Airbrake: Error Tracking Software for Rails, Javascript, and more

No software is perfect. Issues are bound to appear from time to time as people use a product in unexpected ways or as developers update the product with new features and, hopefully, fixes to earlier problems. A couple of monkeys smacking at keyboards might eventually produce Shakespeare’s collected works, but they probably wouldn’t create a bug-free app or website.

Airbrake helps developers track those bugs. Its service, which is today being updated with a new interface and migrated to Rackspace’s cloud infrastructure, is currently used by some 40,000 companies hoping to identify and fix problems before they affect their business. You know how your computer warns you when something’s gone wrong? Airbrake essentially does that on a much larger — and more detailed — scale.

The service has been on a long ride. The product was originally developed by the Thoughtbot consultancy, which sold it to Exceptional, which was itself acquired by Rackspace in March. Given the current rate at which venture-backed companies are acquired solely for their talent — insert the Yahoo joke of your choice here — it’s surprising to see a bootstrapped service survive two acquisitions. Airbrake can trot out as many stats as it likes, but the fact that it still exists might be the most impressive aspect of the service.

Ben Arent, the service’s product lead, says that bootstrapping Airbrake and Exceptional proved beneficial for both services-slash-businesses. “We always had to hustle and make sure our products were profitable,” he says. That mindset continues despite the sale to Rackspace, which is providing infrastructure and support but otherwise allowing Airbrake to act independently. According to Arent, the service is still profitable.

Airbrake isn’t the only company to learn from its bootstrapped beginnings and apply those lessons to a new position. “One of the things about being a bootstrapped business is that it forces you to really think about hard problems and try to solve them. You can’t just hide behind the money, you have to focus on customers and build something good enough for them,” Wrike CEO Andrew Filev told me earlier this week. “We didn’t have a sales team, so we had to build products that sold themselves.”

Arent says that work on today’s update began in March, the same month Rackspace acquired Exceptional. Since then the service has focused on migrating its infrastructure to Rackspace, which Arent says should allow the service to better help its customers by being more responsive and reliable. (No word on whether Rackspace forces employees to wear explosive vests that detonate if they say anything less-than-charitable about the company or not, but I’m inclined to believe Arent anyway.)

Airbrake will continue to expand as it focuses on tracking problems with mobile devices or potentially developing a system that could help developers learn about potential problems before changing a single line of code. Maybe they could help those monkeys with their typewriters, too.

[Image via Airbrake]