For this week’s Founder Stories, I sat down with Eric Frenkiel, founder of MemSQL, to compare notes on starting enterprise software startups. After being accepted as one of Y Combinator’s first enterprise-focused startups, Eric and his co-founder built the now 14-person company in stealth and officially launched MemSQL, a database for real-time analytics, in June of last year.
With an enterprise company you’ve only got one shot really to get the actual release right. So that entails a lot of early work with customers, an early access program, a private beta program. All of those have been very helpful for us just to make sure what we do go GA with is actually the right sort of software.
Eric says he and the MemSQL engineering team spent months on the ground talking to customers and working with beta customers to determine the priority features in their product. He stressed the importance of engineers having real-world experience with the product they are building. “It takes time to bake good software,” Frenkiel said, also mentioning that the biggest difference between building an enterprise vs. consumer is the slower pace.
When I asked Eric about his approach to finding new customers, he told me:
For us, it was essentially giving away great software…that created a great pipeline for future conversations with engineers typically from large companies. Some large names from the Fortune 500 actually just downloaded the software saw the value, and said ‘well if it runs on one machine will it run on more?’
Editor’s Note: Michael Abbott is a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, previously Twitter’s VP of Engineering, and a founder himself. Mike also writes a blog called uncapitalized. You can follow him on Twitter @mabb0tt.