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Navigating the Microsoft Ecosystem to Build a 12 Million Dollar Company: Brian Knight, CEO of Pragmatic Works (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Apr 27th 2012

Sramana: Your company is essentially offering three main products, which are software tools, training, and consulting. Is that correct?

Brian Knight: We provide software tools to help people migrate from one version of a Microsoft server to another. We provide training for those who are trying to learn new platforms. We also provide consulting services around those offerings.

Sramana: Would you talk about starting the company? Who was involved in the beginning? How did you get the company off the ground?

Brian Knight: We built the company organically. We had no investment capital other than some money I put into the company that I got from a website company we had started just before. I used the revenue from that website sell to start the company.

Sramana: What was the website you sold?

Brian Knight: IT was SQLServerCentral.com. It was not a ton of money, but it was enough to make sure I had a guaranteed salary for about a year.

Sramana: It sounds like you were running a domain-specific website that also provided you with a certain number of skills.

Brian Knight: Exactly. I sold that website for a five-figure amount, but that still provided tens of thousands of dollars that I was able to use to start Pragmatic Works. That allowed me to do this company organically. Five years ago, the VC money had dried up. We knew it would take us longer to grow the company organically, but we felt it was the right thing to do in order to maintain control of the company and to grow it organically.

Sramana: What did the SQLServerCentral.com website do?

Brian Knight: It was a community website that taught people how to use the SQL Server database platform. It was a free website that had about 1.2 million members. It was an ad-supported website, and we sold it to Red Gate, which was one of the companies we were providing ad space to.

Sramana: What does Red Gate do?

Brian Knight: Each vendor that bought ads from us was a software company that wrote software that aided SQL Server developers. They were .Net developers, and they provided software tools.

Sramana: You had 1.2 million members in that community. Was there any correlation between that membership and what you have started at Pragmatic Works?

Brian Knight: We are trying to appeal to the same market I used to go after as a community website. If I had that website now, we would be able to do some pretty amazing things! Right now we have about 100,000 members who use us. It was the right decision to sell at the time.

Sramana: However, you must have had a deep understanding of what was going on in that community and what people were looking for. Is that a fair statement?

Brian Knight: I had written ten SQL Server books, I spoke at a lot of conferences, and I knew that community well. The goal was to take that knowledge and apply it to business intelligence. The SQL Server marketplace was pretty saturated from a tool side. The business intelligence side was not addressed yet.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Navigating the Microsoft Ecosystem to Build a 12 Million Dollar Company: Brian Knight, CEO of Pragmatic Works
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