French company SensioLabs raised $6.9 million (€5 million) from CM-CIC Capital Privé to expand its operations around the open-source PHP framework Symfony. While the startup is only a year old, the team behind it actually created the framework in 2005 — that’s why they know it better than anyone else and can provide all kinds of services and products to help enterprise clients.
“SensioLabs is a spin-off company from a web agency that we created back in 1998,” co-founder and CEO Fabien Potencier told me. “We provide a few services around Symfony (code reviewing, training, consulting…). We also run a couple of products to make better use of PHP (quality control, performance optimization…).”
With all its flaws, PHP is still by far the dominant programming language of the web. WordPress wouldn’t exist without PHP, and most websites are now custom-designed WordPress installations. That’s why many engineers still favor PHP over Ruby on Rails or Python.
But a good framework could greatly help these companies. They will get a more robust structure — the engineering team will become faster as well. That’s where Symfony and SensioLabs come along if a company doesn’t plan to develop and support its own framework. There are other popular PHP frameworks, such as the Zend Framework, but Symfony is the most popular. For example, Yahoo! was one of the first Symfony user, adopting it shortly after the initial release in 2005. In 2011, the Symfony community released Symfony2, generating a high influx of new users.
Now, Lagardère, TOEFL, Parisian subway company RATP, Virgin Mobile and French ministries all work with SensioLabs to improve their usage of Symfony. The startup reproduces the traditional consulting business model of successful open-source/for-profit hybrid companies, such as Red Hat or even IBM.
Symfony seems to have a healthy community with meetups and conferences happening regularly. One of SensioLabs’ key missions is to make sure that the community remains very active — it can influence its overall direction as well by contributing to the development of the framework.
But recently, the company also unveiled a new product called SensioLabs Insights. Still in private beta, this product should help when it comes to testing suites. Other companies have specialized around this area, such as Disrupt alumni Koality. We will see whether SensioLabs’ expertise in all things PHP could be a competitive advantage.
Today’s funding round is the first one for SensioLabs. With 80 people working in France, Germany and the U.K., the company was already growing pretty nicely. But now, it should get to the next level even faster.
(Image credit: Drew McLellan)