One Million by One Million | October 27, 2013

Building a VC-Funded Tech Company from Upstate New York: Sinclair Schuller, CEO of Apprenda (Part 7)

Sramana: Can you talk through your team building process? I’m interested in how you have built your executive team and how your location has influenced that process. 

Sinclair Schuller: We have talked a bit about our location but one thing I want to point out is that we are not bent out of shape when it comes to the location of our team members. One of our VPs, Garry Olah, is in Silicon Valley.

We have focused on building a very experienced management team. Rakesh Malhotra worked for Microsoft for 10 years and is the VP of Product at Apprenda. He ran Microsoft System Center. Kerry Ancheta is my VP of Sales and he is based out of New York City. He was the VP of Enterprise Sales at MySQL. We have focused on finding the best possible executive management team regardless of where they are.

Every entrepreneur needs to step back and recognize where the team gaps are and find great team members to fill those gaps. I think we have done a great job of that as a startup. This is important because we are a premium priced product going after enterprises. That is not an easy lift.

Sramana: How do you find these people?

Sinclair Schuller: We brought in our VP of Sales through search. We have brought in everyone else through relationships. I think that is one of the best ways to find people. You have a lot more color on their ability to perform. My VP of Finance was someone in the Albany area that was part of a company that went public and he ran their European operations. I think that using search to field an entire executive management team would be very difficult.

Sramana: What I find impressive is that you were able to build these relationships being so far off hub.

Sinclair Schuller: Regardless of location it is important to become part of the hub. I am well connected in the Valley now. I know a lot of people in the Boston area as well.

Sramana: How has the ecosystem changed shape in your area over the past five years?

Sinclair Schuller: Upstate New York has been transforming in an interesting way when it comes to technology in general. Albany is a key hot spot for nano tech development. We are seeing a lot of computer engineering and chip manufacturing here. Google acquired a company across the hall from us that built the video codec for YouTube.

The most interesting thing is all of the activity we are seeing in New York City. We are only two hours away now. That Vibe has changed from being cash motivated to being equity motivated. A lot of startup activity is happening in the city. That is good for us since we are building an employee base in the city.

Sramana: In my opinion New York has overtaken Boston.

Sinclair Schuller: New York City, in my opinion, has the ability to eclipse the Valley over time for a couple of key reasons. On the consumer side, NYC is retail Mecca. Every retailer buys from New York City. There is an education level around consumer behavior that you do not see anywhere else. On the enterprise IT side New York City has a big play as well. Within 30 miles of Manhattan Island 60% of the world’s IT budget is defined. Finally, it is just a dense area that the labor market is very interesting.

Sramana: One of the advantages of Silicon Valley has been the VC industry. New York is interesting because it has money. The types of deals people are evaluating are more consumers oriented and that is something that investors in New York are more comfortable handling. There are a lot of trends that favor New York.

Sinclair Schuller: I agree. There are some very interesting dynamics and it is an exciting time to be in this region.

Sramana: Thank you for taking the time to share your story.