Success of Lew Cirne

I heard an interesting interview with Lew Cirne, CEO of New Relic. He previously founded Wily Technology and sold it for $375M to CA. I like his story because the guy loves to write software. He worked in private industry before starting up a company. That is where he got the idea for his first product. He confesses that he had a lot of other dumb ideas for products. Then the right one hit him light a lightning bolt.

Lew recommends that you do not force your idea to come to fruition. Just solve a problem that you are very passionate about. For Lew and his first startup, the problem was making Java programs self diagnostic. Lew first built a prototype. Then he gave presentations with a few PowerPoint slides and a lot of demo time.

Unfortunately applets and Java running on client machines did not take off. So Lew repurposed his product for servers and pivoted his company. He hired a lot of expensive sales people, and was never able to break even on financials. But they were growing by hiring and making more sales.

Lew says you must hire awesome people. They also need to be both gifted and decent. He found most hires through his extended network. Lew boasts that Wily is still one of the top products at CA, the company that bought him out. I find it interesting that out of the 260 employees of his company, only 15 were engineers developing the product. Most everyone else was in sales. His next product focuses on Ruby rather than Java. He is positioning the product to sell itself via software as a service. If the past is any indicator, Lew will be successful and selling once again for the big win.