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Thought Leaders in Big Data: Interview with Adriaan Van Wyk, CEO of K2 (Part 6)

Posted on Sunday, Sep 8th 2013

Sramana Mitra: The way your customer map has developed so far, how does that distribute among large customers, mid-sized customers and small customers?

Adriaan van Wyck: There is a fascinating trend there. A 100- to 150-employee organization is where we become relevant. We have smaller organizations that use our software as well. In terms of revenue, between medium and large organizations, it is a 50/50 split. However, if you look at the count, we have many more customers in the medium range than in the large space.

But we have a very healthy spread. I would like to give people advice: There is almost a natural inclination to try and chase the big deals. But that is the biggest mistake you can make. Your smaller customers and your ability to sell software that works for the smaller customer base is equally important, if not more important than, chasing big deals when you build a business. You have to do both equally well if you want to succeed, but you have to make sure you don’t sacrifice your medium-sized customers for big deals. It is a mistake a lot of companies make.

SM: After the round of funding you raised in South Africa, did you ever raise other funding from outside?

AW: Yes. We rose funding from a firm in San Francisco called Azure Capital. Our partner there is Cameron Lester. There is an interesting story behind that as well. I must give Cameron a lot of credit there. He was the CEO of Credit Suisse First Boston Technology Group IT Division. Then he left in early 2000 to start Azure Capital with three other partners. They looked at themselves as an agile petite firm. I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t too eager in having VCs involved in the business. I will maintain that position. However, if you have to pick a financial partner for your organization, do it on due diligence not on the firm that is going to invest in you, but the person who is going to be sitting on your board.

SM: How did they find out about you?

AW: They were really good at doing their research. Cameron believed there was a lot of innovation coming from outside of the U.S. and that was a great opportunity coming from outside and help them tap into the commercial potential in the U.S. It was a personal belief that Cameron had as an entrepreneur. He acknowledges today that it was through luck he came across our name, when he was doing the due diligence on another company, and he thought he would look into us.

We were starting to build a nice business in the U.S. at that time, and it was rather small compared to what we were doing in the rest we were doing in the world. They reached out to us, and my position was that I was not interested in talking to Silicon Valley. I said, “No, thank you.” We kept saying no. But after the 50th time I thought, “Well, I am in town. Let me go and see this guy who is calling me 50 times in six months.”

Then I met Cameron, and I must say I was intrigued by the individual and I really enjoyed the conversation with him, because he was thinking about it very differently. At that point he was investing in companies out of Israel. He saw a lot of potential there. He was also looking towards Asia and Asia Pacific for future opportunities. It was just somebody who thought differently about what it meant to make my company successful. I said to Cameron, “I understand. I like the conversation, but I want to meet the CEO of Citrix.” Citrix built their company up from a small ISV that built an add-on to Microsoft´s software to a very reputable software company today. I wanted to meet Mark Templeton, who is the CEO of Citrix. I said to Cameron: “You can give me money, but that is not what I am looking for. I want to learn from people like that.”

To Cameron’s credit, a week later we flew to Florida and had dinner with Mark and his wife. Then Mark spent the afternoon with me at the Citrix head office, and I learned more in that single day than I probably did in my entire four years at the university about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. At that point I realized that I wanted Cameron involved in our business.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders in Big Data: Interview with Adriaan Van Wyk, CEO of K2
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