Configuration management and software deployment are well-recognized problem for all the companies – whether it is a 5 person startup or 10,000 + people company. There are multiple options currently available in the form of public, private and hybrid clouds, which increases the headache for the IT department to manage the complex configuration and deploy software across various platforms.
Imagine if you can develop, deploy and manage your application in a cloud-agnostic manner using a platform that also empowers IT operators, developers and CIOs to manage these environments in a very easy way!!! That’s what the co-founders of ElasticBox are building. Just this week, ElasticBox was recognized with two awards: – “Best of VMWorld 2013” finalist for public and hybrid cloud computing technology, and Innovation Showdown Finalist at CloudBeat 2013.
ElasticBox is the brainchild of people who have lived through this problem for many years and decide to team up and find a solution. The result – ElasticBox – that enables developers and IT Operators to focus on developing applications and services agnostic to various cloud platforms while abstracting the implementation details through a service catalog.
YourStory catches up with Ravi Srivatsav (who is originally a Bangalorean), CEO and founder of ElasticBox. Here are some of the interesting excerpts from the conversation.
Why did you start ElasticBox?
We started ElasticBox because we wanted to solve an age-old problem that every single developer has faced so far, the issue of configuration management and software deployment. This problem is even more critical to address as enterprises embrace cloud technologies across both public and private clouds. Many companies have tried to solve by developing various solutions and attacking the problem from the infrastructure perspective. In other words, tedious and laborious approaches.
We started ElasticBox because we have a grand vision of solving this big problem from a different perspective. With a focus on applications, not just cloud infrastructure. Using ElasticBox, our customers define and deploy applications across any cloud, private, public, or hybrid, the easiest possible way. If we can solve our customers problems at the highest level, meaning application level, and automate the lower level details, that is the best combination for our customers.
The beauty of our approach is we separate the application definition from its underlying infrastructure implementation.
How do you define the culture of your company?
We at ElasticBox have been very disciplined from day one and we have some routines that we have been following since the beginning. For instance, we have been following the peer code checking since day one. This exercise has converted into attention to detail, which is a huge part of the culture at ElasticBox. This attention to detail now is visible into every aspect of the company whether it is hiring new people or bringing new investors on board.
As a result of the flat hierarchy, I get challenged everyday in the company very openly about certain things to a point where I have to fine tune and come back and say why I really believe in it.
How have you maintained the high bar of recruiting the best people?
We decided in the beginning as a team that we don’t want to take chances on hiring people that anyone of us doesn’t want to work with. So even if one person on the hiring panel says no, we would not hire that person. As a result, we tapped into our network to hire people with whom we have worked previously.
As success comes, so does problems. What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced so far?
Firstly, hiring is always a challenge for any startup. We strive at hiring people who are smarter than us, so the challenge becomes surrounding ourselves with intelligent people, which raises the bar higher for the next hire. As part of hiring, you are essentially creating the culture where you associate the people you hire as the people that you want to learn from as you are building the company and empower the team to reach that goal.
The second problem that we faced was the challenges thrown at us as we are growing and big companies notice us. Silicon Valley is a small place and many people who work at big companies are second-degree connections. So as soon as they notice that you are building something that can disrupt the industry in the next few years, very challenging problems are thrown at you as a startup. We have been working on addressing these challenges and will continue to do so.
In some sense, that comes with the territory of being a disruptive innovator!
Enterprise Sales Cycle are long, complex, involves many people and can span months to sign one deal. How are you tackling the Enterprise Sales Model?
First of all, setting the expectations right with your investors, clients and potential customers is very important.
We sell through direct sales model and in partnership with either system integrators such as Tata Consultancy Services or companies that sell cloud solutions such as HP and Microsoft.
We also realized that many big companies are scared of change. But we have seen a change, at least in the enterprises in the US and the UK, where there is an inherent belief internally that we have to adopt to the changes in the market. There is a lot of noise and we tried to differentiate by showcasing how our solution is architecturally superior. We work with the various stakeholders within the company to articulate and demonstrate the value that we bring and how we address the pain points of multiple stakeholders (IT, developers and CIO). This helps us in developing internal champions, which is a key breakthrough in making the sale.
The biggest takeaway that we learn is embracing the enterprise’s technology is very important and creating win-win solutions for everyone is the best kind of sales. We don’t bring money into discussion until after we have proved how we can add value to them. Being laser focused on solving the problem is our single goal and everything else takes care of itself.
The other key is to focus on solving problems for key customers and converting the engagements into references. We are honored that Netflix is a customer of ElasticBox and solving their problems will help us build replicable sales engagements with other similar customers.
How do you spend your day as a CEO of a funded startup enterprise company?
I start my day by spending time with my twin sons in the morning. My first focus of work every day is to make sure that we are #1 in providing best customer experience. I am constantly thinking about providing best customer experience and have discussion with sales and support staff about it.
Before starting my daily commute, I note down 4-5 things that are on my mind so that I can think about them as I am driving to the office. These things include people that I need to get in touch with or a customer question that either my team or I have not been able to answer. These have become a daily ritual for me.
I spend a part of my day understanding the market and the customer in terms of how both are evolving and what we need to do. I spend time with engineering team, understanding what the engineering team is going to accomplish that particular day. I communicate with the sales team in terms of what the product roadmap is and collect feedback from them. I work with product support to understand what are the new and constant pain points for our customers.
I work with Alberto, our CTO, to understand where the product is headed and bridge the gap between market perception and what we are building. I sit next to Nagesh, VP of Marketing, to understand how to view the data and what we can do differently to drive our awareness and capture best practices to help our customers.
I am personally not a big fan of monitoring what our competition is doing. I like to focus our energies on solving the problem in the best way possible.
What are your plans for international expansion?
Our focus currently is the US, but we do think about international expansion. We have a small office in London and we have partnered with TCS, so that helps us in securing international clients. India is attractive because of the amazing technical talent that is available there. However, as a startup, we have to be methodical in our expansion goals.
ElasticBox has raised $3.4 million USD in a round led by Sierra Venture and participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Nexus Venture Partners and Intel Capital. ElasticBox is hiring and you can be part of this exciting story by applying here.
Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.