Sramana Mitra: You still had $3 million which you hadn’t really started building a product on. You were basically experimenting with the cloud and learning about the cloud.
Nelson Nahum: Yes. I didn’t have the $3 million then. My experiments started the day after I was laid off. It took a few weeks until the bill from Amazon came. The money came later. The idea was we should cover enterprise storage that has flexibility.
Sramana Mitra: What happens next? How does the story progress?
Nelson Nahum: One thing that I want to mention is that the two startups came after bad news. The first one was because the company was closing. The second was because I was laid off. It’s easy to get comfortable to be in a VP position in a big corporation. Only when things happen that you do things that are much riskier and much less comfortable. We then had the money. We hired the best engineers. I had 250 people that I could choose from. We got a really good team of engineers.
The first meeting was actually in a hospital. One of the founders’ dad who was a renowned professor had an office in a hospital. We said, “We need to do a new software infrastructure that has the capability of the things that we know how to do but with the flexibility and multi-tenancy.” They started working. That was how it all started.
Sramana Mitra: What year does this bring us up to?
Nelson Nahum: We were at the beginning of 2011.
Sramana Mitra: Talk to me about customers.
Nelson Nahum: Very good question. One of the things that I am really passionate about is customers. The main reason is because when you have a happy customer, everything else is good. In order to succeed, you need a lot of things. In order to fail, you just need one thing to fail. It’s easier to fail than to succeed. When you have happy customers, it means that the product is right, QA is good, support is good, marketing is good, and sales is good. Everything needs to work perfectly in order to have a happy customer. It is enough for one of these areas to fail to have unhappy customers.
Customers also help us identify what we need to improve. Another thing to mention is in this business model, the customer can go away in a minute. This makes the company much more customer-oriented. Any question or issue that the customer has, it is immediately visible at all levels including me. We track the issue until it’s resolved. We know that we need to earn the customer everyday. It’s not like a traditional business where you sell something and if the customer, six months later, is not happy, you can still sleep. In this case, if three months later the customer is not happy, the customer is gone. This made us a much better company.
Sramana Mitra: Who was the first customer?
Nelson Nahum: We launched it in 2012. I think the first customer was Instructure. One of the first few customers was Deloitte. We still have some of the initial customers more than three years later.