Opstera is just four months old. But the Bellevue upstart is already reeling in customers who are turning to the $50 per month service to monitor and manage applications running on the Windows Azure platform.
As of this week, more than 100 customers have signed on for the company’s AzureOps, a product that helps customers automatically provision servers based on traffic demands. And, since the company has done little to tell the world about itself, Opstera’s execs are expecting even more momentum ahead.
Founded by former Microsofties and Cumulux execs Paddy Srinivasan and Ranjith Ramakrishnan, Opstera is in a super hot arena of software-as-a-service cloud management. Though slightly different in approach, Seattle’s Opscode also plays in that space, raising a $19.5 million venture round from Ignition Partners and others last month.
For the latest installment of Startup Spotlight, we chatted with the 35-year-old Srinivasan to get his take on the company’s prospects.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “At Opstera, we help companies get the most from their cloud investments by providing deeper insight into the health of their cloud operations and offering a better experience for customers.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We saw how beneficial it was for customers to unlock the “black box” of cloud computing with easy to use tools designed to monitor and manage the operations of their cloud applications.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are primarily a bootstrapped company with investment funds from our previous cloud company, Cumulux, combined with some additional angel funding. We wanted to first prove we could build a sustainable business model before growing our company with larger amounts of external capital.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “From day one, we let customer and partner feedback from the market be our guiding light for the entire product development process. Because we took the time to really understand the challenges our customers face as they move to the cloud, we feel confident there will be strong and broad demand for our offering.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Staying laser focused on the priorities. When you start a business, there is a tendency to want to “do it all,” so we made a conscious effort to focus first on the core things that will ensure we deliver a great product. We look at everything through the lens of creating more value for the priorities that matter most, then growing our company on this solid foundation.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We are software engineers at heart and our first passion is building the product. So, we spent a lot of time tweaking the code. Though that process, we’ve learned there is a point in time when we need to let it go, take the product to market, and start building a customer base.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “I would say Bezos. As an entrepreneur, I admire his ability to envision a brand new opportunity, take on the tough challenge of creating a market, and then become a catalyst for changing the landscape. And what’s even more impressive is that he accomplished this “reinvention” of a market multiple times with wildly different products and offerings.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Our goal is to become the market leader in operations management for the cloud.”
We are truly unique because: “Opstera is the only company that offers a comprehensive view of the entire cloud operation. We provide customers with one complete solution instead of three individual ones to monitor the cloud platform, the application, and related third party services. While other solutions provide monitoring inside the data center, we’re the only solution “on the cloud and for the cloud.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We are unrelenting in our pursuit to build a stellar product. Not only do we obsess over the code we provide to customers, we also use our product in our own operations where we’ve learned we’re our harshest critics.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “For me, the biggest hurdle was releasing the product into the market after all the long hours building it. There will always one more feature that could be added and I wanted to ensure we were building the right feature set to meet the needs of the majority of customers. In the end, we made the right bets because we acquired more than 100 customers in just a few weeks after launch.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Don’t let your ego get in the way of your success. If you have a concept, try it out on a small scale first and get real-world feedback that you can use in the design phase. Don’t be afraid to talk to customers, experts, or advisors because it is better to be critiqued and improve the idea than to fail spectacularly.”