Before we start talking about my experience running this company, let me share some of my experiences before Cerebrata which led to some of the decisions I made when we built products at Cerebrata.
Not very many folks know but back in the dot com boom era, me and a friend of mine started a company and managed to sell that company for a very decent price in the hope that we would make BIG bucks. Unfortunately we didn’t make a single dime out of it (I’ll share those details some other time). This was in 1999/2000.
While working for that startup, I started building a nifty survey authoring system. It was really nice (at least I thought so) with features still not available in some of the popular survey systems out in the market today. This product went through multiple iterations where I scratched the entire application and rebuilt it from scratch. The application was never released even in beta because I was never satisfied with the product and always wanted to improve it. Fast forward to 2004/2005 time frame and I then realized that this product has become too complicated for me to handle and decided to shut it down completely.
I was not really devastated that I had to shut down the project. At that time I was primarily doing development in Cold Fusion and this product gave me the opportunity to work on ASP.Net, AJAX etc. so all in all I was quite all right with that fact. At least I got to learn something new.
Lesson Learnt (not at that time but a few years later)
SHIP WHAT YOU HAVE BUILT
I was still working full time in the US at that time with a team of very talented bunch of people. One problem I was facing there was there was no control over the databases we had. My team members ended up altering the schema of the databases at their own will with no consistency whatsoever. At times we have had two database tables, each with a column which serves same purpose however named differently. That led me to think about building a “Database Documentation Utility”. This was in 2004/2005. Since the computers were not that powerful at that time and to be honest it was (may be it still is) a pain to install Oracle on personal computers, I thought I will build it for SQL Server. So I started building a database documentation utility for SQL Server databases. Again the product went through many iterations and SQL Server versions (I started with SQL Server 2000 and 2005 and then SQL Server 2008 came).
The idea was to have user created documentation about various objects (tables, columns, views, stored procedures etc.) and save that in the same database itself in some user defined tables using a browser-based interface. Quite late in the game I came to know about Extended Properties in SQL Server . Somewhere along the course of my development, I realized since I am getting metadata about these objects and displaying them why not extend the functionality and start providing the ability to create/edit/delete tables, views etc. through this application. This product eventually became “now defunct” Omega.MSSQL and was one of the main reasons I moved back to India (more on this later in the post).
In the meanwhile, I got an opportunity to manage a website for a company in the US. I asked them if they would be fine working with a company in India and they agreed to that. This led to the creation of Cerebrata (or at least incorporation from legal point of view).
Coming back to Omega.MSSQL, now this product I in fact released to a few folks who were working with SQL Server at that time and got some decent feedback as well. However one thing I realized that for me have this product successful, I would need to be full time on that product and since I was on H1B visa (not to mention hefty mortgage and car loan in the US ), it won’t just be possible for me to do so from the US. Plus there were some personal reasons too. Thus sometime in 2007, we (me and my wife) decided to move back to India. We managed to sell our belongings and finally moved back to India in June/July 2008.
I do want to mention that my employer in the US at that time was extremely kind to me and gave me a contract to act as a liaison between the team I was working with in the US and a development team in China. That gave me the bootstrap money to get started without putting my money into my venture. For that I would be eternally grateful to them and especially my boss at that time for facilitating that.
Next, I will talk about some of the initial days and how I built the team.