the company’s advisory board.
Every startup has a security weapon that sets it apart from the rest and paves a path for the company to succeed. Loft Labs has a few. One of the most talked-about features is ‘sleep mode’ that helps enterprises cut down their cloud waste and cost.
“What sleep mode does is it detects idle resources in Kubernetes clusters and it turns them off,” says Genetele. In most cases, the workloads that Loft Labs is targeting are pre-production which are either engineers testing something, evaluating new machines or learning algorithms, etc. When these engineers take a break, or go home after work or during week-ends, those workloads keep running. The clock keeps ticking. The meter keeps running. What sleep mode does is detect that and purges these workloads and puts them to sleep. When the engineer starts again after their long breaks, night or weekend, everything spins up automatically again. According to an estimate, a company typically saves about 70-80% of infrastructure cost for the development, pre-production workloads, just via the sleep mode
Another arrow in Loft’s quiver is called Virtual Cluster, an enterprise-grade solution for virtualizing Kubernetes. Loft Labs is the only provider offering one such solution for virtualizing Kubernetes. It’s now a certified Kubernetes distribution that’s getting a lot of attention due to the fact that it solves a lot of the multi-tenancy, self-service challenges. Combined with sleep mode, it ensures that the costs aren’t going to explode if a company enables self-service for its engineers going all the way from 50 users to even 5,000 engineers working with Kubernetes.
As far as the new seed funding is concerned, Loft Labs plans on investing heavily in their team. Gentele makes it clear that building out the team is super important. They also plan on investing in classical business functions to bring in people with excellent marketing knowledge and developer relations.
“Building out the engineering team is super important for a company like ours which is essentially based on innovation,” says Genetele. “We’re going to bring in people with excellent knowledge about marketing in the enterprise and develop our space. We’re going to heavily invest in developer relations as well. It’s really about building out a rockstar team to get to the next level of this company,” he adds.
What does the future hold for Loft Labs? Gentele states they want to be the leader in Kubernetes multi-tenancy and self-service. With that in mind, they have a long roadmap of things they plan to build.
Swapnil Bhartiya: This is your host, Swapnil Bhartiya, and welcome to TFiR Let’s Talk. Loft Labs has raised 4.6 million seed funding to scale up self-service access to Kubernetes for engineering teams. To learn more about the seed funding and how the company is going to invest or use these sources, we have with us, once again, Lukas Gentele, CEO of Loft Labs. Lukas, it’s great to have you back on the show.
Lukas Gentele: Hey, Swapnil, it’s great to be back with you.
Swapnil Bhartiya: Yeah. First of all, congratulations. Tell us a bit about who led the round and who else participated.
Lukas Gentele: Yeah. Thank you very much. It’s definitely a very exciting time. Yeah. Fusion Funder’s our lead investor. We also have RTP Seed Fund on board, as well as Emergent Ventures. We also have participation from Abby Currens as an angel investor, as well as Berkeley Skydeck Fund, which has UC Berkeley’s Accelerator Program that we went through in the very inception of the company. So they also doubled down on us in this round.
Swapnil Bhartiya: Excellent. And now, if I’m not wrong, Fusion Fund initially invested 2.6 million just few months ago and now they are expanding. Since I have been covering Loft, so I do see the growth, but I want to hear from you, what did they see that they made this move?
Lukas Gentele: Yeah. Essentially, Fusion led a round in us a couple months back and RTP Seed and Emergent participated in that round as well. And then a couple months later, we had the first board meeting and went over the customer pipeline and the customers that we’ve already converted. And there were some, quite impressive logos, essentially, on those slides. So all three investors were pretty excited after that meeting and essentially approached us with the idea to double down on us, to accelerate that growth, to build out the team faster and to, essentially, add additional funding after we had just closed the seed round. Which was obviously huge compliment to our team and to what we’ve been building in the past couple of months.
Swapnil Bhartiya: And if you look at cloud-native or Kubernetes space [Zeptores 00:02:30] space, so getting all those logos is a big challenge. It’s a daunting task. So can you talk about what sets Loft apart? There’s one thing that I do want to stress and talk a bit about, is that we talk about cloud, but we don’t talk much about cloud-based, the cost goes into resources that a lot of people don’t use, because everybody provision everything. So Loft has something called sleep mode as well. So I want to also talk about some of the unique features that Loft offers, so that it also helps to getting all those logos on your site as well.
Lukas Gentele: Yeah. Sleep mode is definitely a great feature to sell onto the enterprise with, because it is so obvious that it just saves you a lot of money that you otherwise would spend on wasted resources and your Kubernetes clusters. What sleep mode does, essentially, it detects idle resources in your Kubernetes clusters and it turns them off. So let’s just imagine, most of the workloads that we’re currently targeting are pre-production, so engineers testing something, evaluating new machine learning algorithms, right. But engineers, just like anybody else, have to sleep sometime, right? So if they stop working at 6:00 PM in the evening and don’t work till 8:00 AM in the morning, sleep mode essentially detects that and purges these workloads and puts them to sleep. And when the engineer starts in the morning again, everything spins up automatically again. So the engineer doesn’t have to do anything. And the company typically saves about 70 to 80% of infrastructure cost, for these development, pre production workloads, which is obviously very, very exciting.
Swapnil Bhartiya: In addition to sleep mode, is there anything else, any features, any capabilities that sets Loft apart from its competitors, that you would want to talk about?
Lukas Gentele: I mean, it’s definitely virtual clusters as well. We’re the only provider that really has enterprise grade solution for virtualizing Kubernetes at this point. And we ship vcluster as an open source project and carved it out of our [inaudible 00:04:46] offering and made it certified Kubernetes distribution just very recently. And I think that success with virtual Kubernetes clusters drives a lot of attention in the space as well, because that solves a lot of the multi-tenancy challenges and self-service challenges while it’s still making sure, in combination with sleep mode, that cost aren’t going to explode if you enable self-service for your engineers, when you go from 50 users to 500 or even 5,000 engineers are now working with Kubernetes. And companies contain these velocity benefits and that shift left movement, enabling, really, developers to work with Kubernetes at a fraction of the cost, with a great user experience, using these virtual clusters and sleep mode in combination.
Swapnil Bhartiya: Now, if we go back to the funding, what are the areas where you will be, once again, investing resources? What are the ideas that you would want to grow within the company?
Lukas Gentele: We’re a very small team at this point, and we’re very, very lean. So we’re definitely going to heavily invest in the team. Building out the engineering team is super important for a company like ours, that is, essentially, based on innovation I this space, but we’re also going to invest in classical business functions. We’re going to bring in people with excellent knowledge about marketing in the enterprise and develop our space. We’re going to heavily invest in developer relations as well. And it’s really about building out a rockstar team to get to the next level of this company.
Swapnil Bhartiya: So when you say next level of the company, what is the next level, according to you? What vision do you have for the company?
Lukas Gentele: Yeah. We would, essentially, want to be the leader in Kubernetes multi-tenancy and self-service. I think that’s really our heart, the two topics that we care about most. And we want to be present in pretty much every conversation around Kubernetes multi-tenancy and self-service. And we’re pretty well equipped with the open source projects that we already have out there, but there are so many challenging problems in that space and we have such a long roadmap of things that we want to build. Then things that we see from the customer side that need addressing, where we don’t even have a clear picture of what the solution could look like. And there’s just a lot of work to do in both of these areas. And we’re super excited to address that.
Swapnil Bhartiya: If you just look at the Kubernetes space, it has been evolving, it has matured, everything is running in production. If you just look at Kubernetes, what kind of future do you see for Kubernetes itself? It has matured, but it has its own set of challenges as well. Complexity is a big challenge in itself. So what are the areas that you feel that Kubernetes community or ecosystem will be moving and you will be aligned with that movement?
Lukas Gentele: I think Kubernetes has matured a lot in terms of standardizing things, not just around containers, but pretty much how do you provision workloads. I mean, we see really interesting projects that hook directly into the cloud providers for provisioning external cloud provider services. I think all of these things really show that Kubernetes is much broader than just a container orchestrator, right? Kubernetes will, essentially, be the API for compute. And there are so many areas that Kubernetes hasn’t even touched. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kubernetes on our phones in a couple of years, right? And with the trend to use Kubernetes in the 5g space and bringing Kubernetes to space, right, we’ve already seen really interesting experiments in that direction, to have an ubiquitous standard for addressing compute and Kubernetes as that API. And I think that’s really exciting.
And I think one area that is exciting as well, is adopting Kubernetes as an API framework. Our product, itself, does not have a proprietary API. It, essentially, uses the Kubernetes API. So when you manage our product, you manage it with kubectl, effectively. I mean, obviously we have a CLI and a UI on top of that, that make it a little bit easier than actually having to run the kubectl commands and pushing around YAML, but under the hood, that’s essentially what we’re doing. And there are a lot of applications where these really well thought out API decisions and Kubernetes can be used in other areas as well.
Swapnil Bhartiya: Lukas, thank you so much for taking time out today and talk about, of course, this new seed funding and the growth areas, the problem that you’re trying to solve for the ecosystem and sharing your insight into the Kubernetes service headings. So thanks for those insights. And as usual, I would love to have you back on the show. Thank you.
Lukas Gentele: Thank you so much, Swapnil. It’s always fun chatting with you about these topics, especially if it’s great news like the one we have to announce today.