From early computer days to a global tech stage
Tracing the path of Ramiro’s life from childhood to Okteto highlights the combination of curiosity and a can-do attitude that often underlies achievement, especially for the lucky few that manage to bridge the gap between technical and business achievement. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Ramiro was first exposed to technology at around eight years old, when he would visit his dad’s office and get to interact with their computers, and recognized “this cool technology thing coming” simply from playing games or even typing on a word processor. In high school, Ramiro opted to take the one optional computer programming class. “I had never been very artistic–I never had art skills, but I discovered that through technology, I could create things and build exciting stuff,” he says. “Then when it came time to pick what to study in university, I immediately decided on computer science.”
Near the end of his degree at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Microsoft organized a student engineering competition called Imagine Cup that Ramiro entered with a team of four people. Like a startup pitch, they submitted a concept for a product they wanted to build, and there was the opportunity to win at a university level and at a country level before making it to the main stage. After winning their school competition and the Mexico qualifier, Ramiro and his friends were invited on a paid trip by Microsoft to New Delhi. “I had never left Mexico before that, really. That trip made me see how tech can truly be a global equalizer. Suddenly, I was on a world stage talking to students from everywhere, and it opened my eyes to the possibility of my ideas becoming a reality,” he shares.
Although Ramiro did not win the competition, he was invited to interview for a job at Microsoft. At the time, Ramiro recalls being somewhat reticent about the opportunity–he was more passionate about all things open source and the free software movement–but today, he sees the role at Microsoft as one of the luckiest breaks of his career. It brought him to the United States (a move that he intended for one year, thirteen years later!), and also gave him early exposure to innovations in cloud “before it was a thing.” He was placed on the team that would later become Azure, and characterizes the opportunity as “really lucky that even though I was a junior engineer, I was exposed to very early insights into the problem space I’m still working on today. My entire career I’ve been working on the problem space of modern programming practices, developer tools that make things more efficient, and the challenge of building software at scale. So I was very lucky that in the most formative years of my career, I was surrounded by people who were thinking about problems that were so far ahead at the time–I didn’t even realize how far ahead until I moved to the Bay Area and saw that what others were concerned with, teams at Microsoft were tackling years earlier.”
Hacking the startup bug
At Microsoft, Ramiro met a few friends who left to start ElasticBox, and once they raised funding, Ramiro joined as their fifth employee and moved to the Bay Area–a dream he describes as “a mythical, far-fetched dream for those not from America.” One of the most notable shifts from corporate to startup life, that really resonated with him, was the difference in trying to solve problems for the industry by building products designed for millions of people, versus building a product iteratively with a handful of customers to serve their needs. Ramiro built the ElasticBox software collaboratively with Pablo Chico de Guzman, who was also among the team’s first five employees (today, Pablo is Okteto’s CTO and Co-Founder). Through the ElasticBox adventure, the two also met another good friend, Ramon Lamana (who is now Okteto’s CPO and Co-Founder). The idea for Okteto was born out of the mutual friendship and startup bug shared by Ramiro, Pablo and Ramon.
At the time, Okteto’s three co-founders were each in corporate gigs at Atlassian, Docker and Google, respectively, when they decided to reconnect and get back to building together. As Ramiro describes it, “we quit our jobs and three of us were like, ‘what are we going to do? What are we building?’”. They had been very involved in communities at the intersection of developer tools and cloud computing, and after spending three months iterating on a broad range of ideas, ultimately, their interests, experience and communities led them towards solving for a very clear problem around productivity and a lack of tooling for developers. Ramiro moved to Madrid for a summer to work where Pablo and Ramon were based, and after a fun summer spent hacking with friends, they had a prototype, and were encouraged by a mentor to apply to Y Combinator. For the Okteto founders, Y Combinator was an invaluable learning experience–not only in the hard skills needed to thrive, but in letting go of self-limiting beliefs.
When Ramiro talks to others who are considering the entrepreneurship journey, he cautions that having some savings is important in alleviating pressure, but encourages others to pursue their ideas and to embrace an ethos of just doing what they want to do.
The move from engineer to CEO, and scaling Okteto
Ramiro continues to be surprised by how quickly founders need to evolve alongside their businesses, and credits Okteto’s growth to adaptability. He shares how, in fewer than five fast years, he went from being an engineer in a team at Atlassian to the CEO of a company with thirty employees. And Ramiro highlights how growth in startups is not necessarily steady. After Okteto’s $15M Series A this February, led by Two Sigma Ventures*, the team went from ten people to a whopping twenty-eight people in four months.
Reflecting on the past four years and the transition from building projects to building a company, Ramiro says, “Every year has been incredibly different from the previous one. There was the year of building, the year of pitching, the year of selling, and now we’re in the year of scaling, where we need to hire leaders for various roles I have little to no experience in. But the biggest surprise of all is how sudden these changes land, and how hard they may seem at times to anticipate.”
As Ramiro and the team continue to build on a dream of “creating software, helping teams get more out of their development efforts, and having fun while we’re at it,” Ramiro is excited to build an “inclusive team–one that represents our users. We’re not just ten people in the Bay Area. We have people in eight countries, across all backgrounds and ages. We’re a team of people all over the world, building software for people all over the world. And for me that’s super important.”
We’re thrilled to continue supporting Ramiro and the team at Okteto for the journey.