Sramana: What prompted you to leave the startup space and rejoin IBM?
Steve Millard: I was burned out. There is a lot of stress doing three heavy-duty startup roles. I was burnt out on the long hours, stress and pressure. I needed a break, and all three startups were successful. IBM came to me and asked me to join their warehouse organization, so I did that for four years. It was great to be back at IBM, and it felt like a vacation to me. It was very simply work.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for IBM and companies like that, but I also realized that I needed something more. I would wake up, go to work, and do my thing. I realized that if for some reason that if I got hit by a bus, life at IBM would go on. At a startup, I learned that if I got hit by a bus the entire company was in trouble. I am the type of person who relishes that pressure. I want to be the guy to make it happen, that’s just who I am for better or worse.
A year and a half ago I had an opportunity arise to join Kognitio. They were looking for somebody to come on board and change the culture at Kognitio. I looked at that and most people in the space thought I was crazy. They were a British company and had not made a mark for themselves. I looked at it and I felt that it was exactly what the doctor ordered for me. The opportunity to join a company like Kognitio was overwhelming for me. I initially came on board in February 2011 to be the head of the U.S. [business]. My job was to build the U.S. marketplace, and I reported to the CEO.
Sramana: Would you give us some context about Kognitio? What is its background story?
Steve Millard: Kognitio was founded in 1987 as a company called Whitecross. Our CTO, Roger [Llewellyn], was there at the founding of the company. The company was founded because they had a hard time finding software in the marketplace to do what certain customers such as British Telecom wanted to do. Teradata was the closest competitor in that space at the time. They needed to crunch massive amounts of data and provide answers back in a very short amount of time.
It was a pioneer in the in-memory analytics marketplace and always had fantastic technology. In true British style, they never marketed well. They expected the best technology to win the day, which as we all know is not always the case.
Whitecross has been through a number of changes throughout the years. In 2005 the company merged with another company called Kognitio to form the current organization. Kognitio was a services company, and they gained technology to use in the analytics space to use for their services organization. The CEO of Kognitio at that time is my predecessor. We had the opportunity at that time to move forward with two different lines of business. One was the old Whitecross line of business. which was appliance-driven data warehousing. The other was a more traditional professional services line of business. The company had a very difficult time marrying the two and finding the right fit.