“The real impact is making (the product) work for the customer,” Pradeep Padala realized during his research internships with Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. This spurred his transformation from a desire to stay in research to work more directly where he could have “real customer impact”, through entrepreneurship.
In late 2014 Pradeep founded ContainerX, which develops a management platform for virtual containers. Like virtual machines, these containers simplify storage and implementation of applications by developers. While not a new technology, it is still in need of a user-friendly management platform. Pradeep and his “A-Plus Team” are working to make these containers more useful for clients. It’s not a product looking for a million users; rather, it’s geared to medium- to large-sized businesses that may already be using VM software. Between 50,000 and 100,000 users is their long-term target.
When Pradeep decided to become an entrepreneur, he was already a US permanent resident, which simplifies issues. However, his cofounder had previously helped found two other businesses, and began when he was an H1B visa holder. It’s possible although rather tricky to be an entrepreneur in those circumstances!
Originally from a “small” town in Andhra Pradesh – home to “only” about 10,000 people – Pradeep came to the United States as part of his job at Hughes Software Systems (now Aricent). From there he proceeded to graduate school, eventually earning his Master’s Degree from the University of Florida and doctorate from the University of Michigan.
Pradeep’s family was small, and poor “even by Indian standards”, he says. His father worked as a clerk in a government office, earning about 300 rupees a month (currently about US$4.50). His father also taught mathematics to some students in the morning. Pradeep looks at his father as his primary early mentor, as he sat in classes with these older students.
With an easy laugh and a gift for analogies, Pradeep explains how these containers are similar to shipping containers and how finding a cofounder is like getting married. Here are some of the points he touches on:
- The value put on education by his family enabled him to move beyond their village and economic situation
- “What a privilege it is to have an education . . . what an advantage it is to have an education. At the time I didn’t see that; I was just doing what I could do,” says Pradeep
- Picking a cofounder is like a marriage – it’s about more than just sharing an idea
- Software is like a snowflake – each software is controlled and handled in a different way. With containers the goal is that this will disappear.
- One can’t really be both in the research and customer-facing sides of a project to do it right
- Technology is important, but for a startup the business side is more important
- It’s all about execution – 1% is idea, 99% is execution
- You have to pick the right venture capitalist (VC), for any idea; for ContainerX, that meant turning to VCs on the enterprise side of the business
- The first few months have been for meeting and brainstorming about what features were needed, what makes the company unique, how to compete with other companies, how to get customers and what is the right market segment
- Immediate goals: release in June, and a few customers. For the following year, 1-10 customers and developing a marketing funnel
- Assembling an “A Plus” core team was a priority as soon as funding was in place
- Customer goals are based on the type of client they are looking for; not every business is really looking for a million customers
- Being on the bleeding edge in developing management for Windows containers is one of the great achievements
Connect with Pradeep online:
Pradeep on Twitter @ppadala
ContainerX on Twitter @ContainerXinc