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Prezi's CTO on how to remain a lean startup after 4 years

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Peter Halacsy, CTO of Prezi, spoke today at DevOps Days in Rome about the evolution of the company in the past 4 years as a lean startup. He discussed how embracing failure is the only way to grow and improve the business. This principle affected all aspects of the company, from its structure to people recruitment, responsibility, technology stack and mostly the culture.

Peter stressed the need for speed of learning at a lean startup like Prezi, which grew from 2 to around 90 people in about 4 years time. This requires everyone sharing end to end responsibility for product improvement results. Some of the technical hurdles Prezi has overcome so far include monolithic MySQL implementation, non-service oriented architecture and lack of transactional logging. The main problem however according to Peter was keeping an operations team running for 3 years until realizing DevOps is a cultural change across the board, not a single group's responsibility.

According to Peter, the way of working at Prezi today is very much the same as at the start, with multiple feature teams, each working as an independent startup unit from idea conception to delivery in production. There is no traditional separation of responsibilities into Ops, QA, Dev. 

The company provides the infrastructure (monitoring tools, data reporting, etc) and other necessary means for people to perform their job in the way they see fit to deliver quickly and overcome failures quickly. Current delivery rate is above 10 deploys a day with a log rate above 10.000 messages per second.

A non-conventional company structure requires a non-conventional recruitment process. According to Peter, new employees have to be technological generalists, self-confident, responsible, have a DIY spirit and be slightly crazy. An assessment week is mandatory including getting a real hot problem solved through to production.

The conference is being live streamed here.

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