We are more than seven years into the notion of modern containerization, and it still requires a complex set of tools and a high level of knowledge on how containers work. The DockerSlim open-source project developed several years ago from a desire to remove some of that complexity for developers.
Slim.ai, a new startup that wants to build a commercial product on top of the open-source project, announced a $6.6 million seed round today from Boldstart Ventures, Decibel Partners, FXP Ventures and TechAviv Founder Partners.
Company co-founder and CEO John Amaral says he and fellow co-founder and CTO Kyle Quest have worked together for years, but it was Quest who started and nurtured DockerSlim. “We started coming together around a project that Kyle built called DockerSlim. He’s the primary author, inventor and up until we started doing this company, the sole proprietor of that community,” Amaral explained.
At the time Quest built DockerSlim in 2015, he was working with Docker containers and he wanted a way to automate some of the lower-level tasks involved in dealing with them. “I wanted to solve my own pain points and problems that I had to deal with, and my team had to deal with dealing with containers. Containers were an exciting new technology, but there was a lot of domain knowledge you needed to build production-grade applications and not everybody had that kind of domain expertise on the team, which is pretty common in almost every team,” he said.
He originally built the tool to optimize container images, but he began looking at other aspects of the DevOps lifecycle. including the author, build, deploy and run phases. He found as he looked at that, he saw the possibility of building a commercial company on top of the open-source project.
Quest says that while the open-source project is a starting point, he and Amaral see a lot of areas to expand. “You need to integrate it into your developer workflow and then you have different systems you deal with, different container registries, different cloud environments and all of that. […] You need a solution that can address those needs and doing that through an open source tool is challenging, and that’s where there’s a lot of opportunity to provide premium value and have a commercial product offering,” Quest explained.
Ed Sim, founder and general partner at Boldstart Ventures, one of the seed investors, sees a company bringing innovation to an area of technology where it has been lacking, while putting some more control in the hands of developers. “Slim can shift that all left and give developers the power through the Slim tools to answer all those questions, and then, boom, they can develop containers, push them into production and then DevOps can do their thing,” he said.
They are just 15 people right now including the founders, but Amaral says building a diverse and inclusive company is important to him, and that’s why one of his early hires was head of culture. “One of the first two or three people we brought into the company was our head of culture. We actually have that role in our company now, and she is a rock star and a highly competent and focused person on building a great culture. Culture and diversity to me are two sides of the same coin,” he said.
The company is still in the very early stages of developing that product. In the meantime, they continue to nurture the open-source project and to build a community around that. They hope to use that as a springboard to build interest in the commercial product, which should be available some time later this year.