CircleCI gets $1.5M to build out continuous integration service

When Paul Biggar was an engineer working on Mozilla’s Javascript engine, he hated the slow-as-molasses code testing process. “Sometimes it took 15 hours and I spent a year thinking about how I would do it better.”

CircleCI co-founder Paul Biggar

CircleCI co-founder Paul Biggar

So Biggar co-founded CircleCI with Allen Rohner in 2011 to offer continuous integration (the CI in CircleCI) and code testing as a service. The founders like to call it the “Heroku for testing.”

As of now, the San Francisco startup has $1.5 million in seed money from investors including Heroku founder James Lindenbaum, SV Angel, 500 Startups,  Kissmetrics’  co-founder Hiten Shah, and Slicehost founder Jason Seats. The news was disclosed in the company blog on Monday.

CircleCI offers a commercial (e.g. paid) software-as-a-service platform that competes with Jenkins, a popular open source tool — which requires a separate Jenkins server — and newcomers like Wercker, another SaaS CI tool, which won GigaOM Structure Europe’s Launchpad competition last fall, and which picked up $1 million in seed funding last month.

Biggar says CircleCI focuses on boosting developer productivity. When developers face a particularly knotty problem they can directly tap into CircleCI’s resources to see what’s going on with their code. “They can command-line right into our VM and see what’s happening,” he said in a recent interview.

The company has 6 employees now and the new funding will enable it to staff up, add more features, and to scale out its platform for more and bigger workloads.

“We offer parallelism to run your tests across multiple machines. Now we can do 8 machines and we’ll add the ability to slide it across 64 machines,” Biggar said.

It’s a hot market and one that CircleCI will not have to itself. Besides Jenkins and Wercker, other contenders include Austrian startup Codeship (once known as Railsonfire), Travis CI.