As a teenager with too much free time, Mitchell Hashimoto’s natural coding ability and love of video games got him in a bit of trouble. Under threat of legal action from Neopets and others, the enterprising 14 year-old high school freshman forcibly shut down his US$25-per-month membership site selling automated video game cheats he coded in his spare time.
“I started programming at age 12 because I wanted to cheat games,” Hashimoto said. “Looking back, the entrepreneurial bug hit me right away. I just liked to automate things. The site went pretty well until my confused parents, who thought I was just playing video games after school, sat me down after they got a cease-and-desist notice and told me to stop. Then I just kept programming for fun.”
Hashimoto, now 25, has never stopped automating. He’s held software engineering, DevOps and consulting jobs at several different companies, started two more businesses of his own (including current startup HashiCorp), and created or contributed to 75 open-source projects and counting. One of those is Vagrant, the automation tool that’s revolutionized the creation of virtualized development environments.
Since starting HashiCorp in 2012, Hashimoto and cofounder Armon Dadgar have released four other open-source projects in the Vagrant ecosystem—Packer, Serf, Consul and Terraform—each forming a different piece of a puzzle the two set out to solve more than half a decade earlier as undergrads at the University of Washington. HashiCorp recently released Atlas, the company’s first commercial product tying all their open-source projects together into one DevOps SaaS for application delivery. Along with a new funding round of $10 million, Atlas represents a milestone not just for HashiCorp, but also for the decade-long friendship it’s founded on.
As Dadgar put it, Hashimoto has always been driven by a pretty simple philosophy: If you’re waking up at 5 a.m. for any reason, you should replace that task with a computer.
“I remember in the early days we were sitting in this coffee shop and Mitch was showing me Vagrant,” said Dadgar. “He was like, ‘I have this idea where you’ll have a different file for every project, and it’ll automatically set up a virtual environment.’ Vagrant was born out of that need to re-image his laptop for every consulting cycle. That’s kind of the classic story of Mitch. Every time he finds himself doing some manual task he doesn’t want to be doing, especially at odd hours of the night, he thinks…there’s got to be a way to automate that.”
Building up to Vagrant
Hashimoto and Dadgar met as freshmen at the University of Washington in 2007 working on the Seattle Project, a research effort to build a global scientific compute cloud. The two worked on containerizing scientific applications to be deployed across millions of computers, with Hashimoto working to automate as much of the platform and device testing as he could. At the same time, he was already involved in various open-source projects on top of doing regular consulting work for Citrusbyte, a software design and engineering firm.
“Mitchell was the first person I’d met that knew so much about so many different things and was passionate about learning more and constantly pushing boundaries,” Dadgar said. “It’s startlingly rare that you meet someone who’s so passionate in the way that Mitchell is passionate about computer science. The kind of person who’s consumed by it. Mitchell sees the limit of his knowledge and runs out into that frontier beyond it. If you talk to Mitchell about an idea, you know the next time you’ll see him he’ll have spent the whole night researching the ins and outs of a problem and probably have a prototype application on GitHub.”