Sramana: What type of people or entities did you have on that focus group? It does not sound like they were from your industry.
Michael Mullany: The profile of the customers we were talking to in that focus group were customers who were not early adopters. They were not innovators. When you do go talk to customers you really have to be careful to ensure that you are talking to people who want to try new things and people who will test capabilities based on merit.
If you take a random sample of people across the adoption curve you will find that a majority of them will always tell you that they are not interested in new stuff. It is important that you select in the customers who are not going to be turned off by new technologies.
Sramana: No question about it. I think segmentation is really important. You have to go for the right segment of customer and you must zero in on early adopter customers. That is where you get true feedback. Let’s move back to your story. What happened after VMWare?
Michael Mullany: I joined a Sequoia-backed startup called PeakStream. We were taking some research from Stanford where we tried to do general purpose computing on top of graphic chips. The project had established the feasibility of running some general purpose algorithms on GPU hardware. The founders of that company were very skilled. Matthew Papakipos had been the architecture lead at NVIDIA.
We were convinced that because the power of graphics chips was accelerating at a pace that was faster than CPUs of the time that we could do really interesting price performance for companies in the high performance computing space. We expected to let them get more out of a particular power and space budget than a CPU could offer. We got some beta customers before Google can and acquired us in the summer of 2007. I chose not to stay with Google because I really like small companies.
Sramana: What kind of company did you want to start?
Michael Mullany: What I always look for are truly new technology. I am not interested in joining or starting companies that are doing the fifth version of something. I like joining pioneers. I thought VMWare was an amazing company because I knew that when they were successful people would be able to do computing massively cheaper on a far more agile basis. With PeakStream I was attracted to the idea that you could take graphic chips and do computing at a tenth of the expense of a CPU.
Sramana: When did you join Sencha and why did you make the move?
Michael Mullany: I joined Sencha in the beginning of 2010. At Sencha the promise was immediately obvious. In the 1990s we tried to make the browser a rich application platform. HTML5 and the new generation browsers are making that a reality. There is a huge need for developers, tools, cloud services and run times to make that vision come true. The browser gives you raw ingredients to work with but if you want to make something that is elegant and productive for the developer that works well across platforms you are going to have to rely on developer tools. Being able to produce a suite of tools and frameworks that makes developers life phenomenally easier is what made me excited here.