Written by Deena Douara
One can almost picture the men behind VM Farms as kids, acting much like they do today — behind computer monitors, coding, eager to solve the next puzzle.
It’s not a stretch. At the age of 10, founder Hany Fahim literally opened up and broke his first computer the very day he received it. After a month of problem solving, he was able to restore it. “It was very, very rewarding,” he says. He hasn’t been far from a monitor since.
Aman Moolji also started playing with computers and networks at an early age, and sold his first assembled computer when he was just 12 years old. That hobby became a small business that funded his future education.
In the days of dial-up, Kristian Kostecky admits he found hackers fascinating and has been a tinkerer ever since.
Today, the three men and their team provide DevOps services to SaaS (cloud software) companies, enabling development teams to iterate and make changes quickly while ensuring their products are fast, functional, and available.
Kostecky, VM Farms’s CTO, says DevOps Engineers are among the most difficult roles to hire and keep talent for, requiring a niche combination of skills. Fahim says creating this alternative to hiring internally allows companies to focus on developing their product, instead of on the technology used to deliver it.
Moolji, VM Farms’s brand evangelist, compares building software to building a racecar: “You need a team of pro mechanics and engineers to keep that car in top form.”
For myriad local startups, the need for such a business is readily understood but when Fahim first launched eight years ago, he says the service simply did not exist. Moolji explains he was “blown away” by what Fahim was building and had a hard time convincing early clients that VM Farms was really going to deliver all that it promised (they now believe him).
Even today, few, if any, competitors exist that provide the services VM Farms does, including automated deploys, continuous integration, cloud orchestration, configuration management, server operations, and 24/7 incident response.
While VM Farms can service businesses based anywhere in the world, the team says it has been immensely beneficial to be based in Toronto, where much of the business has grown through word-of-mouth and networking.
“It’s an amazing ecosystem,” says Moolji, citing StartupDrinksTO, Canadian Innovation Exchange and their old co-working space of Mantella Venture Partners as key to signing initial clients.
“It’s not just the number of people building products here, but the amount of mentorship that goes on. It’s also a very helping community and it fosters so many sub-communities. If you’re interested in anything, whether it’s how to build a business or how to write software with Java — whatever you want, there’s a group of people who will meet regularly to discuss it.”
Fahim says he doesn’t like hearing Toronto compared to Silicon Valley, known for its cutthroat atmosphere. “Toronto is extremely open and very Canadian in that it’s very supportive and welcoming…. It’s just an incredible hub.” In a broader way, the team says Canada’s laws and regulations are more open and balanced than those of our southern neighbours.
Despite the resources available, Fahim decided early on to bootstrap the business, an unusual path for a tech company that could otherwise have accessed investments. They worked 16-hour days over the first few years to fund the business through sales, and to build it without outside interference.
It is that same can-do attitude that brought the three tech whizzes together many years after their first forays into computer repair and code-writing. It’s the same attitude too that pushed them to build a mobile robot to make faraway staff feel welcome, and to hack their office espresso machine to create the perfect brew each and every time.
All three say it’s been a long, stressful and difficult journey, but as Moolji puts it, “It wouldn’t be worth it if it was easy. Nothing in life is.”