Chaos engineering startup Gremlin gets a new CEO

Gremlin, the popular chaos engineering startup, today announced that it has brought on Josh Leslie, the former CEO of Cumulus Networks, which was acquired by Nvidia in 2020, as its CEO. Kolton Andrus, who co-founded the company back in 2016 and held the CEO role since, will become Gremlin’s CTO to focus on driving the company’s product forward.

In conjunction with this leadership change, Gremlin also today announced that it passed $10 million in annualized recurring revenue in 2021 and now has a customer base that includes the likes of GrubHub, JP Morgan Chase, Target and Twilio. The company expects to see 100% growth in 2022.

In many ways, this is very much the story of a technical founder wanting to get back to his roots and do what he does best, with an experienced CEO stepping in to guide the company through its next phase.

“I’m an engineer by trade. I built chaos engineering tooling for Amazon and Netflix and that was what really led to the foundation of the company,” Andrus told me. “At that point, it’s ‘let’s go figure out if there’s a market here, let’s go figure out if this product is going to work, let’s go figure out if we can build a meaningful business out of this?'”

Having proven all of those points and having become close to the de facto standard for chaos engineering tools, Andrus and the team looked at what was needed to take the company further. “I feel like I’ve accomplished a good amount for that first step, but I [have to] look at what is it going to take for us to go from a $10 million company to a $50 or $100 million company — and how I can best use my time to help impact that,” Andrus explained.

Image Credits: Corey Thomas/Gremlin

Leslie, after taking some time off after the sale of Cumulus, joined the Gremlin board last year. “When we sold Cumulus, I had the opportunity to take a little break from full-time work and get involved with a broader set of companies,” he told me. “I had a chance to advise and invest in a whole set of companies, one of which was Gremlin. I got to get to know Kolton and get to understand the business and get to understand the market — and I got to do that over a pretty long period of time. That’s really just a privilege and really good fortune to have the opportunity to really understand the business over a period of time, but more importantly, understand the relationships. Having done the CEO job once, I think one thing I can take away is it’s all about the team, it’s all about the relationships, it’s all about the trust.”

For the next phase of Gremlin, the company is looking to invest in its sales and marketing team, but also to build the product features that can help it take chaos engineering a bit more mainstream. Leslie actually believes that the market opportunity for Gremlin is significantly larger than Cumulus’ ever was, given that basically every company that has even a semi-complex infrastructure stack could be a customer — and that’s pretty much every company, given the cost involved in having their infrastructure fail.

“A lot of what we’ve done in the last five years is building the category — going out, teaching people what it means and how to do it and how to do it well, whether they are customers or not,” Andrus said. “We’re going to continue on in that approach because building a large category serves us well but it also serves everybody well.”