Hadapt CEO Describes Getting a New Venture off the Ground
"A lot of success is about good timing and keeping your eyes open to opportunities," Justin Borgman, a member of the Yale SOM Class of 2011 and the CEO of the database software startup Hadapt, told the Entrepreneurship Club at a recent talk.
An engineer by training, Borgman entered Yale SOM intending to pursue a career in venture capital. During an internship with the Yale Office of Cooperative Research, the university's tech transfer office, he was introduced to research in the Yale Department of Computer Science that he saw as having the potential for commercialization. The research, by PhD student Kamil Bajda-Pawlikowski and Professor Daniel Abadi, proposed a method for allowing organizations to simultaneously query large databases of structured data, such as sales figures, and unstructured data like documents, emails, and videos.
Borgman, a 2010 Yale Entrepreneurial Institute fellow, and the two computer scientists formed a company, calling it Hadapt because the company's technology is based on the open-source Hadoop framework for databases. In the last two years, the company licensed the technology from Yale, received initial financing, and, in October 2011, closed a $9.5 million Series A round of financing with two venture capital groups. Hadapt is now making its software available through an early access program.
Over that period, Borgman noted, he has dedicated an enormous amount of time to a proposition that, while promising, has no guarantee of a payoff. "I work as hard as an investment banker," he said, "but I don't get paid like an investment banker."
Launching an entrepreneurial venture, he suggested, is to some degree an irrational decision. "You have to have a certain risk tolerance to do this," he said. But a steadfast belief in yourself and your idea is what keeps a fledgling company alive. "I don't think it's my intellect or my charisma," he said. "It's that I refuse to give up." Such an attitude at the earliest stages can help create the right culture at a company. "That willingness to do what it takes is crucial" for Hadapt, he said. "We're very scrappy."
Borgman took questions from the students in the audience, advising them on negotiating compensation at a startup, the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of financing, and the importance of hiring people who fill in the gaps in your own skills. He concluded with a pitch for an internship at Hadapt. "I would love to have this intern come from SOM," he said.