It’s an exciting time to be a startup. Our vast technological landscape has made powerful digital tools available to businesses of all sizes, making starting (and scaling) an organization easier than ever before.

In an era where technology is a fundamental building block of almost every business, DevOps tools and practices have become ubiquitous across industries looking to manage risk and accelerate development. Understanding how to get the most from technologies is critical for startups hoping to blaze a trail from concept to monetization — and beyond.

One of the more immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the demand for better technological solutions. Practices such as working from home and the rapid adoption of online services enabled technology companies to navigate the pandemic largely unscathed and created a wealth of opportunities for burgeoning startups.

With the assistance of methodologies like DevOps and automation technologies like continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), organizations were able to adapt their technology products to the demands of the pandemic, with big businesses and startups alike benefiting from the rapid development cycles that enable software to perpetually improve. For small startups, the ability to build, test, and iterate quickly is vital for remaining competitive.

The global startup landscape

While there is no shortage of opportunities for tech-savvy startups, there is also no lack of competition. With countless businesses searching for their niche, startups often find themselves in claustrophobic markets with competitors vying for the attention of customers, investors, and talent.

In previous decades, startups and their culture were a phenomenon primarily centered in the United States. Today, the startup ethos has spread globally, creating an even deeper pool of competitors and forcing businesses to compete on the world stage.

Though technology has dissolved many international barriers in the workplace, international startups face their own set of challenges. Despite massive growth in venture capital funding around the world — Europe alone saw investments triple from $41 billion to nearly $120 billion in 2021 — securing financing and courting venture capital can prove difficult. This is especially true for companies whose headquarters are not in or near a major digital hub. Even in the US, startups outside of key locations like Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, or Boston often find it challenging to secure the connections that lead to funding.

Similarly, many startups may find it difficult to establish the industry connections necessary to find a market for their products. Startups have traditionally thrived in highly interconnected hotbeds of business activity. Those attempting to establish themselves outside of these areas may find little local demand for their products and services while simultaneously suffering a disconnect from essential contacts within their industry.

With digital collaboration tools enabling teams to work across borders and time zones with relative ease, the competition for skilled employees has increased substantially. Remote work enables those with in-demand skillsets to look far and wide for employment opportunities, making it even more difficult for startups to attract the talent they need to develop their products and sustain their growth.

Despite ostensibly increasing the size of the talent pool available for recruiting, hiring international employees can come with heavy tax burdens and the added difficulties of complying with laws and regulations across multiple localities.

With so many obstacles, Europe’s leading tech startups have adapted a variety of intriguing strategies for attracting and retaining talent on their tech teams.

Many of these challenges are out of the control of startups and their employees. In such a competitive atmosphere, organizations need to go the extra mile to ensure their employee’s abilities are being maximized and that they are utilizing their technological resources to the fullest. This is where DevOps and CI/CD enter the scene.

Benefits of adopting DevOps and CI/CD

At the core of DevOps and CI/CD is a philosophy of rapid development, testing, and deployment that allows for technology to be quickly iterated upon. This philosophy aligns closely with the needs of a startup. To gain a competitive edge and capture market share, startups must be able to bring products to market quickly and continuously improve their quality. For startups, the ability to move quickly and respond to trends and changes is essential if they hope to out-compete larger, established interests.

DevOps works by removing the traditional barriers between development and operations teams. With both development and operations collaborating across software’s lifecycle, DevOps teams can more readily identify opportunities for improvements, and changes can be integrated in a seamless fashion that does not unnecessarily interrupt day-to-day operations.

Through CI/CD, the iterative process of DevOps can take place much more quickly. Automated tooling supports rapid development cycles by streamlining the process of moving code from development to production and eliminating the need for developers to integrate and deploy code manually. This enables engineers to focus their attention where it is most needed.

As practices that are quickly cementing themselves as industry standards, a strong DevOps culture and a functional CI/CD pipeline are attractive features for job-seeking engineers. Organizations that are not practicing DevOps or utilizing CI/CD may find recruitment more difficult, as engineers and other talent can be leery of organizations that lack these elements, which are often seen as foundational for creating quality software. Establishing a mature DevOps culture is a significant step for organizations looking to build a capable engineering team. It goes a long way toward signaling the quality of a company to in-demand engineers with many job opportunities from which to choose.

Implementing DevOps as a startup

In many ways, startups have an advantage over established businesses when it comes to implementing DevOps practices. The earlier that an organization begins to develop its DevOps culture, the more deeply rooted the principles of the methodology can be within the company’s workflows. Where an established organization may have an entrenched culture, a startup has the opportunity to embrace DevOps from the earliest stages.

DevOps processes should be embraced from both the top-down and the bottom up. From the CTO to the average engineer, teams should ensure they align on the principles of their DevOps methodology and the philosophy behind its implementation.

For startups looking to implement DevOps, it is important to find engineers with practical DevOps and CI/CD experience. Ideally, the first engineering hire will have hands-on experience working with DevOps processes. In addition to DevOps skills, engineers with a working knowledge of implementing and maintaining CI/CD pipelines can contribute significantly to a startup’s early development.

Bringing someone on board with practical experience in DevOps can also save a startup from the classic mistake of re-inventing the wheel. While every organization needs the opportunity to experiment and innovate, there is much to be learned from the efforts of previous startups in implementing DevOps and CI/CD.

Take advantage of the wealth of information available and the many lessons shared by those who came before. Resources such as the Startup Founders’ Guide to Software Delivery and the 2024 State of Software Delivery Report contain valuable information that can seriously accelerate an organization’s ability to scale.

Accompanying the implementation of DevOps processes should be a strong emphasis on establishing and maintaining technological due diligence. Understanding due diligence prevents an organization from racking up technical debt and provides a sure foundation for ongoing growth. While a due diligence audit comes as a surprise to many organizations, understanding its principles and frequently referencing the standards of due diligence can be a great benefit to budding engineering teams. As with DevOps, there is much to be learned from those who have been through the rigors of due diligence processes, like the detailed information available in the Technology Due Diligence 101 - Secrets From an Auditor panel discussion from Startup Spaces.

The road to startup success

The journey to startup success is long, complicated, and endlessly challenging. While the task might seem daunting, the wide variety of tools, technologies, and methodologies available to startups has significantly widened the field of possibilities for startup organizations. Techniques such as DevOps and powerful automation technologies that enable features such as CI/CD can go a long way toward leveling the playing field, empowering even the smallest organization to deliver world-class software with the speed and security that customers demand.

The impact of DevOps and CI/CD on an organization’s bottom line is hard to overstate. If your startup is ready to adopt a DevOps mindset, sign up now and give your team the resources it needs to build and scale with the most powerful automation tools on the market.