Sramana Mitra: Who was your first paying customer?
Sazzala Reddy: I’m not sure if it was Siemens. We had about 30 beta customers.
Sramana Mitra: What happens next in the journey?
Sazzala Reddy: It took us three years to build the product. We wanted to build the foundation which was solid. Because we have an enterprise background, we could invest the time of three years. Most startup companies don’t have the luxury to invest three years in building the product first. You’re going to make money in a year or a year and a half. We had the luxury to build something bigger.
It took us three years to build the platform. At that point, we decided to hire enterprise sales people. You need to have a go-to market strategy. We hired a VP of Marketing and VP of Sales.
Sramana Mitra: Your go-to market strategy was all direct?
Sazzala Reddy: This is how enterprise sales work; you have to have a direct sales force. You also have to engage your channel partners because they have a direct relationship with the customer as well.
Sramana Mitra: I know how enterprise sales work. Did you do enterprise sales direct, or did you go through the channel? Did you do both? If you did both, how did you avoid channel conflict?
Sazzala Reddy: In an early stage company, you have to do direct sales yourself. Then you get channel partners to help you so they engage with you as well. The conflict is managed by registration.
Sramana Mitra: What else is interesting?
Sazzala Reddy: Having been in six startups so far, what is the pattern of success across these companies? I have firsthand experience in some failures and some large successes. It’s not a concrete conclusion. The hypothesis is that to start a company, you have to find a trend. You have to find a trend which is not in the too early.
You have to see the trend, but you don’t need all the facts. If the facts are all known, then it’s too late. Number two is, you have to find a use case for that trend. Then you have to understand that problem and go solve that problem. The timing matters and the use case matters.
Sramana Mitra: In your case, you started Datrium in the 2012 to 2013 timeframe?
Sazzala Reddy: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: So the cloud computing trend was in full swing at that point. What trends did you identify that was in its infancy that allowed you to launch your company?
Sazzala Reddy: There are a couple of trends to notice. There’s a company that is building a new way of doing things called hyperconvergence. It’s a new way of simplifying the data center. That was one trend. We saw the cloud trend.
Enterprises don’t really move that easily to a new place. It takes time. It wasn’t 100% sure that everything was going to move there. It was an opportunity for us to help the data centers and help them migrate to the cloud as time goes by.
The second observation is that Google and Amazon have shown people in the enterprise that there is a new way of building data centers. There’s a new way of scaling. There’s a new way of simplifying your infrastructure in a very modern way. There are no new modern products at that point which really help large enterprises solve the problems. They are still buying legacy products from EMC.
People’s mindsets have changed. Google published all these papers and how cool the infrastructure is. People are looking forward to a much simpler and much more agile infrastructure for the data centers. That’s the trend we noticed. We found the use cases for that particular data center.