Sramana: What is your strongest market outside of the U.S.?
Steve Millard: We have a tremendous reputation in the U.K. Kognitio and Whitecross are well known, and we have around 40 customers there. We are the gold standard in analytics in that part of the world. The investment I am promising to our board is that we continue to invest in that region. At the end of the day, we are a British company and proud of it. We know our growth will be in the U.S., but we will balance resources and put them where they need to be.
Sramana: How confident are you in your strategy to pursue the VC-funded startups?
Steve Millard: During our strategy session in October, when I took the company and shook it up, I told the company we were no longer a professional services company selling exclusively to Fortune 500 companies. We had to go where our competitors fear to go. There is an old baseball quote from “Wee Willie” Keeler. When somebody asked him how he hit the ball so well, he answered, “I hit it where they ain’t.” That applies to us as well. In fact, my strategy has been validated by one of our biggest rivals, SAP. They are now going after the exact same market we are going after. The strategy is right; it is not about execution.
Sramana: You said you want to grow as these VC-funded startups grow. Would you talk a bit about how that growth happens? If you start with a small company and they use your services on a pay-as-you-go basis and then grow significantly, how does that impact how you grow that account?
Steve Millard: When data volumes grow, we prosper as well. The travel company that has done a cloud-based implementation with us has seen numbers grow dramatically year over year. They have not just doubled in size with us, they have more than quadrupled their subscription price. We try to help them grow as an organization. They pay based on the number of terabytes of data they use.
Sramana: Where is your U.S. organization based?
Steve Millard: Everybody works out of his or her home office. We have not established a clear beachhead in the U.S. There are offices in Chicago and New York City. We do have representation in Silicon Valley.
Sramana: How many people do you have in the U.S. working out of home offices?
Steve Millard: Between 18 and 20 if you want to include contractors.
Sramana: You are essentially running a virtual organization out of the U.S. Talk to me more about that.
Steve Millard: It is interesting. Culturally in Great Britain, they do not do virtual all that well. They are just not used to it. When I first introduced the concept in the U.S., my former boss was under the impression that people would be working in their pajamas or out playing golf. That is an outdated impression of virtual offices because anybody in technology sales is used to working out of a home office. I have a very difficult time recruiting people to come to an office. It has a different skill set to it. I find that I work more hours, have more concentration, and get more done with that setup.
It is hard to maintain personal relationships over the phone. In the U.S. I get everybody together every quarter for a sales meeting that combines fun and business topics. Everyone is on the phone with each other every day as well. It takes a certain type of person to thrive in an environment like this. The type of person who likes the startup environment is the person who is a perfect candidate for a home office.
Sramana: We have friends with 18-year-old kids who are living in a rented apartment as a group and doing a startup. The whole model of how companies are being built today is not correlated to real estate.
Steve Millard: If you saw our office in the UK [compared] with all the UK technology companies! The office space there is not fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, and there has been talk of moving the office to London. My answer is that I don’t even want them in the office. We are not spending money on real estate. That is less money I can spend on sales and support. The last thing I want to do is have a nice office.
Sramana: Especially in London! That is the highest real estate in the world.
Steve Millard: It is ridiculous. That is such an antiquated view of the world. I would rather spend the money on hiring people and providing better service to our customers.
Sramana: Great story. Thank you for sharing it with us.