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Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to $25 Million: Percona CEO Peter Zaitsev (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Dec 17th 2019

Sramana Mitra: What did you start in London?

Peter Zaitsev: I started Percona as it is now. It was a different company with different ideas.

Sramana Mitra: When you founded Percona, what was the idea?

Peter Zaitsev: The idea was we wanted to do consulting better. I observed that a lot of consulting businesses are done in an unfair way. You would hire consultants, but in the end, they wouldn’t really keep your interest in mind.

First and foremost, they would like to push their product and have you use it. That is not how I would like things to be done if I were the customer. 

Sramana Mitra: It was basically going to be a higher-integrity consulting firm for the lack of better ways to put it.

Peter Zaitsev: Yes. We didn’t think that that would grow to something else. I thought that I would do that for a couple of years until I have some better ideas. Thirty years later, I’m still doing Percona.

Sramana Mitra: You and your co-founders started Percona as a consulting firm in 2008?

Peter Zaitsev: No, 2006.

Sramana Mitra: What kind of customers did you go after and what specifically were you offering by way of consulting?

Peter Zaitsev: One thing that worked out great for me was, before starting the company, I had a publication. I also spoke at a number of conferences. That was really helpful for us to attract customers.

Sramana Mitra: Your sweet spot was MySQL.

Peter Zaitsev: Yes, that’s right. We didn’t even have a website at that point. There were a variety of customers. 

Sramana Mitra: Eventually, this company evolved from a services company to a product company.

Peter Zaitsev: Yes. I would say, initially back in 2006 to 2008, we had a lot of startups as our customers. We were also quite lucky in a sense because that was the time that Sun acquired MySQL, and then Oracle acquired Sun.

You cannot just advise people on how to do something. If software cannot do certain things and does them poorly, then you’d just have to go seek software. That was how a lot of Percona was born.

Sramana Mitra: You were basically providing a bunch of utility tools around MySQL in Percona as products.

Peter Zaitsev: We provide some tools as well as the improved version of MySQL. MySQL is an open source. Anybody can modify it. 

Sramana Mitra: This mode of operating with tools and services enhancements on MySQL, how long does this continue? What is the next inflection point in the business?

Peter Zaitsev: We did that until around 2010. We supervised it 24/7. That went directly to my phone.

Sramana Mitra: You didn’t have other people in the company?

Peter Zaitsev: At that time, I had 10 people.

Sramana Mitra: All in London?

Peter Zaitsev: No. Percona always was a remote company. When I started, I was based in London. My co-founder was based in Kiev. 

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to $25 Million: Percona CEO Peter Zaitsev
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