One Million by One Million | October 22, 2013

Building a VC-Funded Tech Company from Upstate New York: Sinclair Schuller, CEO of Apprenda (Part 2)

Sramana: What did you do after you left Morgan Stanley?

Sinclair Schuller: I went to work for a startup in upstate New York that focused on help desk software. I worked as a Java developer inside of a really small company. At Morgan Stanley I experienced software development in large enterprises, so it was a new experience to work at a firm that small.

Sramana: What time was this?

Sinclair Schuller: I graduated in 2004 and I started Apprenda in 2007. I had about three years of experience in the field as a developer.

Sramana: In 2007 the iPhone had just come out. What did you notice about the ecosystem at that time?

Sinclair Schuller: The world was starting to focus on the cloud. I looked back at my experiences at Morgan Stanley and the small company I had just left to see where improvements could be made, and that led to creating Apprenda. One of my co-founders and I were college roommates. We ended up working at this startup in upstate New York together. Our third co-founder was also working at that startup as the webmaster and designer.

The three of us started talking about our common experiences. We realized that we had all experienced some common trends. First, inside of large enterprise IT environments, it is very hard to get an application deployed. It is a multi-month process that involves 10 or more teams. It was a process that was mind-boggling to us. We could not understand how enterprise IT could function that way.

Second, we noticed that cloud applications were becoming more prevalent. The way applications were architected was more sophisticated and complex. People were using multi-tenancy, scale-out, and high availability architectures. These were all qualities that were very difficult to engineer, and most developers had no idea how to do it.

The three of us saw an engineering opportunity. First, we wondered if we could build a software layer that would make it simple to get an application up and running on an existing infrastructure. Second, we wondered if we could commoditize the sophisticated development patterns so that an average .NET or Java developer could write an app an actually get a powerful cloud outcome with our technology. That led to the founding of Apprenda in 2007.

Sramana: Did you bootstrap the company?

Sinclair Schuller: We invested sweat equity and our own money. After six months we realized the scope of engineering effort our project was going to require. Apprenda is like an operating system layer that sits across the entire data center. We pull the various server instances that are running in a data center into one logical fabric. There are a lot of engineering challenges in doing something like that.

We realized that we had more R&D investment to make, so we brought in $250,000 of friends and family money. We then raised a seed state round of venture funding with a firm in the New York area named High Peaks Venture Partners. We had a total of $1 million in funding, and with that we hired employees to add to the R&D capacity of the company.