Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Evolution of Entrepreneurial Life in the Triangle

This is a guest post by Tim Huntley, who is the former CEO of Ganymede Software. He is now Entrepreneur in Residence for Triangle Startup Factory.

It seems impossible that it was eighteen years ago.  Eighteen years since four guys, with no prior startup experience, left comfortable careers at IBM and launched a company. 

In April 1995, Steve Joyce, John Walker, Peter Schwaller, and I founded Ganymede Software and moved into the First Flight Venture Center.  In spite of not having a salary, it didn’t feel crazy, or risky, it felt obvious and right. 

Our goal was simple:  Create a company and culture that provided the greatest opportunity to learn as quickly as possible.  Our first priority was to build a network of advisors to suggest where to step and more importantly, where not to step.  We knew we didn’t have all of the answers so we surrounded ourselves with people who had experience and advice.

By the end of 1995, we had built our first software product, raised a round of seed funding from angel investors, and were recruiting our first employees.  Over the next four years, we raised nearly $10 million in venture capital, grew to 100 employees, and reached an annual revenue run-rate of $15 million.  In February 2000, we were acquired by Mission Critical/NetIQ, just before the NASDAQ imploded.  Whew!

Yes, we created a successful company, but that success was as a result of many talented people in the local entrepreneurial community.  But in 1995 getting help was mostly ad hoc.  Yes, we had CED as a central hub, but there were no FastTrac programs and there were no business accelerators like TriangleStartup Factory.

Fast Forward to 2013
After selling Ganymede and leaving NetIQ in 2002, I needed a break, a very long break, but I am finally reengaging.  I am mentoring companies at LaunchBox, Triangle Startup Factory, and at my website, An Entrepreneurial Life.  And I have to say, I believe the future for entrepreneurial ventures in our area looks incredibly bright.  Here are my reasons:
  • Cost of starting a company:  During those first few years at Ganymede, we had to purchase a meaningful amount of computing resources.  Today, most companies get the horsepower they need from the cloud with a small monthly fee.  And as your business grows, the cost of scaling is as simple as paying a few more dollars.  It is coin operated.
  • Access to seed-stage funding:  According to research from CB Insights, seed-stage financings are growing in number and in size.  And a new wave of funding is coming online as a result of crowdfunding platforms and the JOBS Act. 
  • A thriving local community:  There are incubators, accelerators and co-working facilities available across the Triangle, and a deep talent pool of entrepreneurs available to help mentor new startups.
  • Repeatable methods and processes:  And most importantly, launching a startup is becoming more process driven.  Books like Lean Startups and The Startup Owner’s Manual along with systems like Agile Development provide a blueprint for how to develop products that match the needs of customers.  Honestly, I feel lucky to have had success without having these templates.

In 2013, the opportunity to start, build, and scale a company has never been better.  Yes there are problems like The Series A Crunch, but on balance things are great.  You simply need to find the right opportunity and take a leap – and when you do, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Find people who are smarter than you, ask them lots of questions, and listen carefully to the advice.

1 comment:

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