An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Raj Jalan, the founder and CEO of Device42, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Device42 – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
I was working as a consultant, helping companies migrate their data centers to newer technologies and platforms. I noticed that I kept running into the same situation over and over again. I would start the project and they would assure me that they had an accurate list of all of their servers and associated hardware, and then I would discover that they had no clue what they actually had. There was almost always an enormous gap, and I would typically spend close to 60 or 70% of my time just documenting what they had instead of doing the work.
I started to wonder if there was a software product that could help with this, but I couldn’t find a product that offered a consolidated view of servers, network components, storage, and applications. All the existing products worked well for one team – say – the network team, but wouldn’t work for, say, the storage team. All this said to me that there was potential to solve a real problem.
I met Steve Shwartz, my co-founder, and we worked on creating the software that would become Device42. We did both the coding and selling for the next two years. By the end of 2014, we had 80 customers and about $500k in revenue, and what surprised us was that the companies we were working with were some of the biggest tech companies. We had Cisco, Western Digital, and Fujitsu. Later, we added newer companies like New Relic and AppDynamics as well. It’s been an amazing run since then. We’re over 700 customers now.
So to answer your question more directly: I started to create Device42 to scratch my own itch.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
We had different hurdles at different points in our journey as a company. When I started D42, it was marketing. After a failed startup a few years ago, where I just focused on the tech part, I knew that marketing and sales were critical pieces to get started. Learning to do online marketing was not easy, but all the time I spent doing that proved key to our ability to see early successes and eventually helped us take off.
After the initial traction, when it was time to look for investments, I didn’t have any network. Not knowing anybody was a big hurdle. I started attending startup weekends and other networking events to meet people, and eventually that paid off too. After about a year of doing that, I ran into Steve who became my co-founder and pivotal to our success.
What does the future hold for Device42?
We’ve gone through many different transformations in just the last few years – from data center to virtualization, and now to cloud computing. The speed of technological evolution is impressive.
We’ve evolved our solution to support these newer types of infrastructure, and we’ll continue to do so. That means supporting technologies like containers and Kubernetes, as well as really cutting edge tech like serverless. We’re really known for the breadth and depth of our discovery solution – that is, our ability to automatically discover all of your infrastructure, and we’ll continue to build that out.
We’ve seen growth in some unexpected areas as well. First, in legacy hardware like mainframes. Second, with the sudden rise of COVID19, we’re seeing a lot of people interested in how they can use Device42 to remotely get an accurate view of their data center given that their people cannot physically access it. We can map their whole data center and create a visual layout of their data center floor and racks. That’s incredibly valuable right now.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in West Haven?
It is not Boston or Silicon Valley, but there is a small group of entrepreneurs in Stamford and New Haven that is approachable and helpful. As I mentioned before, these local meetups were pivotal for me. I traveled to NYC and Boston as well, but CT is getting better by the day. You just need to really focus on networking.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
First, if you are a technology savvy founder, or a problem solver, don’t spend all your time making the perfect solution. It is important to spend more time in marketing and sales activities with an iterative approach, and it is better to get something out for early feedback than waiting for your solution to be perfect.
Second, make sure you’re solving a real problem. It is much easier to market a product that solves a problem that people are currently experiencing than trying to create a market for a new product or solution.
Third, focus on supporting your customers. So many of the companies I was competing against were much, much larger than us, but they were all terrible at support. We were able to create real “fans” by making sure we always put the customer first.
Finally, get close to your customer. A big part of the reason for Device42’s success is that I was always talking to customers. If you combine that with a fast iteration cycle, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.