10 Quick Software Business and Software Startup Tips from Industry Veteran and CEO Mark Cashman (Page 1 of 3)
Mark Cashman, CEO of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based developer Queplix has 17+ years in the software industry, including a stint with IBM, where he launched and grew the Internet Connection Service business from $100,000 to $235 million in five years.
So when he talks, we listen.
Cashman says privately-held Queplix revenues are up 40% over last year, and he expects that growth rate to accelerate as the company continues its conversion from a services- to product-based enterprise. "We've been using cash thrown off from consulting to fuel the development," he says.
Founded in 2004, Queplix now has 16 full-time employees; Cashman expects to have 20 on board by the end of the year. The firm converted from its consulting practice in 2009, and at that time raised a series A funding round of $1.5 million, courtesy of Javelin Venture Partners.
Tip #1: Solve a very specific problem.
"Every successful software company starts with a good idea, solving a very specific problem in various industries or several," Cashman says."No one had looked at data virtualization as a category. It was a very up-down approach, driven by the vendors. We've taken a bottom-up approach, looking at the data itself. Most applications store data in a silo, and what we've done is unleashed it without disturbing it."
Tip #2: Don't go head-to-head with the big boys.
But even if we follow Cashman's first tip, there are some very large, very well-funded companies (think PeopleSoft, SAP, Siebel, et. al.) that are wrestling for that business; how does Queplix compete?
"That's a pretty easy problem to address," he says. "Vendors lock you into their technology -- but clients have multiple vendors. "We don't compete on a head-to-head perspective. SAP has a lot of great tools, but at the end of the day they cannot integrate with Salesforce.com without a lot of manual processes. We've automated that."
Tip #3: Don't go to market half-dressed.
"Before you go to market you need to make sure you're delivering a whole product or whole solution," says Cashman. "When we go into discussions with potential customers, we cover a whole gamut of problems. Because we're not a point-to-point solution, those conversations go more quickly. We're having a success rate of 70% or greater, in terms of moving from conversation to POC [proof of concept]."
Tip #4: Use multiple "touches," and have add-ons ready.
Not only does Queplix deliver a complete solution, clients have a choice about what they buy: hardware, software, and add-ons tailored to their existing data environment."We employ multiple strategies," Cashman says. "Our solution can be purchased as an appliance, or run on any machine. "It's all about creating avenues of opportunity. The customer can download our technology and look across multiple systems. It gives them the ability to see what they can do. After they download, we have their contact info, so our sales team follows up, assists them with answering questions."
A typical Queplix purchase order is $75,000, Cashman says, and each data source adds a "blade feed"; those cost around $25,000 each.