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Young Alumni Duo Finds Success with Firebase Software Development Product

Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Andrew Lee and Michael Lehenbauer.

Making Connections: Firebase's Andrew Lee (on floor) and Michael Lehenbauer work on new product development ideas at a west coast hackathon event. This keeps the company in front of potential software developers and new market opportunities. (Photo by Vikrum Nijjar)

The adage 'If you build it, they will come' has certainly come true for a San Francisco-based technology company developed by 2006 alumni Andrew Lee and Michael Lehenbauer.

Over the past three years, Firebase has gone from a crazy idea to a proven backend software product used by more than 145,000 developers. And, the startup was acquired last fall to be part of Google's Cloud Platform.

Firebase helps developers build great software through full-featured libraries for all major web and mobile platforms and bindings for the most popular frameworks. The company's leadership comes to work each day striving to help developers create extraordinary experiences.

Lee, a computer science and electrical engineering graduate, joined co-founder James Tamplin in conceiving Firebase's idea during the summer of 2011 while building chat software under their Envolve enterprise. About $1.4 million in seed funding was raised in 2012 and an additional $5.6 million was added in 2013. Lehenbauer, who earned degrees in computer science and mathematics, became a member of the team after spending five years as a product developer at Microsoft. He helped build Firebase's initial version.

Another alumnus, 2014 computer engineering and computer science graduate Michael McDonald is a solutions architect for the company, helping enterprise customers successfully build their products on top of Firebase's products.

"Our success has been largely attributable to the way we interact with our customers," says Lee, who previously formed two startups with Tamplin and worked at Adobe, Seagate, and Green Hills Software. "From the beginning, we made it a priority to keep in constant contact with the developers using our products to ensure that we were building something they loved."

Google's engineering talent, resources, and technical infrastructure could dramatically upscale Firebase within the technology marketplace, and the leadership team believes the company, presently with 27 employees at Google's San Francisco office, has only scratched the surface of future opportunities.

"Firebase is still in its early days in a lot of ways and there are a lot more problems to be solved," states Lehenbauer. "Firebase's core idea of building software applications using real-time data synchronization is super powerful, and we give developers a faster and easier way to write modern apps. We've involved our users in the design and iteration of our product, and emphasized developer advocacy and education."

Lee continues leading Firebase's development for Google, while Lehenbauer is still designing and implementing the product's core features.

"I hadn't fully internalized just how much hustle it takes to get your product in front of people and get them excited about trying it," says Lehenbauer. "Your whole team has to be marketing constantly and looking for opportunities to make inroads in the marketplace."