Martin Buhr

Supercharging Tyk with our first ever round of funding

Greetings all, it’s Martin here, Founder and CEO of Tyk, writing to you all FROM THE FUTURE (OK, New Zealand). It’s Friday evening, I’m enjoying a few glasses of wine, and reflecting on the recent news that we just secured our first ever round of funding, led by MMC Ventures.

Tyk’s been on a bit of a crazy journey these last few years, and this funding marks a new chapter for us. Now seems as good a time as any to share with you some context around why we took this step. Also, our Marketing Director, Emma, made me.

So Emma, here you go.

The story so far…

Back in 2015 Tyk started out in London as three guys doing this whole thing part-time: we had full-time jobs, families and all the commitments that come with a late-thirty-something life. We grew pretty quickly, and, for the most part, sustainably, bootstrapping our way to growth.

More excitingly, we were growing organically to the point of needing to understand how we would tackle markets outside of the UK and EU. We had seen early and enthusiastic uptake in Asian markets (Vietnam, Thailand, China), and, serendipitously, both James (my co-founder) and I had experience setting up satellites in Singapore. So we took an experimental leap East to build out our presence. It went well, but definitely not the way we had thought it would go!

We learned much from the experience – and in particular, that foreign expansion is hard. It takes patience, and a dedicated, hard-working team to really make it work. On the plus side, Singapore is a very similar operating environment to the United Kingdom, so the “culture shock” of moving to a new region was reduced somewhat by a very trade-friendly business environment.

Two years passed, the Tyk community grew, and so did our team. When the time came for us to think about our next base, we set our sights westward, to the U.S.

Westward Ho!

Why the US? Well, we already have a significant client base there, and a lack of physical presence was becoming noticeable. We like to spend time with our users, wherever they are, and though we have team members working from 18 countries around the world, none are in the US!

But, by the time we started seriously thinking about opening an office Stateside, the landscape for our industry had substantially changed. Significant consolidation and shifting technology trends meant an experimental, organic entry into the US, like we did with our entry into the APAC market, would be like pissing into a hurricane.

As a company, we’re very proud of how we bootstrapped ourselves to the stage we were at in April 2019, with 27 employees, 2 physical offices, 100+ clients and millions of users. BUT the operating environment, legal framework, change in competitive environment, and competitive market in the US meant such a move would require a meaningful and significant investment.

And where could we find such an investment…? Well… *looks bashfully at MMC Ventures*… cue our decision to take on funding. We didn’t need it to build our product and we didn’t want it to fund millions of spammy ads. But we did need some rocket fuel to dramatically accelerate the growth we were already experiencing in this new market.

In fact, one of the reasons it took so long for us to even find this funding was because we wanted to partner with an investment firm that not only shared our vision and values (more on that shortly), but who also would get out of the way and let us get on with it. MMC Ventures were exactly the right fit for us, with shared values, and belief in our vision to democratise connectivity.

“I got a bone to pick with you!”

“But wait!” I hear you ask. “You guys were always fiercely independent, and I remember all those rants and shouty blogs you did about how you wanted to stay that way. What gives?”

Well, nothing:

  • We’re still remote-first, dedicated to building a company that provides excellent work/life balance and fulfilment for our team.
  • We’re still open source at heart, with strong opinions about how an open source business should be run.
  • We still build our software for developers and engineers *first*, and spend most of our time and effort developing our open source code base.
  • And we still have a CEO and Founder (affectionately) known as ‘The Liability’ (It’s ME!)

“And what about the users? Won’t someone please think of the users?! Surely the first thing you’ll do is buy a top hat, monocle and grow a mustache, so you can twirl it menacingly while staring at your piles of money?! All this while the honest-Joe developer gets screwed!”

Nah, that’s not really our style… though I’ve always wanted a monocle (and I already have the top hat):

Psst: there are no piles of money. In fact, I don’t even own any of my own t-shirts, my wardrobe is entirely fashioned out of Tyk and conference swag…

But I digress. That’s not what Tyk’s here for.

We’re here to deliver value, not price-gouge: That means continuously fair and transparent pricing – not hiding the ball. That also means a promise towards backwards compatibility and ongoing dedicated support from our best-in-the-industry team, all at a non-eye-watering price.

We’re here to empower our users, not lock them into an ecosystem: our entire software stack is built around hooks and expansions where Tyk can be mixed into a wide best-of-breed open source ecosystem, without having to spend a penny on our poor, starving product team.

It’s part of being a good open source citizen, and it’s not going to change

Ultimately we are here to build and deliver value, and there are many ways to do that. We personally think we’ve found a way that is good for everyone – that includes you.

How will you spend the money?


The only yacht I’m allowed to get my hands on

On a new yacht, naturally. JUST KIDDING. The investment is going towards three main components:

Geographic expansion
We’re growing into multiple new territories, the US being the largest, to take advantage of opportunities in wider international markets (duh). We’re opening in Atlanta, and are on the cusp of launching our third Tyk Tour (get in touch if you want to participate!)

Product Innovation
We want to deliver the next level of service and API management with Tyk. We have programmes in the pipeline that target service mesh, FaaS, SaaS and Hybrid multi-cloud that provide simple and innovative ways for users to build value in a cloud-native world. Crucially for us (a bunch of cynical engineers), they provide the choice to work with best-of-breed solutions instead of being locked into any one given vendor or buzzword-bingo-vapourware.

Operational expansion
A key thing startups tend to under-invest in is the psychological, professional and personal growth of their team. Investment tends to go only towards the two areas above, with staff churn being an ‘acceptable byproduct’. We think that’s hocum and are using increased investment to ensure programmes are in place to make our fantastic team the leaders of tomorrow. If this sounds like the type of opportunity you’re looking for, then check out the kind of roles we’re hiring!

Right, there you go Emma – my thoughts and context in the form of rants, memes, and candid photos. And now…