Gaurav Dhillon | Crain's Silicon Valley

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Gaurav Dhillon

Background:  

SnapLogic Inc. is a software company that provides platform-as-a-service tools to integrate various sources of cloud data.

The Mistake: 

I believe we learn from our mistakes. Successes don’t provide many of life’s lessons for us.

One mistake that is most relevant—and perhaps company-forming—was here at SnapLogic.

I built my first company, Informatica, into a successful organization. I started the company in the early 1990s on a loan from the small business program and built it into a couple-hundred-million-dollar firm.

However, when we started SnapLogic in 2006, the world had changed. We were using a web-browser approach to take our software to market as an open-source solution. We would give away the software for free and provide support maintenance and consulting. So we were trying to bring a new product to market using older technology.

It was a mistake. We had the right technology, but the open-source approach was a mistake—offering open-source software designed to be run on a customer’s machine.

This was because customers were embracing the cloud. We were seeing a large number of cloud companies formed right in front of our eyes that turned into multibillion-dollar enterprises, like Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow. I realized we needed to take our technology and recast it as a new technology.

We saw that we should restart the company as a cloud platform, moving our applications to the cloud. We bet the company on this strategy. There was no way to go back. You can’t just say “oops” and start over.

It turned out the cloud approach was right. It’s been widely successful and we now have hundreds of users. Our customers include Adobe, Box, Capital One, GameStop, Dish, Fox News Channel, Fox Sports and iRobot.

We bet the company on this strategy. There was no way to go back. 

The Lesson:

I was an entrepreneur and a CEO. I built Informatica before. However, I learned that what may have been successful in a former lifetime may not be successful now. And just because something worked in the 1990s doesn’t mean it will work in this millennium.

The enterprise software business is going through a sea change. Many companies that experienced greatness in the 1990s are feeling the pinch of moving from an on-premise model to a cloud model. The industry is moving away from old platforms for managing data to new ones.

Unless companies feel the pinch, they can’t change. When they find the old ways of doing things aren’t working, that’s when change is in the air.

Follow SnapLogic on Twitter at @SnapLogic.

Photo Courtesy of Gaurav Dhillon. 

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email jfisher@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's.