A Pivot that Worked: The Docker Story

Dan Scholnick
Feb 4, 2019 · 6 min read

Originally published January 22, 2014

Image for post
Image for post

For the vast majority of startups, the path to success is not a linear one. Nearly all founders face that moment where their company’s continued existence comes into question. I joined my first startup, Wily Technology, in 1999 right around that moment. Lew Cirne (also the founder of New Relic) hired me to help build a new product to take the company in a different direction. Few people know or remember that the company I founded, Flurry, began by offering a consumer-focused email client for feature phones (remember those?). After a dramatic change in direction, today it’s the leading analytics service and advertising network for mobile applications. DotCloud, the company Trinity funded in 2010, morphed into Docker in 2013.

As we celebrate Docker’s recent success and its closing of a significant new round of financing, I thought it would be worth sharing the story of how dotCloud became Docker and some of the key lessons we learned. Though today we all expect Docker to be a runaway success, there was a time when we weren’t so confident about the company’s future.

Before I get into the story, there are a few points that need highlighting up front. First, this is the story of how the Docker pivot happened, not what ultimately made Docker successful. I’d argue that the way the company pivoted maximized its chance of success, but even a pivot done correctly won’t always change a company’s outcome. Second, as a board member, most of my interaction during this period was with Solomon Hykes, who was CEO of the company at the time. A lot of people inside the company were involved in the pivot, more than I can single out in this post.

First some history…

Reality strikes

Profiles in ignorance and courage

Thanks to Solomon and his team, we have a business called Docker that’s on fire and changing the world of software infrastructure. I wrote a bit about how that’s happening in a previous blog post. What follows are some lessons I’ve learned from this experience.

Raise more than you need

Skinny down in times of trouble

Pick your board members well

Don’t always listen to the experts

The value of vision

It takes a village

Trinity Ventures

A collection of posts from the Trinity Ventures partnership…

Dan Scholnick

Written by

Entrepreneur, investor, cloud computing aficionado, foodie, bagel crazed.

Trinity Ventures

A collection of posts from the Trinity Ventures partnership and portfolio. Learn about the firm at www.trinityventures.com.

Dan Scholnick

Written by

Entrepreneur, investor, cloud computing aficionado, foodie, bagel crazed.

Trinity Ventures

A collection of posts from the Trinity Ventures partnership and portfolio. Learn about the firm at www.trinityventures.com.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store