SA-Based Assembla Expanding Its Local Labor Force, Global Presence

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The Assembla office in San Antonio is located in the Scaleworks building.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The Assembla office in San Antonio is located in Scaleworks' space in the Savoy building.

Two years after moving to San Antonio, source code management company Assembla continues on its course toward becoming a global enterprise.

Last week, the company announced the expansion of its foreign outpost in Dublin, Ireland, with plans to open an Australian office by the end of the year. The company also has an office in Poland and a client roster that includes more than 3,500 companies ranging from Fortune 500 companies to smaller shops in 157 countries, Assembla executives said.

Paul Lynch, Assembla CEO

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Paul Lynch, Assembla CEO

CEO Paul Lynch said the company has grown 60 percent year-over-year for the past two years. It employs more than 30 people in San Antonio and about 120 globally. Lynch said Assembla is poised to double in staff over the next year-and-a-half.

As of Friday, the company had 10 open positions at its San Antonio office in the downtown tech district.

"San Antonio's been great for us," Lynch said, who joined Assembla in 2016 when it moved here from Boston.

The company, which hosts computer code for large enterprises, is on a global trajectory. But its rapid international expansion doesn't mean it will turn its shoulder to the city in which its corporate headquarters now resides.

"We're not really interested in investing outside of San Antonio," Lynch said, explaining that he doesn't see the Dublin team growing to more than five employees and that the company will only have a handful of developers in each of its foreign offices. "That's not really where we see this."

Assembla has found its niche hosting and managing computer code for large enterprises, many of which must comply with government data protection requirements. That means security around the startup's product has to be vacuum-tight to avoid black-hat hackers breaching its system and stealing proprietary code and other intellectual property.

Much like Google Docs and other web-based productivity applications, cloud-based code repositories such as Assembla allow software developers to collaborate on, peer-review, and share code at a much faster rate and in a more sophisticated and powerful way than is possible through email.

Clients pay for subscriptions to host their code on Assembla's platform.

Assembla hired its Chief Technology Officer Jacek Materna for his cybersecurity expertise. Materna founded a cybersecurity startup right after college and is considered a local thought leader in the space.

Jacek Materna, Assembla CTO

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Jacek Materna is Assembla's chief technology officer.

While it isn't a cybersecurity company, making security a priority has been part of Assembla's focus since joining the Scaleworks fund in 2016. Former Rackspace President Lew Moorman and general partner Ed Byrne run Scaleworks, an equity fund that helps stimulate stagnating startups' growth.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, approximately 90 percent of hacks stem from poorly written source code. Lynch said Assembla is uniquely positioned to become an industry standard because of how seriously it takes security.

Code repositories use a system called version control to manage updates to files and code. Version control is a ledger of sorts for software development, a way of making and keeping track of changes so that files and code do not change erratically from computer to computer.

In a way, Assembla is like a file cabinet for code – a place where one can securely store the backbone for proprietary software, Materna said. But it's also like Facebook, providing a news feed for developers to keep track of the work their peers and others are doing, he added.

Matt Theiss, Assembla software engineer, works at his desk.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Matt Theiss, Assembla software engineer, works at his desk.

The company has made serious strides in the past year with the launch of its first mobile app. Mobile devices aren't ideal for writing code but can be useful for traveling or otherwise on-the-go technical workers reviewing code.

In September, Assembla branded itself as the only provider of cloud-based version control for large companies. And in January, it acquired Cornerstone, a Mac Operating System desktop app with more high-powered features than are available in a browser.

The cloud-based code hosting space is dominated by one major player: GitHub. It's become the gold standard for web developers to host their code, but it's solely built on the version-control system known as Git.

Assembla is a multi-system platform with support for Git and two other popular version-control systems: NextGen SVN and Perforce.

But GitHub is not a competitor, Lynch said.

"We're not better than GitHub, we're different than GitHub," he said.

For instance, Assembla's large-enterprise clients, such as Unity, Cavium, and Deutsche Telekom, are either required by data protection regulations, have files that are too large, or operate in a different coding environment than the one GitHub supports.

Qualaroo, also a Scaleworks-owned company, uses Assembla's code repository platform because of its support for both of the version-control systems it uses.

"Assembla makes more sense for us because we can do all our code repositories in one place," CEO Curtis Morris said.

Morris said Assembla's focus on cybersecurity makes it primed for becoming one of the city's more notable tech companies.

"I think Assembla is going to play a very large role in [the source code security space]," he said. "I think they are doing great things for San Antonio's tech sector."

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