Derek Roos is the CEO if Mendix, an enterprise app platform company looking to bridge the gap between business and IT, making business application development dramatically easier, faster and collaborative. Derek earned a master of science degree in business administration from Erasmus University, Rotterdam. He is a highly sought speaker at IT conferences and is guest lecturer at several universities. Derek has received the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 Award.
Sramana: Derek, let’s start by reviewing your background. Where do you come from? What are the roots of your entrepreneurial journey?
Derek Roos: I am originally from the Netherlands. I was studying at the business school in Rotterdam when I came up with the idea of Mendix. I founded the company in the Netherlands with the idea of helping our customers dramatically cut down the development time of new business applications. Early on we saw that the role of IT applications was rapidly changing. Our vision is that IT leaders are becoming business leaders every day. We want to enable IT leaders to be much more proactive in helping the business innovate quicker. We want them to be able to build apps that move the business forward.
Sramana: You were starting this company in business school in the Netherlands. What year was this happening, and what was the environment around you like?
Derek Roos: This was in 2005. I was a 25-year-old student living on a student budget. When we started the company it was very much a bootstrapped situation. It was me and a couple of guys who lived on a very small budget. We focused on creating something of value early on. That is what kept us going for the first couple of years. Sometimes young entrepreneurs go out and raise venture capital. We took a different approach. We focused on building a good product first, selling it, improving it and then after we had a good product for the masses we approached the VCs. We did not move our headquarters to the US until after we raised venture capital.
Sramana: How did you come up with the business idea in the Netherlands? How did you sniff out the opportunity?
Derek Roos: I was involved with another technology company as a part time employee while I was going to school. That was my first encounter with application development. I have a business background so I look at technology and problems from a different perspective. I look at them from a user perspective. I was frustrated with the way that technology was supporting the business in an environment. It blew my mind how complicated and rigid the application development process is in most companies. I felt that if we could do speed up the development process from months to days, and do that in a way that brought the business units into the process, that we would have a successful company. Our vision is that people with a business background can build applications and work with IT. We enable both business and IT to take an active role in the process.