Thursday, March 7, 2013

Boston Founders–Hadapt

The next stop on our tour of the Boston Founder ecosystem brings us to the Central Square offices of Hadapt where Co-Founder and CEO Justin Borgman sat down with us.  Their mission to build a SQL layer on top of Hadoop.  This was the first real enterprise startup I’ve had a chance to visit. 

I was quite tickled to see the evolution of big data since I was doing ETL and OLAP at Microsoft 7 years ago.  At this point the concern isn’t as much for what data can be processed – it’s all about how easy it is to access.  The easier it is the more people can use it. 

Hadapt is building the layer that will enable Hadoop to plug into the world of SQL – which enables all of the analytics tools built for a past generation to interact with the bleeding edge in parallel storage.

The Justin’s story was really a great and repeatable one.  At Yale in the hopes of getting a VC job he joined the tech-transfer office (they commercialize technology – every major university has one).  After looking at a few projects – he found the work of Dr. Daniel Abadi who was working on a new adaptive analytical platforms. 

Seeing the potential for this technology Justin worked with Dr. Abadi to build out a small team in New Haven.  After raising a around Hadapt’s talent needs moved them up to Boston where they are to this day.  While a seemingly straightforward story, Justin had plenty of wisdom to share:

  • Hire Great  people – In half a glance you can see the rockstar quality in the company’s board.  Justin clearly took the time to seek out and recruit the very best.  He also noted that it’s hard, but critical to be ruthless about building, maintaining, and protecting a great team.
  • Find mentors – It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to survive the learning curve on your own.  Finding a great mentor with CEO experience is the best way to give yourself a fighting chance to grow into the role.
  • Pitch to both coasts.  At worst the West can provide higher valuation deals you can shop in the East.  Competitive pressure is always good.
  • The first sale is key – Hadapt closed a Fortune 50 company very early in their lifecycle. And this was done through classic sales (whitepaper download –> call –> meetings) and took about 6 months.  This sale combined with a superstar board of advisors gave investors the confidence to bet big on Hadapt early on.
  • Be where the talent is.  Hiring in Boston is generally hard, but it has a disproportionate number of data folks.  Also, Hadapt has a Polish subsidiary that employs many of the talented graduates known by the Polish PHDs that worked for Dr. Abadi.
  • Enterprise is slower, more strategic, but less of a gamble.

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