SM: How does a guy from manufacturing, operations and marketing start NetDynamics? That is a highly technical project.
ZR: But I came from computer science, remember? And with a highly technical background in terms of technology and software. My heart has always been with technology.
SM: What did you see around you at the time in the market that gave you the idea for NetDynamics?
ZR: I met the two other co-founders through my wife. She was organizing a charity fundraiser at the school our kids go to, and she worked with one of the other founders. They actually owned an Internet startup at the end of 1994 which was selling cars on the Internet. He had the idea to link databases using HTML. She put the two of us together and we started to talk about his ideas. Over time we came to the conclusion that it would become an interesting space, so I left Silicon Graphics and we created the prototype.
SM: You decided that selling cars was not the right idea?
ZR: It was my wife who had some interest in selling cars. I was never a car salesman. I always had a passion for technology. I told the team they needed to make a decision between cars and the database concept, and they decided to go with NetDynamics. We then put the complete team together and raised some money around the idea.
SM: Who funded NetDynamics?
ZR: There were three rounds. The first came from Hummer Winblad.
SM: Was it difficult to get the company funded?
ZR: No, not at all. There was no bubble yet. This was before the Netscape IPO, at the beginning of 1995. This was before the big IPOs and the Internet was really the Wild West. Ours was a unique positioning between enterprise software and the Internet. It was the really early days and most people did not understand it. I would say it was not easy to get money, but you just had to do your work.
SM: Who did you work with at Hummer Winblad?
ZR: It was Mark Gorenberg.
SM: How well did Mark understand what you were trying to do?
ZR: First of all, the way we started the business and moved the business was very different. I approached Hummer Winblad for a reason; at the time they were VCs who focused on software. They just harvested the investment in PowerSoft and they had a lot of experience with developer tools and selling to developers, so they could add a lot of value. They were also very technical. We did have multiple offers to fund the company, but we started with them and the rest is history.