The BizSpark startup of the day is NitrosBase, based in Russia. You will find below an interview with Andrey Portnov, leader of NitrosBase. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
Interview with Andrey Portnov, leader of NitrosBase
Tell us who you are and your role in the company:
Well, I am the general manager of the Compile Group company and I also lead the NitrosBase project. I graduated from Moscow Physical and Technical Institute in 1985 and got a degree in economics in 1999. In 1987 I started working as a programmer in the Branch of Kurchatov’s Atomic Energy Institute. This was one of the world leading scientific center in nuclear physics and high-tech and that was the place where our team formed. The other two members of that team were Victor Chernov who was working that time on his Ph.D., developing his own optimization solutions based on genetic algorithms, and Vladislav Golovkov who was involved in artificial intelligence project. Vladislav had some ideas of how one can make indexing and search run faster and since that time we are working together on such algorithms.
Actually, today I am an organizer and coordinator of the project. So, I am in charge with the NitrosBase business success while Vladislav and Victor are the people who make our database engine and all our products based on this engine technically perfect. And they do a great job! We already got such awards as National Security Award “ZUBR”-2008 (http://secaward.ru/premia/laureat) and the “Idea of the Year” at Innovation and Technology Exhibition Innotech-2009.
What did you do before creating your company?
As I mentioned I started as a programmer in the Atomic Energy Research Institute and after nine years I left it as a general manager of the IT department which encountered more than 300 employees. By that time I already was a co-founder of a private company: we were focused on developing custom software for the USA and Canada customers. For some time we split our team: Victor spent several years in the USA working for Oracle and several startup projects, Vladislav kept working in custom programming and I was getting my second degree in economics and getting experience in banking and management. In 2005 we gathered again and founded Compile Group, empowered with the experience we all obtained. And in 2009 we decided to run this startup – NitrosBase – the world fastest database management system.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
This is very pleasant! In fact, we have very ambitious intention: to develop a cache database accelerator for the MS SQL Server. This will make MS SQL Server run thousands times faster! We already have our own engine for that cache database and we have benchmarks that demonstrate this acceleration. We made a presentation of this project at SVOD conference (www.svod.org) and won the first place as the most promising technology company. Nevertheless, when you talk to investors, they are interested in the first hand in market traction, not in diplomas and medals. That is why we decided to start with the set of ASP.Net controls based on our database engine because they need less time and money to develop and allow us to get some market traction. Now we are launching the first control to the market and the next one is in beta testing. So, it is very important for us that our products and our business strategy won this high appraisal of the BizSpark experts.
What is your company’s mission?
When we look at the users of the software that uses databases we see that almost all of them are unhappy with the performance but often they even don’t complain because it’s a common point of today’s vision: “databases are always slow”. When we look at the developers we see that they spend huge resources using various tricks to make their applications run two or three times faster and they are sure that this is normal, because “databases are always slow”. We see our mission in breaking this stereotype by giving the developers very simple-to-use tools to create ultra-fast applications that will make their users happy even when working with databases that contain millions of records.
How did you get the idea for your company?
We were developing and using our algorithms for indexing and search in our custom applications. Each task needed its individual approach but we tried to unify them as possible to make the development more effective. After we’d got that ZUBR-2008 award we decided that we can collect our algorithms together and develop a universal product that can be sold in a box. This was the moment we decided to start the NitrosBase.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
Yes, we are looking for funding. Thus far we were developing our products with no external funding but we are unable to finance by ourselves our main project – SQL Server accelerator. We need about USD 3 million to fulfill the development and start selling the SQL Server accelerator.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
Currently three developers are working on NitrosBase products. We also have chief architect, coordinator and testers. There are 5 people permanently working on the project, others are hired as freelancers.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring and where?
We have a pool of the freelancers we were working together before. So we try to invite them first because we know their skills and habits. Also we invite people by recommendations of our programmers and our favorite freelancers. And at last, we find people on recruitment sites. Mostly we hire testers, designers and programmers.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
We are oriented on Microsoft SQL Server and .Net. Assuming that our main target is to create MS SQL Server accelerator, the answer to question “why” is obvious.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet area?
Well, it looks to me that the time of big custom projects with tones of unique code is over. The more and more off-the-shelf software with various functionalities become available at the market every day. That is why we turned to the box software. Custom programs are very expensive while most of tasks can be done today by skilled integrator with cheaper off-the-shelf products. So, for developers, I see opportunities in creating products that can be sold widely for lower price rather than making an expensive unique solution. Also, the clouds services and SAAS model look very promising. These approaches in fact give the same result: more customers with lower prices for each one. As for areas for applications I’d like to point out that people still hate to read manuals and don’t like to spend time learning something new that is not in their direct occupation. So, the “just push button” software that stands between any powerful service or product and untrained customer will be in demand. There are millions of customers who are ready to prefer easiness to functionality and this is a very good and grateful market.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
We like BizSpark and we appreciate what Microsoft is doing to help developers. This is really priceless for us: the development tools, the conferences and other information channels and, finally, their help in product promotion. In our business plan we point out that we are involved in BizSpark and we consider this as a very strong advantage.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
I am not sure this will be new for them: no matter how skilled you are in programming – the business idea is the main point. First, find out what customers need, as a rule the software implementation is not the problem.
Who’s your role model?
I am not sure I have one role model. I am a big fan of Seth Godin in all our marketing activities. Being at SVOD conference in December 2009 I was very impressed by Serguei Beloussov, Chairman and CEO of the well-known Parallels software company. His is charged with business success and charisma and when you hear him you feel like he is a very good role model.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
The era of “click-and-wait” database applications is over. The era of tricky and sticky coding is also over. Discover NitrosBase!