It was ten years into an open source experiment when developer turned entrepreneur Ethan Galstad began to reap a return.
The of University of Minnesota Comp Sci grad initially got his start on Windows 3.1 applications and quickly sought more, thus moving into system administration.
As his experience grew, independent consulting became the next logical extension.
But even that wasn’t enough. So Galstad, freshly married at the time, began putting nights and weekends into creating an open source product all for himself and his sysadmin peers.
“It simply began as something that we would use,” He says, recalling the early days of what would eventually become Nagios Enterprises — a lesser known St. Paul enterprise software company that’s generating millions of dollars a year.
Dating back to 1999, the basement built project blossomed so much that commercial support became inevitable. With his wife as copilot, Nagios was formed to develop and distribute tools that compliment the open source community he had cultivated over the years.
“Transitioning from open source to paid software isn’t easy,” he admits. “There’s always a risk moving away from something that’s free. We really reached a point where just we had to, in order to continue keeping up.”
Nagios counts close to 1 million open source users with between 4,000-5,000 paying customers. 30% of their market is in North America, with a network of hundreds of international resellers.
As the “creator, father and defender,” his commitment to bootstrapping through organic growth is paying off. The company did its first million in 2010 and achieved a 100% annual growth rate in 2011 & 2012, Galstad says. This year, the trajectory points to $9m top line revenue.
Add in 20+ employees and top that with an established user conference — it’s clear that Nagios’ place in the Minnesota technology industry is cemented.
Perhaps their relative obscurity over the years can attributed to things: enterprise IT infrastructure monitoring just isn’t as prevalent in the tech hype cycle, and, Galstad’s own nature is as Minnesotan as they come: less talk, more action.
“Obviously world domination is what everyone wants to do,” he says with a smile. “We’re continually improving and expanding the products so that one day we’ll have a suite that rivals the big four — CA, IBM, HP & BMC.”