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Unicorn in The Making: Ross Mason, Founder of MuleSoft (Part 7)

Posted on Friday, Dec 26th 2014

Sramana Mitra: Can you talk about what made that a successful transition? What did you do as a founder? What did your new CEO do as the incoming CEO? Obviously, it has been a successful transition since you’re working with this person for a while.

Ross Mason: A few things. Bringing someone new in is always a risk and a challenge. It’s not just the CEO but it’s the team around the CEO as well that really matters. He used to work at SpringSource and the CEO of SpringSource was a friend of mine. This was an open source company around the Spring framework that had a pretty good exit. Rod, the CEO at SpringSource recommended Greg.

When we met, he had a very entrepreneurial way of looking at the world, which was exactly what MuleSoft needed. He was clearly very analytical and had a lot of really strong capabilities. Not having been a CEO previously didn’t matter to me. The board took a little bit of convincing that it was the right way to go because we weren’t a brand new company anymore. It just felt like, pretty much from the first interview, that Greg was our guy. He won over the board. The reason these things fall apart is that the vision diverges. You stop having shared vision. That’s when founder and CEO partnership doesn’t work. It felt like we thought about the problems and how to address things in a similar way.

Sramana Mitra: You didn’t have any trouble of letting go of the CEO role and its responsibilities?

Ross Mason: Back then, the management of the company was a bit different. We were still early stage. What I found I really enjoyed doing with MuleSoft is moving to where the hard problems are and solving them. I actually like to be a bit closer. Certainly as we’ve grown, I prefer to be in the field. I prefer to be with the customers. I prefer to be with the account’s understanding of what they’re seeing. That’s what actually gets me off in the morning. I didn’t know that then but I’ve realized that’s what I like doing. For me, it hasn’t been a loss at all. I think I would’ve done a disservice to that role anyway.

Sramana Mitra: It sounds like because of the extremely aligned relevant experience that Greg had with SpringSource, he was able to bring in a lot of the scaling strategy of how to take an open source company and turn it into a successful sales engine for commercial open source.

Ross Mason: Exactly. He understood all the problems that we were dealing with. He knew them firsthand. It’s very hard for a CEO who hasn’t worked in open source to get that. That saved us 18 months of learning on the job.

Sramana Mitra: Absolutely. That’s a really terrific hire. As you said, there aren’t that many people like that in the industry. Getting someone who has that direct experience is very difficult. You raised your last round of financing earlier this year. Did you raise that financing at a unicorn valuation as people are calling it these days?

Ross Mason: We have a building for the mules. I’m sure there might be a unicorn buried somewhere. You’ll see the valuation is reported. I think just on our trajectory and on our consistent ability to scale the company and grow the right way, one thing that should be made clear is we’re really on a mission to build a lasting company. We actually want to transform the way people have immigrated their applications, data, and devices. Prior to us, it was a very broken and fragmented market. It was a lot of huge expense with no return.

Integration was often considered as a necessary evil. It’s something that you have to do because you’re buying applications. We look at integration as really driving perpetual advantage. The way companies will compete is how well they can unlock the value of their data and connect it to other things to create additional services. That really is what this company is about—helping both old and new companies realize the potential of the assets they already have.

Sramana Mitra: You’ve now been around for eight years. You have a robust company going. Are we looking at an IPO relatively soon?

Ross Mason: We’re taking preparation in case we move in that direction but it’s not really our focus. Hopefully, people will say we defined the category. We changed the way things were done. We simplified the world in some way. For us, building towards that is the ultimate goal. If an IPO helps us achieve that, then we’ll consider it at the right time.

Sramana Mitra: There have been VCs who are in the project for quite a while. I’m sure there is a cycle that VCs have to follow.

Ross Mason: There is. You know Ann. They have been huge proponents of actually going big on this one. There’s a real opportunity to fundamentally change how people connect and thus change the way they do business. They believe this company is the one. We hope it’s the one and we’ll just continue to work in that direction.

Sramana Mitra: Terrific. Great story. Thank you very much for your time.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Unicorn in The Making: Ross Mason, Founder of MuleSoft
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