Sinclair Schuller launched Apprenda more than seven years ago in one of the most unlikely places: Albany, New York.
Though it may be an unlikely location, business ideas, it would seem, can come from anywhere -- especially when they involve big data. Big data generally refers to technology that can quickly collect and analyize massive amounts of data that can become apps or simply serve as something of a search mechanism.
And though there are many players, the industry is downright booming -- representing a several-hundred-billion-dollar opportunity, according to San Francisco-investment firm Data Collective.
For its part, Apprenda -- which helps giant companies like Honeywell and Quest Software build and manage applications for the cloud -- has attracted more than $16 million in venture-capital funding from High Peaks Venture Partners, Ignition Partners and New Enterprise Associates. Also, Data Collective, the fund founded by Zak Bogue (the husband of Yahoo's Marissa Mayer) is also an investor in Apprenda.
So, was 30-year old Schuller simply in the right business and place at the right time? We sat down with the young entrepreneur to figure that out. Here is an edited version of that conversation:
Q: How do you go about finding capital?
A: The typical advice in the VC world on raising capital is don't cold call, and you must get an intro. I never had the benefit of an intro. So, I did exactly what they said not to do. I looked for people that invested in something similar to Apprenda. I thought that a) they would understand our story better than any other venture capitalist and b) they would be more likely to invest. I built a list -- ranking VC firms based on which I thought was closest to being an investor in a company like ours. I started at the top of that list and emailed the partners that would best understand our story. Oh, and IÂ crafted a really good story.
Q: You're based in Albany. Has your company's location been a hurdle?
A: There is a perception that you can't build a company anyplace but NYC, Silicon Valley or Boston. That made it difficult in the beginning to raise money. But not impossible. As it turned out, some of the people that invested in us to date were some of the people that said 'no' initially.
Q: So how did you change their minds?
A: I had to prove the strength of the opportunity even more than most startups. And it ultimately made us more diligent about presenting the facts and how successful we could be.
Q: So why Albany? Seems like a lot of wasted effort, no?
A:The quality of life and cost of living are amazing here. We also have fewer distractions. When you go to the Valley, you can go to any Starbucks and hear about the next big thing and the next big thing, and it's always forcing people to kind of flip their mind and lose focus and patience for the thing they're working on today. Instead, they're looking at the next flip. I think that being in Albany and not having all the noise around you really lets you focus on the opportunity.
Q: Any advice for young entrepreneurs looking to grow their teams?
The two things that I always valued most in business partners and employees are raw intelligence and work ethic. People can come from totally different backgrounds, but, if they're smart and willing to learn, they'll excel. We feel that really smart people find a way to become successful in any role.
Q: How about overall advice?
A: My dad passed away when I was 16, and one of the things I always think about is that one extra day can matter in accomplishing something. People die young. It's weird to think of death as a motivator for actually getting things done today, but it is. People need to remember that they shouldn't delay.