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What is our "Why" and purpose for existing? Public renaming update (week 14)

The "Why" of our company

Since our last update on our public renaming process in early July, a lot has happened. While we're still not ready to reveal the new name, I can tell you that we are in the process of vetting finalists with our law firm, and if the process continues on schedule, we plan to reveal the new name on October 5 amid party hats, confetti, and various fizzy drinks.

Coming up with a new name has not been an easy exercise. Perhaps in his tweet above, our Senior Director Jamie Allen nailed it by simply going with "Death Nacho". But when it comes down to it, does that really hit on the Why of our company?

To get at the Why of things (pretty existential stuff, really), we resurfaced Simon Sinek's aptly-named guide Start With Why, which triggered an internal discussion aimed at getting clarity on why our company exists. We combined Sinek’s work with the insights of Patrick Lencioni and got the team together to answer these six crucial questions:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important––right now?
  6. Who must do what?

We didn’t start this effort before the naming committee got together, but we started looking deeply at #1 above before we got too far along. In this blog post, I wanted to take you behind the scenes to share how we crystallized our Why.

Looking at Why (and not domains, names & slogans) 

While attempting to crystallize our Why, it was tempting to slip into the sloganing mindset. But our Why is different than the marketing tag line of a mission statement. This is the big aspirational reason for why we exist and how we contribute to a better enterprise software ecoysystem. One tricky part of anyone's journey of crystallizing the Why is in recognizing the facets and different categories of purpose, any of which can be valid. We started by identifying our categories to clarify who our organization this ultimately serves. Lencioni provided the following categories for consideration:

  • Customers: Think Nordstrom. Their underlying motivation for everything the do is about serving customers. It’s not really about fashion, though they certainly need to be good at that.
  • Industry: This purpose is all about being immersed in a given industry.
  • Greater Cause: This kind of purpose is not necessarily about what the organization does, but about something connected to it. Think Southwest Airlines. Set out to democratize air travel. Does it serve customers? Do they enjoy aviation? Yes, but that’s not the fundamental reasons for being in business. Its leaders have a larger cause associated with that service, and that cause informs every decision they make.
  • Community: This purpose is about doing something that makes a specific geographical place special.
  • Employees: This purpose is not about serving the customer, the industry, or the region, but rather about the employees.
  • Wealth: This purpose is all about wealth for the owners. If you fall into this category, be upfront about it.

Of these options, we unanimously agreed our category of purpose is Greater Cause. From here, we spent many hours to to come up with our why, deliberating over every word. Here's how I break it down into a single sentence:

Fueling a software revolution to make the unimaginable possible

We are a continuous source of fuel

Um, fuel? Well, we feel that this is more encompassing than "empowering", which I believe is an overused term. We’re fueling what you hope to do in many ways, through the software and products we deliver and our activities in the market, we’re presenting ideas on how to build a new type of application to thousands of people through conferences and meetups; millions if you look to the web overall.

So fueling was a better choice than enabling. We also decided not to go with “leading” as it’s a bit trite, but more importantly, this term didn’t encompass the feeling of togetherness that we want to convey: that we are embarking on this journey together, facing the revolution side-by-side, together for the duration.

Fueling also has the connotation of something that is longer lasting than igniting or sparking. These words imply a single event with a discrete start and stop associated. Fueling is a constant flow of life going to the dynamo of these systems, and we soon realized that this "software revolution" is, in fact, already upon us. So we’re not leading or igniting, but providing the life force of something that is already big.

We are fueling you through a Third Software Revolution

In my eyes, we are in the midst a third major revolution, at least in the last thirty years of software. The first revolution I identify with was the move from mainframe to client server. Yes, that dates me. PCs really took off and were no longer merely a tool for word processors or spreadsheets.

The second revolution that most of us have lived through is still happening, and that’s the advent of web applications, taking technology like app servers and tools like Spring and building applications that run on the web to power businesses. You could argue whether that was enabled by the web itself, or by Sun Microsystems, or Java app servers. It really doesn’t matter. It was a multi-vendor, long-term revolution that didn’t happen overnight.

This second revolution is what we’re disrupting right now.

As a leading voice in this third revolution, we’re a primary vendor, but certainly not the only one. So whether or not you call it a "Reactive movement", doesn’t really matter. What’s driving it is a completely different set of constituents than we have ever had before. Before, lines of business and IT was responsible for initiating a new way of doing things.

It’s now the consumer that’s driving it. And it’s not just people, it’s also devices, driven by the consumer’s requirement for everything to be connected. This revolution, whether you want to tie it to IoT, fast data, or the next-generation web doesn’t matter. What matters is that these new application requirements can’t be delivered by many of the "full stack" technologies that have been around for the last 15 to 20 years. This third revolution is changing the way applications are defined, built, deployed, managed, monitored and improved. We sat down with an industry analyst about this concept:

We asked what percentage of applications being built in the next five years would be built in this new Reactive way, whether or not it’s called "Reactive". I threw out a number of 30%, and when he said, "Oh no," I must admit my heart sank a little. Then he continued with, "If it’s less than 50%, I would be shocked."


To put that into perspective, it took 12 years for Java and Java application servers to become more than 50% of the workloads in the enterprise.

So although it may be obvious, I think it’s worth mentioning that we use the phrase "software revolution", not "Reactive" revolution. While we feel right in calling this modern application development style "Reactive", there are many people using our technologies that don’t use the term. Take tools like Apache Spark, Apache Kafka, and Gatling, for example. These innovations were built using our technology; Scala is the fuel of their revolutionary efforts.

We want to make the unimaginable possible

How do we make the unimaginable possible? I touched on this a bit already, but let’s put it into perspective.

Our customer UniCredit, a large financial services group in Europe, recently launched a "fast data" platform that would not have been possible without the power of Scala, Spark and Akka. Our customer Walmart Canada, facing a third disastrous crash of online systems during Black Friday, recreated their front-end with Play, Akka and Scala to ensure full availability for the next big day––and increasing conversions 20% in the process.  

One of our manufacturing customers is now leading the revolution in precision agriculture. This is a business they probably couldn't even start to envision 10 years ago. In addition to the tractor itself and related maintenance, they sell high-tech services to their farmers. Another customer of ours is leading a revolution in "the connected home". That entire platform is enabled by our technology. We asked another financial services customer if they could ever have envisioned building their existing trading platform without our technology. The answer was no. It wouldn’t be able to perform, or be updated as readily as they needed. They are continually adding new features and functionality.

Unimaginable. It’s big, and when you go for it's truly aspirational (as many of you probably know!)

Final thoughts

Another factor that played a part in our thinking about our Why was going back to some of the quotes that developers working with our technologies have shared with us. What it’s doing for them is unlocking a new way of thinking. This quote from a senior software engineer at HP comes to mind:

Your technologies allowed us to come up with a design that we could only dream of before we became aware of the product. It is hard to put into words how exciting it has been to work on a project like this. It is the most fun I've ever had developing a system - and I have been developing software for a very long time.


An architect at a technology firm in Canada shared, “You saved my career.”

So, there’s a business aspect to it, but there is also a very human aspect. Developers are the key to allowing business to not only survive, but to thrive.

And that's how we came to our Why: Fueling a software revolution to make the unimaginable possible. I want to remind everyone that this is not a tagline. Rather, it’s the audacious, inspiring reason for why we exist that has helped to inform the naming process. 

Thank you for your support and comments, which I hope you'll leave below. More soon. Let's get excited!



The Total Economic Impact™
Of Lightbend Akka

  • 139% ROI
  • 50% to 75% faster time-to-market
  • 20x increase in developer throughput
  • <6 months Akka pays for itself