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.
Eric is the cofounder and CEO of MemSQL Inc. Prior to founding the company, Eric worked at Facebook on partnership development. He has worked in various engineering and sales engineering capacities since graduating from Stanford University with a BS in MS&E. In 2011, Eric was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list of technology innovators.
MemSQL is a next generation database that removes the most common bottleneck most applications hit today: disk. By offering a familiar relational interface to an in-memory data tier, MemSQL empowers developers with the technology web-scale companies use to cope with massive traffic and growth. MemSQL offers orders of magnitude improvements in write and read performance and greatly simplifies application development and maintenance.
Mike Abbott joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a partner in 2011. He focuses on investments in the firm’s digital practice, helping entrepreneurs in the social, mobile and cloud computing sectors rapidly scale teams and ventures. Mike serves as an expert resource on enterprise infrastructure, cloud computing and “big data.” He also helps entrepreneurs win the race for talent in a hyper-competitive recruitment environment. An engineering leader, entrepreneur and investor, Mike led the building of innovative, high-performance applications and...