After years of buying enterprise technology from software vendors, new Puppet CEO Yvonne Wassenaar will get a chance to run one.
Puppet plans to announce Tuesday that Wassenaar will take over the CEO role from Sanjay Mirchandani, who informed Puppet’s board a few months ago that he had decided to pursue other opportunities. Wassenaar was CEO of drone image-analysis company Airware until last September, and might be familiar to the tech community in Puppet’s hometown of Portland after several years as CIO at New Relic.
“Technology is clearly changing the world around us, and for companies in the large enterprise space, it’s incredibly important that they figure out how to go from the hype of DevOps to reality, and that’s hard,” Wassenaar said in an interview with GeekWire, describing the business opportunities she sees for Puppet.
Like many of its peers, Puppet (ranked #6 on the GeekWire 200) has been going through a strategic shift over the last few years thanks to the speed at which cloud computing is changing software development and infrastructure technology. Founded in 2005, Puppet’s original products focused on helping companies manage the software-development process within their own data centers, but cloud-era technologies like containers and serverless computing are changing that game.
Under Mirchandani, who became CEO in April 2016, Puppet released several cloud-friendly tools and hired Omri Gazitt to oversee product strategy last year. The company has raised almost $150 million and employs 500 people, half of whom work in Portland.
Wassenaar does not anticipate making any serious changes on either the product or fund-raising front over the next few quarters. After raising $42 million last June, Mirchandani said the company hoped to be cash-flow positive in a year, and “we have a great foundation in terms of being able to have some flexibility in the types of financial decisions we want to make,” she said.
Nor does she anticipate making any changes to the way Puppet thinks about its open-source projects, which has been a major topic of discussion in enterprise technology over the last year or so. Companies that use open-source tools like Puppet on their own hardware are often happy to pay the company that helps maintain that project for additional services, but cloud providers can take open-source projects and offer them as revenue-generating services to their customers without contributing much back to the work of creating and maintaining those projects.
“It’s important to recognize that open source has played a huge role in allowing for the technical advances that we’ve had for the last decade-plus,” Wassenaar said. It’s also clear, however, that complicated open-source projects need funding to be adopted at scale and some promise of an economic return to get that funding, and that means everybody involved is working through some hard questions right now, she said.
Wassenaar will be racking up a lot of air miles between Portland and San Francisco in her new gig, after her three teenage and pre-teen children voted to stay in the Bay Area with their friends and sports teammates. That’s a route she’s very familiar with, though, having worked for San Francisco-based New Relic and its large engineering center in downtown Portland.
Before joining New Relic just ahead of its 2014 IPO, Wassenaar held several positions with VMware, managing sales and marketing teams as well as the company’s relationship with its sister company, Pivotal. VMware has invested in several Puppet funding rounds, and Mirchandani also worked for the virtualization giant at one point.