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Big Data & Brews: Ben Fu Gives a Blueprint for Entrepreneurs in the Enterprise Space

By on November 17, 2015

I don’t want to date myself but I will say I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years. I’ve compiled a number of “do’s” and “don’ts” over the years and I think Ben sums a few of them up nicely. For entrepreneurs looking to break into the enterprise space – this is a good episode to watch.

Previous Episodes

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3


Stefan:     If you would have a beer with an entrepreneur, what would you recommend? Which area would you recommend the entrepreneur goes into, and maybe why from an investor prospective? Would you say go here because it’s an established market, easy sale cycle? What would you recommend?

Ben:        I would say that the analytics market is still early, it’s one where there’s still a lot of opportunity. It’s one where it’s still a very big prize, and it’s quite frankly … I mean, you see it, it’s easy to beat SAP at times, it’s easy to beat Oracle. Now, look they can be partners, but their old technologies in ETL, their old technologies in reporting or BI just don’t cut it. I don’t want to single them out but, many of the large public companies out there are creaking with technical debt, and it’s getting even creakier over time. Who’s going to be the new entry, who’s going to be the new company to land grab each of these huge markets? So, analytics I think still has a interesting opportunity. Data management – our view is that the giants may have formed, even though they’re not incredibly big right now, but on the Hadoop side it’s pretty clear you have Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR, on the NoSQL side Datastax, Mongo, Couchbase. I think that you have to think of those as a new IT religion, and I think the new religions have been formed.

Stefan:     It’s SQL versus NoSQL?

Ben:        That’s right, NoSQL versus SQL, post-relational relational versus relational, but you also have Cloudera, and Hortonworks, and MapR, which is kind of the new enterprise data warehouse. Instead of, as you always say, instead of ETL, ELT. I do think that the app side that’s where I would actually … If some entrepreneur said where should I start something? Well first I would say, what’s your domain expertise, because you need to start there first, but if you have equal opportunity to be able to help start a company in one of these spaces the apps is the next evolution.

Stefan:     What’s a blueprint for entrepreneur, you have a lot of experience, you saw it from the inside, you saw it from the investor side. I just had a phenomenal exit from MIT and maybe even have a MBA or whatever (I have nothing of this) but people have great backgrounds that they are coming out of, I don’t know the Facebook’s of the world. What’s kind of the blueprint to build then a more enterprise software company coming out of consumer software, to build big data back ends?

Ben:        It’s a good question, I think of it as the following, there’s an evolution in a company’s life. The easiest way I would describe it is feature, product, company, platform. Once in a while something becomes a platform, but usually a company will be started out as a feature, that’s kind of the zero to one. How do you even get to revenue? How do you even get to product market fit? The most important aspects behind that is what I would say is rough market, whether it’s cheaper, better, faster or as a brave new world. If you’re doing something different or you’re just doing something that’s ten times cheaper, it’s got to be one of those, but you kind of choose a market.

Hopefully you have a team or your own domain expertise where you say, you know what I have an unfair advantage on taking on this market, because either my domain expertise, because of the team that I have or it’s just we’ve been working together but we have … It’s usually some combination of that, but it’s a very strong team that’s on a mission to be able to build something together. That analogy of everyone being in a boat and rowing at the same time, but you got to be pointing the right direction. That I would say you get from nothing to feature.

Then when you go to feature to product, that’s really being able to say, “Okay how do we get to product market fit?” Particularly in enterprise which is I would say a little bit different then consumer. Consumer you may build an app, it may only take you, I don’t know, a thousand man hours maybe less and it just hits. Look at a lot of the gaming companies.

Stefan:     Instagram, yeah.

Ben:        A lot of the gaming companies they just hit. Enterprise there’s a lot of considerations, who are the stake holders involved? What are you actually trying to solve? How are you doing it ten times different? I think it’s a composite picture, much more complex, and much more in general capital intensive, but that is the next evolution beyond just being able to put a team together and go after market, that’s the zero to one. The one to ten or one to twenty is do I taste product market fit? Do I understand the customer? Then from there have I architected the right product? You need people in place to be able to take it there.

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Stefan Groschupf

Stefan Groschupf

Stefan Groschupf is a big data veteran and serial entrepreneur with strong roots in the open source community. He was one of the very few early contributors to Nutch, the open source project that spun out Hadoop, which 10 years later, is considered a 20 billion dollar business. Open source technologies designed and coded by Stefan can be found running in all 20 of the Fortune 20 companies in the world, and innovative open source technologies like Kafka, Storm, Katta and Spark, all rely on technology Stefan designed more than a half decade ago. In 2003, Groschupf was named one of the most innovative Germans under 30 by Stern Magazine. In 2013, Fast Company named Datameer, one of the most innovative companies in the world. Stefan is currently CEO and Chairman of Datameer, the company he co-founded in 2009 after several years of architecting and implementing distributed big data analytic systems for companies like Apple, EMI Music, Hoffmann La Roche, AT&T, the European Union, and others. After two years in the market, Datameer was commercially deployed in more than 30 percent of the Fortune 20. Stefan is a frequent conference speaker, contributor to industry publications and books, holds patents and is advising a set of startups on product, scale and operations. If not working, Stefan is backpacking, sea kayaking, kite boarding or mountain biking. He lives in San Francisco, California.