Loren Burnett: Prior to founding StackSafe, where I currently serve as president and CEO, I spent the last 28 years in numerous senior executive roles with companies in a variety of industries. Immediately prior to founding StackSafe, I was the COO and CFO of Astral Brands, a consumer brand management company, where I oversaw revenue growth in excess of 100 percent during a 15 month period. I was the president and CEO of Celcorp and was a Co-Founder, COO and CFO of FutureNext. Most notably, I served as Senior Vice President and CFO of Riptech, Inc. where I played an instrumental role in the sale of the company to Symantec, Inc. for $145 million cash in August 2002, and was CFO of The Hunter Group, which was acquired by Renaissance WorldWide in 1997 for $156 million.
2. Where did the name StackSafe come from?
Loren Burnett: The company name is inspired by the principle that all changes to mission critical applications or the software infrastructure “stack” need to be thoroughly tested for inter-operability, performance and security before deployment into a live information technology environment. This name reflects the concerns of IT operations professionals; our primary market for this solution.
3. Last year you completed an extensive survey of more than 400 IT professionals. What was the purpose of this study and did you find any interesting results?
Loren Burnett: In June 2007, StackSafe commissioned a third-party survey of 400 IT decision makers to explore target market buying behaviors and overall market opportunity. Over half of the respondents were enthusiastic about the StackSafe product, with 45% indicating that they would be “very likely” to purchase such a product at a reasonable price. Typically, new products receive 25-30% very likely-to-purchase ratings so we’re extremely excited by these results. Through this research we have also been able to quantify the impact of downtime on organizations and link downtime events directly to the maturity of change management and testing practices.
4. Tell me about bringing StackSafe Test Center to the market and why you think it will succeed?
Loren Burnett: In January we launched our Test Center Solution at the DEMO conference in Palm Desert, CA. Test Center enables IT professionals to thoroughly test and analyze the business impact of changes they’re planning to make to their mission-critical applications before they are implemented. What’s unique about StackSafe’s solution is our use of virtualization technology to duplicate the customers existing IT environment – including operating systems, web servers, application servers and databases across the business application stack. Then IT professionals can safely test changes before they are made without worrying about bringing down live systems. We see Test Center as one of a number of products that is a “next generation” virtualization solution that leverages the benefits of virtualization in new ways well beyond server consolidation.
Currently, we are the only company to offer a solution of this sort for IT operations and our patents that are pending on the technology will protect our intellectual property in this area.
5. What was it like launching at a show like DEMO?
Loren Burnett: We were honored to be included in DEMO and be part of a long line of successful companies such as JotSpot, Fortify Software, and Palm that have used that show as a launching pad for great success. It is an incredibly well-run show and it was energizing to spend 48 hours with a group of almost 80 entrepreneurs and their teams all going through the same anxiety and excitement around their own product launches.
6. How is the company progressing to date?
Loren Burnett: We have hit all of our milestones, most recently culminating with the launch in late January. Test Center is now fully available and we are working on continual product improvements as we build our customer base and receive user feedback. Our beta customers have provided valuable and positive feedback that we have already incorporated into the first version.
7. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as the CEO of a technology start-up in today’s business environment?
Loren Burnett: One mistake that we’ve seen start-ups make is to build a technology that is “interesting” or “cool” without an understanding if it is something that customers will buy. The most successful organizations are truly market-focused from development through to launch and customer support. We did not begin design and development of our product until we interviewed 35 potential Fortune 500 users to better understand the needs of their IT Operations organizations. We created Test Center based on a clearly articulated customer need. It is imperative that we continue to listen closely to the needs of users.
8. How many employees does StackSafe have?
Loren Burnett: Presently we have 23 employees, primarily made up of key members of the management team, engineering and development, customer support, marketing and a growing sales team. We expect to increase this number to over 70 during the next two years – as dictated by the need to effectively develop, market, and sell our products.
9. How would you describe the culture at StackSafe?
Loren Burnett: We want StackSafe to be a place where the talents of extremely intelligent and passionate individuals are brought together to develop innovative solutions to the problems of IT operations professionals. What has resulted is a very collaborative and open environment where ideas are shared, fiercely debated and shaped into solutions that will change the lives of IT operations professionals in a very positive way while at the same time building value for our shareholders.
10. How does the culture at StackSafe map to your leadership style?
Loren Burnett: I believe in hiring exceptional employees and providing them with the authority to make decisions and to execute upon those decisions. On corporate level decisions, my leadership style is to gather input from the team as well as other intelligent and knowledgeable people whom I trust and believe have excellent business instincts and common sense. I encourage informed debate and opinions from all sides of the issue. In the event that the team does not achieve consensus, then I make the decision and take ultimate responsibility and accountability. I believe in setting the business strategy and empowering the team to execute. Finally, communication and transparency are keys to our success as a team. To date, we have been very effective and fortunate to have hired team members who excel in this culture. There are not many “shrinking violets” at StackSafe.