Editor’s note: RiverMeadow Software, founded in 2009, enables frictionless movement of servers and workloads to the cloud and between clouds. We talked with president and CEO, Mark Shirman, about the trends in this crucial aspect of cloud adoption. He also shares insights for software startups.
Please describe your company and your market (small biz, midmarket, enterprise, industry, region/global, etc.).
Mark Shirman: We are a provider of SaaS software that takes friction out of moving existing (brownfield) servers and applications to the cloud. Our go-to-market strategy is to go through OEMs and not sell direct. We currently have relationships with VMware, Cisco, Ericsson and others.
What do you mean by “frictionless?”
Mark Shirman: We move servers directly to the cloud “as is.” The customer does not need to install any software, any agents, or buy into a PaaS. The process is fully automated taking much of the manual effort out of cloud migrations.
Right now without our solution it costs an average of $5,000 per server to move an existing server to the cloud, and it’s a very slow process. At RiverMeadow we average about $200 dollars a server, and we can do hundreds in a day.
How did your company originate — what inspired you to launch the company and what was the original vision/hope?
Mark Shirman: We tapped into our deep relationship base of over 500 global CTO/CIOs and found that some of the major issues they were facing were around the deployment to the cloud. We followed up that research by understanding what the strategic road maps were for this area at some major OEMs. It was this combination that gave us our business hypothesis (take friction out of movement of workloads to the cloud) as well as confirmation that we were architecting the product correctly.
After we did this, we also had a built-in base of OEMs to sell to and partner with, allowing our company to gain traction in the market very quickly.
How did you get your first customer? How did you convince them about your product differentiation and value?
Mark Shirman: A personal relationship got us through the door. An understanding of their business problem and how we solved it closed the deal.
If you could go back and live another business day over again, when would it be? What happened that day?
Mark Shirman: My previous company was on file to go public, and we got an offer to buy us. I would have forced the board to accept that offer.
Is there a story behind your company name?
Mark Shirman: It was the name of the street that one of our founders lived on.
Please describe one of your company’s lessons learned.
Mark Shirman: It is absolutely essential in working with an OEM to see where your product might sit on their strategic road map. If the concept or product is not there, you virtually have no chance of getting their attention.
What will be your company’s focus for the next 12 months?
Mark Shirman: Execution. We will be working with our early customers/OEMs to establish the market around migrations. If the market gets established like everyone believes, then we will be successful. We will work very hard to make our OEM partners successful.
What are some of the expectations you had at the outset that you’ve subsequently had to change?
Mark Shirman: Everyone in our market believes that the market is there and ready. The reality is that the cloud is still in its infancy. It is a massive market paradigm shift. These things take longer than anyone expects at times.
Describe a pitfall you were able to avoid because of a mentor or other advisor’s advice.
Mark Shirman: Holding onto a friend or co-founder longer than I should have. Sometimes you need to be focused on the entire company as a unit, over a particular individual.
What books have you read during the past three years that most influenced you, and how did it influence your thinking or your actions/decisions/vision?
Mark Shirman: I tend to read mostly fiction. However I did read two interesting pieces of non-fiction that were inspiring: Keith Richards’ “Life” and Pete Townsend’s “Who am I.” As a musician I was inspired at how long and hard they worked at their craft and how it evolved over the years, despite the chaos.
If you could spend an afternoon this month with a top exec in a well-established software firm to learn some insights from the exec, who would you choose?
Mark Shirman: Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com.
What is something you’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t done yet?
Mark Shirman: Take a trip deep in the Amazon.
What is your top advice for first-time entrepreneurs or startup CEOs?
Mark Shirman: Build a great team that balances your strengths and weaknesses out; don’t be afraid to swap out folks on chemistry. Also, be resilient. Many doors get slammed; find a new one.
What have you, as the company leader, found necessary to do in order to build a corporate environment that enables your employees to move beyond the early stage of a startup?
Mark Shirman: Communicate all the time to your people and to your investors and partners. To be a CEO is to lead and inspire; that is true internally and externally.
Mark Shirman is president and CEO at RiverMeadow Software. He has 30+ years of entrepreneurial experience. He was founder/CEO at GlassHouse Technologies for 11 years and earlier was EVP of corporate development and CTO at Convergent Group, purchased by Schlumberger. He was also responsible for the worldwide eBusiness and CRM lines of business for Cambridge Technology Partners and ran business units at BSG/Alliance IT. In 1985, he launched Innovative Information Systems Inc., purchased by CDI Corporation.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com.