A week ago today (June 1st 2012) I was given the great honor of opening-up the London Stock Exchange on the same day that WANdisco officially listed on the exchange. It was the proudest day of my business life. It was pretty difficult not to get emotional at the moment that we ‘rang the bell’. The IPO was a highly significant event in what so far has been an incredible story.
WANdisco is no ordinary Silicon Valley start-up. This isn’t a ‘fat and lazy’ venture-backed-to-the-hilt business where the greatest personal risk one takes is whether to wear brown or grey slacks!
Our story starts with some world-beating technology invented in the garage of Dr. Yeturu Aahlad but that is the beginning and end of any similar Silicon Valley story you may have heard because the rest is pure blood, sweat and tears. The company started in late 2005 in Naeem’s apartment in Fremont, California. Three months later we closed our first big deal and that enabled us to move to proper offices just up the road in Pleasanton. It would have been very easy for us to take venture capital at that point.
Venture Capital is great for some people. It means you get a regular pay-check. You can go home and not worry about kids school fees, going out for dinner, buying a new car, the list goes on and on. We said “no”. And we said “no” because we believed that this company could be rather special. The interesting mix of our growing blue-chip customer list and unique technology gave us the confidence to go-it-alone.
It’s easy to sit here now and say “yeah, we were right”. But, back then it was a great risk for each and every one of us personally. That start-up team of Jim Campigli, Yeturu Aahlad, Naeem Akhtar and yes yours truly are heroes. We had to sail the ship through some pretty treacherous waters of down economies and slow IT spending. But we flourished and amazingly grew.
By 2008 we were looking for a way to scale the business and hire more engineers & support staff to enable us to grow. The conundrum we had, as a self-funded start-up, was growing inline with our sales bookings. That’s not easy in Silicon Valley with all of the high salary and high expectations that people have. So we looked further afield to India and China. The problems for a small company like us in those geographies were both the cultural differences and time-zone constraints. They are not easy to overcome for a small start-up.
In the end we settled on my hometown of Sheffield in the UK. I have written before of all of the virtues of Sheffield as a development center. Even now I get raised eyebrows when I discuss that we have software engineers in the town. I even heard the other day that one of our competitors criticized us for setting up in a ‘old rundown steel town’.
This serves as a great motivator for the team though. The whole ethos that the United States is built on is supposed to be about economic prosperity and upward social mobility achieved via hard work – last time I checked Feudalism died away in the 15th century – there is no god-given right to success!
Hard work and dedication is precisely what we have plenty of. As part of the IPO diligence process I listened into a call with a multinational chipmaker who described the support he was getting (from our Sheffield office) as “world class”, “the best of any of our vendors” and more importantly to me “they really care”. I was so proud last year when we won the coveted “Made in Sheffield” mark on our products.
Onto the IPO itself. Well, I think we did OK!
• It was almost 4x over subscribed.
• The list of institutional investors is to die for (Fidelity, BlackRock, M&G, Octopus, Legal & General, Cazonove, Artemis, Hargreave Hale and Standard Life.
• The business is still largely employee owned. Every employee with tenure has stock.
For those that don’t know the London Stock Exchange (LSE) it’s the most international of all the world’s stock exchanges, with around 3,000 companies from over 70 countries. The LSE is also the world’s fourth largest exchange boasting some of the worlds largest companies such as Shell, HSBC, Vodafone and BP.
So, yes June 1, 2012 was a proud and historic moment in the history of WANdisco. But this is the beginning of a new chapter. Our goal now is growth. Yes we had a great party last Friday but Monday was very much business as usual.
Finally I must say thank you to a bunch of people. Firstly, to the whole company and to my management team of Jim, Peter, Rob, Ian and Nick and my assistant Jerilyn. Panmure Gordon (George, Adam, Charlie, Fred, Giles, Grishma, Ben and Tim.) DLA (Jon, Rob, Rachel), KPMG (Chris, Euan, Dion, John, Julie, Maria, Richard, Philip) , Gunderson Dettmer (Ward, Cindy, Lisa, Ashlee, Jackie) , Seven Hills (Nick, Michael, Alex, Rosie, Stuart), FTI (Matt, Jon, Sophie) and Travers Smith (Aahron, Lisa, James)