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Achieving Product-Market Fit That Allows You to Build Billion Dollar Unicorns: Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 3)

Posted on Sunday, Jan 11th 2015

Gaurav Dhillon: Let me take you through that journey. I still remember how excited we were. Once we got the grant, we built the research into the object databases. The truth is they never got anywhere. Then we thought, “Why don’t we build technology to help people downsize?” This is 1995 and you’re running a COBOL program on a mainframe. It’s pretty clear that the 2000 bug is coming. Wouldn’t you want to get this COBOL program off the mainframe into Oracle and Sun?

By the way, we would consult by day and work by night. When you’re in your 20s, you’re just unbreakable. The energy and enthusiasm in doing these things was pretty epic. We were seven to eight people at this point. We actually went out and built a product that would take your COBOL and spit out code that would run on Oracle and Sun. Guess what? We were thrilled. We worked on that thing with our sweat and blood. As the marketing person, it fell on me to sell it. I made 156 sales calls. You know how many of those I’ve sold?

Sramana Mitra: Zero.

Gaurav Dhillon: Zero. This is when the rest of your partners look at you and think, “Is it the product or is it the salesman?” Uncharacteristically, I said, “I need to take a weekend off.” I think I went away to Santa Barbara. The thing is in the enterprise business, it’s not like you don’t know. If you go back over the conversations, it almost always tells you. The customer is trying to help you. They see this young person who’s passionate about what they’re trying to do and they actually want to help you. It turned out that people didn’t want to move their mainframe programs to client server. They wanted to redo them using Windows interfaces. They didn’t want that green screen COBOL junk. I’m not even sure if anybody reading this knows what that is. They wanted to see it in the new form.

If we came to you and said, “You can run your Windows programs on a monitor on a mobile phone.” You could go, “I want a mobile app. I don’t want to have that same ugly screen that I may not like.” They wanted native applications but every one of them had asked me, “We want to do that. We love what you’ve done with this product.” They all offered me a job on the spot. Some of them hinted at acquiring our technology. What they really wanted was help in moving the data. That was a side project that fell upon the less technically capable people. I or someone else had written the thing to move the data from the mainframe to client server.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Achieving Product-Market Fit That Allows You to Build Billion Dollar Unicorns: Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic
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