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Right Technology, Right Time: Opportunistic Ocarina CEO Murli Thirumale (Part 4)

Posted on Saturday, May 10th 2008

SM: The day 9/11 happened I was at your office working on a consulting engagement. That seemed like the worst time in history. You did the whole Net6 story in the middle of that crazy time.

MT: The more I think about it, in one sense it was. We started the company after the dot com crash. The Net6 story was throughout this nuclear winter for startups. The time from 2001 through 2004 was very difficult, those were some very tough years. I am sure you remember it was the opposite of the irrational exuberance of the previous years. There were people who felt they could never fail, so they were afraid to take any risks. They saw companies which where funded with large amounts of money just going out of business. I remember our series A round with some VCs, and at the time I was thinking that there were two people in this room scared, I just was not sure who had the most fear – me or the VC. It was probably the VC because nobody knew what was going on since all the business models were turned on their head. Unfortunately it was a situation where having old fashioned values did not help.

SM: Yet you managed to raise money, you managed to sell, you managed to grow a business to some scale in that period. What did you learn?

MT: There is so much that I learned, not just from that period but from the time before as well. Ultimately the answer is find the real opportunity.

SM: Yet your first opportunity did not click, you had to adjust.

MT: It was a real opportunity, but it went away. There is no point pursuing something when the opportunity disappears. It is mythical that startups create business. Startups take advantage of businesses and opportunities. Fundamentally you have to start with an opportunity.

SM: At a minimum you have to start with a hypothesis and then correct course as you go along.

MT: Start with a hypothesis and then verify it as quickly as possible. One of the things I have learned over time, and Net6 is a great example because we did three different businesses in mobility, IP telephony and SSL VPN, is that you don’t rationalize your strategy. I have a phrase which I have coined, which is SDBS. It stands for sell, design, build, sell. SDBS is in contrast to designing something, building it, and then trying to sell it, which is the model most big and small tech companies follow. A lot of startups are based on a hypothesis; they build something and start interacting with customers and never verify it. What they are doing is rationalizing the hypothesis rather than evaluating it and verifying it.

SDBS is a philosophy where essentially you build a proof of concept, and you can have multiple ideas, and then go shop your concept with two sets of constituencies – customers and thought leaders. If you do this you will be incredibly fast in learning, and you can pick one of your ideas with confidence. At one point in time we had three different businesses in play trying to figure out which ones would stick. What stuck was SSL VPN.

SM: You could not have guessed that sitting in your office, you had to get into the game some.

MT: There has to be traction with the world. The beauty is that once you do SDBS, if you have something that people want the rest is easy. It is easy in the sense that when you work hard and execute well, you can get revenue. You are not just paddling really hard to get no-where which is what happens in most of these things. I have used SDBS many times. We used it to start Ocarina too.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Right Technology, Right Time: Opportunistic Ocarina CEO Murli Thirumale
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[…] Importanta feedback-ului venit de la o audienta cat mai diversa nu este un lucru descoperit de noi peste noapte. Este un lucru afirmat de multi ani de antreprenori de success. Murli Thirumale, antreprenor in serie si actualul CEO al Ocarina Networks denumeste procesul SDBS: Sell, Design, Build, Sell: Start with a hypothesis and then verify it as quickly as possible. SDBS is in contrast to designing something, building it, and then trying to sell it, which is the model most big and small tech companies follow. A lot of startups are based on a hypothesis; they build something and start interacting with customers and never verify it. What they are doing is rationalizing the hypothesis rather than evaluating it and verifying it. (sursa) […]

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