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Serial Entrepreneur, Self-Financing to $50 Million: GoGrid CEO, John Keagy (Part 6)

Posted on Monday, Mar 24th 2014

Sramana Mitra: In terms 0f the complexity of the R&D, how much of that was predicated on being able to get the right technical talent? There’s definitely a truth – not just a myth – that it’s harder for self-financed companies to attract the top talent. Everybody’s looking at which VC is funding the company before they join the company. In your case, you’re saying on the one hand there was a substantial technical challenge, which means that you needed technical heavyweights to address those challenges. What was your experience in building that technical team? Did you run into issues of this bias against self-financed companies?

John Keagy: Back in the dot com crash until about 2005, both employees and customers were afraid of companies that were not cash flow positive. Nobody wanted to work for someone who needed to get that C Round in order to exist. Nobody wanted to buy from a company that wasn’t cash flow positive and needed that C Round.

Sramana Mitra: The time frame when you were hiring the five, the fact that you were cash flow positive was more meaningful than which VC was involved?

John Keagy: Yes. Leading up to 2008, that flip-flopped a little bit. The market corrected itself in 2009 and being a disciplined company had its appeal again. It’s a very competitive market.

Sramana Mitra: Where are you in terms of your development at this point? Where are you revenue-wise and people-wise? What’s happening today?

John Keagy: We’re in all about 130 employees. We’re a private company, so we don’t publish our revenues.

Sramana Mitra: Can you give us a range?

John Keagy: $50 million range.

Sramana Mitra: Do you want to keep building organically? Is there any benefit to getting outside financing? Do you want to do a roll-up? This is no longer an environment where there is no competition. There is plenty of competition in your field now. How do you look at the industry? How do you analyze the space now? What is your competitive strategy?

John Keagy: We’ve had to develop a new strategy that is highly differentiated. We’ve found our own blue ocean. It’s called open data services. We’re quite focused on leveraging our pioneering effort in this new category. We originally created the category of dedicated servers. Then, we created the category of cloud infrastructure. Now, we’ve created the category of open data services which is our Big Data play.

Sramana Mitra: What’s in the Big Data play?

John Keagy: From an entrepreneur’s perspective, you want to catch the wave right as it is starting and be a pioneer in a new category. We were really on the wave and we benefitted from that. Then with the wave to cloud, there were a lot of naysayers. It’s easy to hear and shrug that off but in 2006 to 2008, we had the patents to prove it. Now we’re delivering orchestrated Big Data solutions. We’re catching that next big wave and the category is open data services.

Sramana Mitra: Can you be more granular about what you offer in the realm of Big Data?

John Keagy: We offer on-demand Big Data solutions.

Sramana Mitra: What’s in the Big Data solutions?

John Keagy: It’s not just the Hadoop cluster. It’s the off the shelf, open source Hadoop cluster – a Hortonworks cluster specifically as opposed to a custom proprietary platform service. We’re delivering the off the shelf, open source, name-brand technologies using an orchestration engine so you can run Big Data on our cloud just in the same fashion using the same technology that you would run Big Data on-premise.

Sramana Mitra: It’s a hosted platform for Big Data you’re offering on top of Hortonworks?

John Keagy: Yes. What we’ve built is an orchestration engine that enables complex solutions on demand. One of those solutions is a complex Hortonworks environment for Hadoop. We also have complex Mongo environment and complex Cassandra environment from data stacks.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Serial Entrepreneur, Self-Financing to $50 Million: GoGrid CEO, John Keagy
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