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Bootstrapping for 30 Years: Dean Guida, CEO of Infragistics ( Part 3)

Posted on Sunday, Jul 11th 2021

Dean Guida: When we finally finished our first version and were going to bring it to market, everybody was reading this Charles Petzold book. It was this 600-page book. You had to learn all these APIs. We were going to market with this framework to help people build business applications faster, but no one was going to want to learn more APIs.

Before we went to market, we created this tool around it where you can visually build menus and screens and connect them to data. We then generated a C code. We created this development environment and then we went to market. What is amazing is that 33 years later, we are still building UI controls.

Way back in 1989, we wrote custom controls for app developers like grids, charting, menus, and all the different UI patterns. This was way back when people were using Windows 2.0. We rewrote the dialog manager at Microsoft too because we needed total control over the screens. We started with that. You think that you build something great and people are just going to come.

We never took any funding. I would just spend my lunch hour calling the press. We had no money. I would call Infoworld and PC Magazine. PR was the only way that we could be exposed. I got really good at PR. We had this big breakthrough where Wendy’s hamburger restaurant built a point of sale system with our tool. It was an enterprise system. It was a big enterprise app for inventory management, forecasting, and tracking sales.

They deployed it to all of the stores that they owned. What was amazing was that they allowed us to talk about it. We were on the front cover of PC Week, which back in the ’90s was the top newspaper for technology. We got the Wendy’s restaurant logo up there with our company. That helped out a lot. 

Sramana Mitra: That is also amazing. That is very hard to land something like that.

Dean Guida: It’s hard today to get them to talk about your app. 

Sramana Mitra: Your company was mentioned in that story on Wendy’s as the developer of the software?

Dean Guida: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: What happens next? Did other people start calling?

Dean Guida: Yes and then we had credibility. One of the hardest things in starting a tech company is getting people that don’t want to bet their technology and their systems on a company that may no longer be around in two or three years. It gave us credibility that an enterprise system was built and deployed with us. We were the main part of the story.

We leveraged that as credibility that our software was scalable, had good quality, and could build enterprise-class systems with it. That helped us a lot from a credibility point of view. It was all PR early on. I would pack up my car and drive to Boston or New York, at that time it was just these big-box machines. We would be on the outskirts of the trade show because that was what we could afford. We had this one table with curtains and the sign that they gave you to show you where your boot space is.

That was our sign at the time. We just sat there and demoed and talked the whole day. We were able to get customers that way. Because of that, I met a lot of people at Microsoft and Borland. I got friendly with the guys at Borland. At the time, Borland had the best compilers in the industry. They had Turbo C and Turbo Pascal. C++ wasn’t even invented yet. I became friendly with them. They had just come out with the C++ and we were doing code generation for C.

They then came up with the first C++ compiler. Microsoft didn’t even have a C++ compiler at that point in time. They invited us out to their headquarters because they wanted us to run our code generation and our UI components through their framework and compilers to help them shake out any bugs. There were only three of us in the company at that time. I asked my wife who was my girlfriend at the time, “Okay, come with us out to Borland just so that we look bigger.” She was like, “I am not going out there.” I said, “Don’t worry. There’s going to be lots of people out there. You will blend in.” 

This segment is a part in the series : Bootstrapping for 30 Years

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