Cloud Trailblazers: 10 for 2013

David Mytton

Server Density CEO David Mytton is very much his own man. “He’s very focused. He knows the direction he’d like to go in, which makes decision-making fairly easy,” as his co-founder and erstwhile school friend, Harry Wincup, puts it.

Mytton created his company to address small-scale needs that he himself had felt but found unaddressed. And even now, at a stage where he can boast the mighty likes of Intel(s intc) and EA(s ea) as customers and is preparing to scale up significantly, he is still cool on the idea of bringing in outside financing.

“We have to see whether makes sense to get VCs on board,” he tells me. “We’ve had a lot of interest from VCs here [in the U.K.] and in the U.S., but it completely changes the way the business works and the goals that we have.”

Building a life before building a company

But let’s rewind. Mytton got into programming back at school. “I learned ASP first, then switched to PHP, then to Python,” he says. “I built a couple of products with friends in sixth form. All self-taught.”

After sixth form, the keen cyclist and Japanophile (“I spend quite a bit of time there, usually exploring by bike”) moved to London for, as he describes it, a “gap year”:

“I joined a search marketing company called eConversions , and they wanted to start building websites. They hired me as their first technical hire to work on a project called WeLoveLocal — essentially like Yelp(s yelp).

The company had no system administrator; Mytton only needed to monitor five or six servers and get alerts when they were broken. However, he was loath to set up enterprise-level tools because they were overkill — “We just wanted SaaS server monitoring, and there was nothing existing.”


And so the idea that would become Server Density was born — but it would have to wait for incubation. It was time for Mytton to get a degree, but he didn’t want one that was IT-related. “I was already doing computer stuff for fun and didn’t want to be forced to do it through a structured university course,” he says. And so he went part-time at WeLoveLocal and (unsurprisingly, as an early activist in the Open Rights Group) left to study law at the University of Birmingham.

In the meantime, WeLoveLocal was sold and Mytton found himself with some cash. In 2009 he hooked up with Wincup to “build this server monitoring product, just to see if anyone was interested in using it.”

They were. The resulting company, Server Density, is a self-service affair and, apart from €50,000 ($64,300) from Seedcamp and a small angel round in 2011, bootstrapped too. Nonetheless, it had paying customers within a couple of months of going live in the summer of 2009. And all its growth has been organic.

New environments need new tools

“We don’t do any active enterprise sales to get those big customers – it’s all through attending conferences, et cetera,” Mytton says. Wincup backs him up, pointing out how Mytton has become a “fairly big name in the MongoDB scene especially… he does a lot of work on the conference circuit.”

“That’s how we got customers like EA and Intel,” Mytton says proudly. “Individual developers within small departments wanted to try it and decided to install it at work, and that then tends to transition into a larger account. At EA a couple of departments were using Server Density independently of each other — the CTO wanted to have a top level account to synchronize the billing.”

Mytton comes across as both confident and personable — you can see how he does well on the developer conference circuit — and he clearly knows exactly where it is he needs to go. His ability to see a burgeoning need and his company’s growth are why he’s made our list. The newly-released second version of Server Density is arguably far more reflective of the company’s name than the first: it’s all about scaling up, with heavily visual features such as heatmaps designed to make it possible for users to quickly locate problem points among thousands of virtual servers (handy when you’re exploiting the possibilities presented by today’s instance-oriented cloud architectures):

“Because it’s grown organically and very quickly, it hasn’t kept pace with the kind of customers we have. The current product works well with 50-1,000 servers, but once you get above 1,000 the UI breaks down … We also want to help sysadmins visualize their infrastructure and deal with alerts – firefighting as well as prevention. We want to make monitoring more useful, and the next step from that is tying it into provisioning.”

In the long run, Mytton wants Server Density to become an all-round “console for sys admins to get all the data and tools they need to run their infrastructure.” Based on his brief but impressive track record of filling the needs he knows from experience, he stands a very good chance of achieving that goal.

—David Meyer