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Standing in for Michael today, mostly because he is too busy talking and not typing (he’s at the OSISoft PI User’s Conference in San Francisco), is me: Robert Hylton.  My role?  Not really sure, but I guess you could call me a long-time band member and the guy who aspires to make real-time dashboarding software great for the masses, not just the massive. Enough about that, on to today’s topic…

We’ve been talking to some folks that are not part of our core lately (I know, risky).  They are not customers, partners or our own employees.  They are industry analysts, reporters and various others that we interact with to gather feedback from time to time.  They are very helpful and we actually like them quite a bit, but they keep using the word startup when referring to us and we aren’t always sure if that is a good or a bad thing.  Good, I guess because we like to think of ourselves as a lean, scrappy, agile band of renegades that break rules in unique ways to better society.  Bad, because we write industrial-strength real-time software for some of the largest enterprises on the planet and they aren’t always fans of risk.

So, are we a startup?  Yes and no.  Let’s look at a few of the downsides (for customers) of working with a startup:

Startup Stereotype

Transpara Reality

New, often immature product New product, but years in the making
A newly assembled team, often young Core team has been together for over 10 years – this is the 3rd company.  Unfortunately for us, not that young anymore
Backed by venture capital Self-funded
In the red In the black


Ok, but forget that self-indulgent sales pitch for a moment and let’s look at some of the things that make startups great:

Startup Stereotype

Transpara Reality

Small = Agile, nimble Small = Agile, nimble
Frequent releases Frequent releases (every month or so)
Modern business model Modern business model
Community-driven customer interaction Community driven customer interaction


So, are we a startup?  We are five years old and most of us have worked together for over a decade.  To be honest, it doesn’t really matter the way I’ve described it above except to those who feel compelled to categorize us (like analysts – they get paid to – we understand).  What really matters is how a company like ours goes about serving customers.  In our case, that means mixing the two together into a stew of goodness that makes our customer want to buy software from us and keep doing so.  To that end, here are a few of our priorities

  • Build agile software like a startup, with quality control and customer scenarios of a mature company
  • Use the latest technology and processes, but never at the expense of quality
  • Leverage our community like a startup, but maintain real relationships with our customers like a mature company
  • Focus on usability and simplicity like a startup, but don’t limit customization like a mature product (this one is always a tough balance)
  • Front-end (web presence, marketing, community, training, education, etc.) like a startup, Back-end (development, quality, support, operations) rock-solid like a mature company.

There are many more, but to paraphrase my last bullet above, we are not a startup, but we play one on TV the Internet.

As always, comments are welcome.