If you asked me to name the hottest enterprise tech startup right now, I would have to say it’s Docker. The startup’s open-source container technology has become a hit among developers, and several major tech companies have moved to integrate with it.

When Docker announced its $95 million funding round in April, PitchBook told VentureBeat in an email that it had a $1.07 billion post-money valuation. Now the startup has plenty of money to spend.

A couple of years ago, though, that wasn’t the case. Docker was in the midst of pivoting — from a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud for building and running applications to a company that would focus on the containers at the heart of PaaS. Containers, which Docker open-sourced in March 2013, package up application code that developers can then move from one server environment to another, without any tinkering. The technology is a substitute for long-standing virtualization tools from companies like VMware and Microsoft.

In hindsight, the move to open-source Docker proved to be quite smart. But at the time Docker was still in relatively poor financial shape.

Even so, it was still surprising to see this week — after someone pointed it out on Hacker News — that Docker paid out $799 in June 2013 to the person who came up with the winning logo design in a 99designs contest. The winner was Ricky AsamManis of Indonesia.


Above: Docker

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

AsamManis’ logo, a cute little whale holding up stacks of shipping containers, now appears on stickers covering laptops the world over.

It beat out 83 other designs, some of which look downright quaint now. There were giraffes, acorns, a shipping crane, and even an elephant.

Docker didn’t try to cover up the fact that it paid out $799 through 99designs for the logo, which people voted for in a poll; the company even described the process in a June 2013 blog post. Even so, such a small payment for a logo that has become so big just seems a bit odd now, given the $1 billion valuation.

Docker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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