Network management is a critical aspect of IT operations and service delivery. As networks grow to include more and more connected devices, the complexity of the network increases, resulting in the need to heavily monitor traffic and usage patterns and diagnose issues quickly and efficiently before instability arises. NetBox is a leading open-source solution for documenting modern networks that focuses on both IP address management (IPAM) and data center infrastructure management (DCIM). NetBox Labs has built NetBox Cloud, a SaaS cloud-hosted offering to provide a commercial, enterprise-grade version of NetBox. The platform integrates automation heavily to eliminate the administrative burdens of hosting and managing NetBox instances. Offering a wide array of customization choices including custom fields, plugins, APIS, and webhooks, NetBox users rely on the solution to serve as a single source of truth of networks. Launched by network management experts as a spinout from NS1 (acquired by IBM), Netbox Cloud already counts organizations like NFTA, Dartmouth, and Chewy as happy customers.
AlleyWatch caught up with NetBox Labs Cofounder and CEO Kris Beevers to learn more about the business, the company’s strategic plans, recent round of funding, and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
NetBox Labs has raised $20 million in Series A funding. Flybridge Capital is leading the investment with participation from GGV Capital, Grafana Labs CEO Raj Dutt, Mango Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, IBM, Founder Collective, and Entrée Capital.
Tell us about the product or service that NetBox Labs offers.
NetBox Labs provides NetBox Cloud, an enterprise-grade, SaaS version of open source NetBox — the world’s most popular Network Source of Truth, a critical tool for management and automation of modern networks, with thousands of enterprise installs. We are the commercial steward of NetBox, and also Orb, the next-generation open-source network observability platform.
What inspired the start of NetBox Labs?
While CEO of NS1, I discovered the NetBox community after hearing many rave reviews from NS1 customers about NetBox’s powerful UIs, extensible network modeling, and comprehensive APIs. I also learned that many teams are devoting time and energy to deploying and managing open source NetBox because it’s such a critical component to their operations. Shortly after, NetBox Creator and Lead Maintainer Jeremy Stretch joined the NS1 team as a distinguished engineer and he helped to launch a cloud-hosted and managed SaaS version of NetBox: NetBox Cloud. With support from NS1, Jeremy continued to support and invest in the open-source community while the NetBox Cloud platform saw accelerating adoption. It became clear that NetBox could — and should — stand on its own as an independent company ready to transform the emerging field of network automation.
NetBox Labs was established with the goal of creating a virtuous circle of reinvestment in the open-source community to become the leader in network management and network automation. I and the rest of the NetBox Labs leadership team, which includes Jeremy and many other executives from NS1, believe networking professionals’ time is best spent architecting networks, not managing tools. Guided by open principles, we are building an easy-to-use SaaS platform that improves the lives of thousands of these network professionals.
How is NetBox Labs different?
Our leadership team is made up of industry visionaries who already have a proven track record of success in transforming critical infrastructure markets. (The executive team came from NS1, another New York-based infrastructure scale-up recently acquired by IBM). The company is also backed by venture capital firms that invested in other wildly successful commercial open-source leaders like HashiCorp, MongoDB, Grafana Labs, and others.
NetBox Labs is also supported by a global, engaged open-source community that includes tens of thousands of engineers. NetBox is already in use by thousands of companies. It is the standard network source of truth and a critical starting point on the journey to network automation.
While historically most companies have managed their networks with tools like Excel or solutions from DDI and other networking vendors built for more traditional networks, these legacy solutions can’t scale to address the dynamic, distributed, complex nature of modern networks spanning distributed and remote footprints, hybrid cloud, and edge driven by an explosion in mobility and connected devices. Companies need a purpose-built system of record or source of truth for their network with modern APIs and integrations with the broader ecosystem of modern network management and automation tools, which NetBox and NetBox Cloud provide.
What market does NetBox Labs target and how big is it?
We target the rapidly growing network automation industry, which according to Emergen Research will be worth up to $30 billion by 2028.
What’s your business model?
Open-source NetBox is free and available for download on GitHub. With intro, standard, and enterprise plans available, NetBox Cloud is a managed NetBox solution with enterprise-grade capabilities sold directly to companies of all sizes, and across all industries, who need help building and managing complex networks.
How are you preparing for a potential economic slowdown?
We have plans for smart, sustainable growth, and right now we’re investing aggressively in our products and the open-source community to support the rapid growth we are already seeing. We see huge potential in the network automation market, and that’s why many of the most influential VCs in the industry have backed us.
What was the funding process like?
This was a unique fundraising process because of the spin-out of NetBox Labs from NS1 while IBM was acquiring NS1. We developed a huge amount of momentum within NS1, and the momentum of the open-source NetBox community has accelerated substantially over the last few years as well. All that happened in “plain sight” for investors because many of NetBox Labs’ investors were invested in NS1 too. All that building momentum combined with the established team we’ve pulled together, and the team’s track record of success with NS1, made this a no-brainer investment for our venture investors.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Because NetBox Labs was an established business spinning out of NS1, the most interesting challenge in this process was raising capital at the same time we were executing the spin-out — establishing a new company, standing up operational systems and processes, and generally doing all the things that normally you’d do to start a brand new company, at the same time we were keeping our momentum and fundraising. A really unique circumstance!
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our investors have recognized that the network automation market is a massive opportunity because every networking team in the world is in a crunch, due to the increasingly dynamic, distributed networks they’re managing, the critical role their networks play in every facet of work and life, and the massive explosion of mobility and connected devices. Building and managing networks continues to be manual, which creates errors and delays. NetBox technology solves this problem.
NetBox has a world-class open-source community with high engagement (including over 12,000 stars on GitHub), and NetBox Cloud is enjoying stellar initial commercial traction.
NetBox Labs has a simple, unique, and ambitious long-term strategy, with an executive team who has proven track record of success at NS1, where our agility and dedication were critical to the company’s success and eventual acquisition by IBM.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Our goal is to firmly establish NetBox and NetBox Cloud as key components of the modern composable network automation stack, tapping into a $20 billion+ market opportunity, along with our open-source observability solution Orb.
As a first step, we’re looking to take NetBox’s current position as the established leader in Network Source of Truth (NSoT) technology and help every networking team start on their network automation journey. This will include leveraging the large and passionate open-source community around NetBox to spread the word about the value of it. As far as NetBox Cloud is concerned, we will focus on delivering more enterprise-grade capabilities atop the already massive open-source feature set, and making it easy and simple for networking teams to get up and running with NetBox.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
We’re in a challenging market in 2023. Operate with discipline and focus. Do fewer things better, and keep your attention on identifying and solving real customer problems. That sounds basic, and it is, but it’s how you build enduring value and a foundation for scale, and that’s what it takes to attract capital in any market.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
NetBox Labs is investing heavily in its products to present its vision for an open, composable network automation stack. That will include further investment in NetBox and NetBox Cloud, of course, but our vision extends to the broader requirements of modern networking, such as observability and automation tooling. That’s why NetBox Labs is also the new home of Orb, the next-generation open-source Network Observability platform originally built at NS1. We will also continue to invest in the overall network automation ecosystem.
What’s your favorite coffee shop or location in the city to hold a meeting?
For many years we’ve worked in Lower Manhattan. I hung out at Tajin on Greenwich Street across 3 different startups – now including NetBox Labs!