There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
- Joel Trammell is a serial entrepreneur who is currently Chairman of the Austin Technology Council and a co-founder and managing partner of Lone Rock Technology Group. His leadership as a CEO has resulted in successful nine-figure acquisitions by two Fortune 500 companies. Most recently, Austin-based Cache IQ, a storage software company he co-founded in 2010, was acquired by NetApp in November 2012.
- In 1999, Joel co-founded NetQoS and led it to become one of the fastest growing technology companies in the U.S. With a customer base including more than half of the Fortune 100, NetQoS was the leader in application-centric network management. CA Technologies acquired the company in 2009, generating more than 10x return on capital to its private equity investors.
- Prior to NetQoS, Joel held executive positions at UST Computers and HomeSmart, a company that he co-founded to provide sales and marketing products for the residential construction industry.
- He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana Tech University and is a former instructor at the Naval Nuclear Power School.
- WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO AUSTIN?
- Yeah, the reason we came to Austin, my wife got an opportunity to work on her PhD at the University of Texas and uh... so that was initially what brought us here and then once we got here we realized the tech community was vibrant here and it was a great place to live.
- TALK ABOUT THE LAUNCH AND EVENTUAL SALE OF NETQOS.
- So NetQos started uh...I'd always had my own businesses, started my first business at 25, and then in 1999, I was waking up every morning and reading about some new business that had been funded in the Austin paper, and I thought there was the opportunity to create a business around my wife's work.
- And so we put out a business plan and uh... in June of 2000, founded the business, kind of right before the bubble burst and, and then things got tough.The driving force for selling at the time we did uh... we had just, the recession, Great Recession had started, we had had 31 consecutive quarters of double-digit year-over-year growth, everything was going great. And then as soon as Lehman Brothers went under, we could tell from our data that you know things were beginning to move sideways, we probably weren't going to have a 32nd quarter.
- CA reached out to us uh...and, you know, asked if we would be interested. The offer came in at a, at a rational price and, and made sense to the investors, and so in November 2009 we ended up selling to CA for $200 million.
- WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
- Within days after we had sold NetQos to CA, I received a call from a venture capitalist here in town that I knew uh... asking if I might have any interest in the CEO position at a company called StoreSpeed.
- The, the VCs ended up bankrupting StoreSpeed, uh... didn't want to continue to support it, and uh...Then one of the founders, a gentleman by the name of Greg Dahl, who I'd heard good things about, approached me about buying the assets and so that was a lot more appealing, a clean cap table, starting over, making some changes in the product that we thought would have greater appeal.
- And so I provided the the funding initially to by the assets out of bankruptcy, rebuild the team, and so that's how I got involved. I really wasn't looking to do anything immediately after NetQos, but the opportunity came around and I thought it was too good to pass up.
- AND THAT BECAME CACHEIQ.
- So, CacheIQ was uh... an attempt to accelerate the performance of network-attached storage devices. Historically, network-attached storage devices have been based on spinning discs.
- Of course, now you have solid-state technology that is much, much faster but at the same time much more expensive and so the idea behind CacheIQ was to incorporate solid state and through intelligent caching mechanisms allow it to put the important data on the highest speed layer uh... in the infrastructure and, and keep the investment in spinning discs, instead of replacing all of the spinning discs with solid state to get performance.
- So it was a unique technology that could do 10G packet inspection in the network and figure out what data it was being used and who was using it and put the most important data on the solid state device.
- THEN CACHEIQ WAS ACQUIRED…
- With the acquisition of CacheIQ, I was uh...I am free now uh... I don't have day-to-day CEO responsibilities, for which I have to say for the first time in, in a long time,uh... is somewhat refreshing.
- On the other hand, I'm still very involved in many different businesses. I invest in businesses, through my private equity group own some software companies and so I'm involved with those CEOs on a regular basis and expect to continue to do so.
- ADVICE FOR ENTREPRENEURS?
- Advice I give uh... tech entrepreneurs is to first, uh... in almost all cases, seek out a partner. If you look at the history of all the great companies uh... almost without fail, uh... there was a partnership involved.
- Uh... and then surround yourself with as many mentors and advisers as possible. They're a lot of people who've been through this racket and while the technology may change a little bit here or there, uh... the basic concepts for running a business haven't changed over hundreds of years.
- And so get the advice, don't commit the same mistakes that everybody else's made, learn from those mistakes and short cut your path. You're only given so much time to get a business and make it successful. Don't waste that time by thinking you have to learn everything yourself.
- TALK ABOUT YOUR BOOK.
- So I'm writing a book about being a CEO, and being a CEO is something that a lot of people kind of fumble into. They don't necessarily start out their career being a CEO. There's no degree program in college to be a CEO. Some people may think an MBA prepares you to be a CEO, I, I don't think that's the case at all. And so there's really not a lot of training around even what is the job.
- And uh... I've seen a lot through my career of people who got placed in the job that come out of a particular area of expertise, maybe there are great sales guy, and they became a sales VP and then one day somebody walks in and makes them CEO and they spend a lot of time -- a year, two years, three years -- trying to figure out even what the job is and how to approach the job because it's very different than any of the particular areas of expertise and specialty that most people get trained in, in a business.
- There are three tools that a CEO and really anybody in a position of leadership has to draw on uh... and I call those the three Cs: credibility, competence, and caring.
- Credibility's the idea that when you say something, do people believe you? And it's not a case of you have to be right all the time. They just have to know that you believe what you're saying.
- I've seen way too many CEOs stand up in front of an audience and talk about How they're gonna be number one in some market when they're currently thirty-seventh in that market, okay? And and they don't understand how some of those, while maybe optimistic and, and encouraging ideas uh... end up destroying their credibility.
- And then competence is really the idea that you, you don't have to get every answer right, you don't have to make brilliant strategic decisions, but people have to feel that you really understand the business, that you can make good decisions about what market you’re in and what products you're building.
- And then finally caring. At the end of the day, even if you have great credibility and great competency, if people were worried that when things get tough, you're gonna make a decision about what's better for you than the business, they won't follow you anywhere.
- And so if you can put those three things together -- competence, caring, and credibility -- you've gone a long way to being a great CEO.