Sramana Mitra: You decided to come back to London?
Ross Mason: Yes. On the way back, we went through the Pacific Islands. My wife said, “Let’s stop in San Francisco because we haven’t seen it. You talk about it a lot.” When I landed in San Francisco, there was this conference JavaOne, which was very big back then. So, I went there and I remember turning up at the Thirsty Bear bar. I was absolutely mowed down by lots of people who were using Mule and they didn’t know who I was. I stayed anonymous and kept a pretty low profile. My whole week after that went into meeting people in San Francisco who had known and were using Mule. It made me realize that there was an opportunity behind the open source project.
Sramana Mitra: Interesting. Are we talking 2006?
Ross Mason: That was 2005.
Sramana Mitra: Did you go back to London or did you stay in San Francisco?
Ross Mason: I went back to London and created a consultancy company. I hired 20 people. Then one day, I sat down and did a business plan. I realized that what I was doing was not going to reap the benefits of the reach of the software. I did a three-year forecast. No matter how big the numbers, it didn’t look very interesting. I met someone in San Francisco and talked about the idea of pitching an open source integration plane. That spurred me to think about stopping what I was doing in the UK and really focus on venture capital for this.
Initially, I tried venture capital in the UK. They were very risk-averse. I’ve spoken about this, at length, with other folks. It’s changed a bit now but back then, it was hard to get any kind of A round going in London. My only choice was to come to America. I started pitching probably around April 2006. By May 2006, we had a lot of pitches under out belt. We had two or three term sheets. Ann Winblad was the lead investor on our A round.
Sramana Mitra: Let me double-click down on the experience a little bit. You had a lot of users of Mule but did you have some sort of a premium product or some product roadmap that you presented to the VCs at this point?
Ross Mason: There was no premium. I had a consultancy company in the UK that was largely servicing four or five clients and doing some smaller work. One of those clients was one of the largest investment banks in the UK. When I pitched to Ann Winblad, the pitch was the road map of where we’d like to take the software and also that I actually had customers at my other company that would pay for services and support the software. They had a vested interest in getting a well-funded company behind it. That’s what swung Ann Winblad—getting these large Fortune 10 banks.