Integrien Cheeseburgers

By: Jim Armstrong

 Jerrys Famous Deli delivery menu.jpg

Sometimes, an off-handed remark, an analogy reached for in an effort to communicate, takes on a meaning and life of its own.  So it is in the case of the Integrien Cheeseburger.  Integrien was (and is) a great company.  Founded in Orange County around the math oriented IP of Dr. Marvasti, Integrien set out with the ambitious goal of redefining networking monitoring and management with INTELLIGENCE and MATH and SMART NOTIFICATIONS.  The core of the IP, that probabilistic math is better in massive data environments than is deterministic programming, was and is a big idea and big deal.  As is the case with most innovative, technology companies struggling to grow — it becomes all to easy to constantly EXPAND the value proposition to include this new customer or that new partner or whatever new market trend.  In other words, with a limited staff and resources, your product menu begins to  look like the menu at Jerry’s Deli or evenworse it becomes the menu of a catering company (ie enterprise solutions — “whatever you need me to do”).   That is all fine and well if you want to grow a company slowly, with much  hard work, over 25+ years.  However, the venture capital game is about faster growing companies, and that usually means a defined product that is pulled into the market as much as it is sold or pushed into the market, and simple and clear messaging is your friend. In fact, it turns out, that keeping your product SIMPLE, BOUNDED and CLEAR are the hardest things to do in a startup.  The temptation to offer coleslaw or chicken noodle soup is overwhelming.  Staying with the analogy, lets talk about the simple menu of In and Out Burger. In-n-Out Burger menu  Simple and focused.  You do not need to look twice.  Why is this so hard?  Because if a customer wants a chicken sandwich, you have to tell them to go elsewhere, and for a desperate startup seeking customers that is very hard to do.  You want a salad?  Goodbye.  A dinner roll?  See ya.  A pasta dish?  Beat it.

This is not to say that startups cannot be ambitious.  They should be and they MUST be.  But lets not confuse the STAR with the STEPPINGSTONES (a later post).  A startup is just that, an entity or effort starting out.  An early stage company needs and thrives on momentum, customers, and traction in markets.  From that momentum, greater milestones can be crafted.

Integrien ended up, after a lot of hard work and bridged payrolls, having a very successful exit to VMware, who paid up for the technology and product in 2010.  I understand VMware will sell well over $100MM of Integrien’s “ALIVE” product this year and the product is really impacting the entire vrtualization market.  Terrific news for the hardworking product team at the Company.  These days, when I meet with the Integrien/VMware team for lunch, it seems we always  go out for a cheeseburger.