Tell It to Me Straight

Your online community can help fine-tune your products.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the January 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

At least once a week, Splunk co-founder and CEO Michael Baum spends time reading and contributing to the wiki his team created for his company's search technology. He does this not just for his own edification, but also for product ideas.Wikis are web pages that can be edited by multiple contributors. Splunk's twist on the concept is SplunkBase, where the company encourages the techies who use its software to vent about various vendors' technologies in the data center and provide tips about how they use them. Members can also rate each others' feedback.

 

Baum, 45, and Splunk co-founders Erik Swan, 44, and Rob Das, 48, have a certain empathy for techies. They all felt their share of technical frustration while involved in internet development at companies like Infoseek and Yahoo!. Splunk's software taps their past experience to index the different tasks that computer servers, network routers, security devices and the like handle each day, keeping copious records about these activities. When a problem occurs, the technical teams managing these technologies use Splunk to search for anomalies and configuration problems.

 

Baum says San Francisco-based Splunk started the wiki to promote goodwill among users. Soon after the wiki started, however, contributors began suggesting ways Splunk could add to the product, even contributing software code to automate certain searches. Those contributions have accelerated the cycle between new feature introductions, Baum says. That's important when you're pleasing VCs--Splunk just snared $25 million in additional funding in September. "You can't shortcut," Baum says. "But the faster you can go through those cycles, the faster you can grow your business."

Heather Clancy, a freelance journalist and consultant, has been covering the high-tech industry for close to 20 years. She can be reached at hccollins@mac.com.

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