Automated dev platform CircleCI expands to Japan, first office outside US

CircleCI is on something of a tear. The company’s continuous integration and deployment build platform is used by hundreds of thousands of developers around the world to create their own software. It has also received $59 million in venture capital funding, including a $31 million Series C earlier this year.

As it looks to continue growing, the company is expanding its global footprint. It has opened its first international office outside of its SF headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan. As part of the opening, CircleCI is intending to eventually build an office of 4-5 employees and create partnerships with local companies.

The company has experience in the geography, with several remote workers stationed there. It’s also the third largest market for the company, after the United States and the United Kingdom, where it works with local companies like CyberAgent and DeNA.

“We are really excited about Japan, excited about global,” CEO Jim Rose explained. “Japan has been a market that has had its own momentum, and it has had speed that has picked up over the years.” Rose joined CircleCI as COO in 2014 through the company’s acquisition of Distiller, and became CEO in 2015.

CircleCI has had a bottoms-up sales model, where developers can install Circle on their infrastructure anywhere around the world. The company’s message has been heard widely, with roughly 35-40 percent of the company’s gross revenues coming from global customers, according to Rose.

However, CircleCI’s product is not just click-and-install. It’s also a whole new way of managing software in a cloud-native environment, which means that developers and managers are increasingly needing to work together to migrate legacy codebases from old models to cloud and Git-native ones. “What we have seen over the last six quarters is that that practice is starting to embed itself in large enterprise,” Rose said.

However, that education, training and cultural change has been tougher in non-English speaking markets like Japan. Rose says that once a company gets beyond the first step of installing a system like Circle, “there is another step of socializing the product inside of those companies,” and “those efforts require local knowledge.” The hope is that a dedicated, localized team designed to bridge that gap will help CircleCI cement its products in developers’ workflows.

While the U.K. is the second-largest market for the company, the company chose Japan to launch international expansion since its English language resources have proven adequate so far, and complications from Brexit make strategic planning in Europe more complicated.

“There are a lot of moving parts around Brexit and GDPR and whether you can approach them as a single market or multiple. At the very least, you have to approach the U.K. as its own market separate from the EU,” Rose explained. CircleCI is still determining the right way to set up its international expansion in Europe to encompass successful markets for the company like Germany, France and the Nordic countries.

Rose sees the company eventually increasing the share of global revenues to 50 percent. Japan then is just the start of intensifying global expansion for the company.