When I sat down with the founder of MetricsHub, Charles Lamanna, he drew a graph on the white board behind him. The drawing depicted a convoluted path to enlightenment for someone building a startup. On this path, there are many, many ups and downs, and the point Charles was making in describing this path was that many choices are made in building and coding a startup that have a lot to do with how you feel intuitively about the data narrative produced by testing, experimenting and building. I liked that. It was really about riding a series of waves. Tuning things until you get the right answer, or an answer that is close enough to right that your decisions to address it are precise and meaningful.
thinking back on this, it makes sense that the mind that produced the path to enlightenment graph also helped create MetricsHub, an active cloud monitoring app, that helps businesses figure out exactly what they need to know about their cloud service to manage their bills.
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?
MetricsHub uses a Freemium model, so we have two different levers to pull: we can add more people onto our platform, or, we can drive a higher percentage of people to paying us. However, we have found that (for the moment) having a larger number of people using our product is important to build trust in our platform. As a result, we have decided to prioritize scale over revenue for the time being, although both are important for our long-term health.
Charles Lammana, Founder, MetricsHub
Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan?
We believe that it is important to the culture of our team that everyone is involved in the planning and the vision. When making the important prioritization decisions, all the members, including the technical members are involved. On the other hand, each member of the team has a clear area of ownership, so ultimately, the final call of a given question will fall to a single person. Part of the reason we can do this is because we are a small team right now, so it’s simple to keep everyone involved and still have a single owner.
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
For us, it’s about wanting to have an impact that we ourselves own end-to-end. There are plenty of opportunities to have an impact at somewhere other than a startup, but what’s unique about the startup environment is you get to have full control over the business that you are building. We realized this while working at Microsoft where this is not the case. Now, it is our vision that sets the product, not anyone else’s.
What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?
MetricsHub is about making people’s lives better—more specifically, making the lives of anyone running a cloud service better. We think throughout the world people are having pain running a service, and we want to eliminate that pain.
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
Our relationship has been close and incredibly productive. Whenever we have had technical or business issues we have felt comfortable reaching out to our Microsoft contacts and they have been able to help us out.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
Microsoft has a couple unique strengths: it has great suites of technologies for building scalable businesses (like Windows Azure), and it has great connections with the business community. For any startup, building on the Microsoft software stack can reduce time to market due to its power. However, for a B2B startup, Microsoft’s decades of experience building relationships with business customers is even more valuable.
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
We use Web Roles, Worker roles, and Virtual Machines for MetricsHub. The Web roles host the MetricsHub website, the Worker roles collect diagnostic data from our customers, and the Virtual Machines host a Cassandra cluster, which is where all of our data is stored.
How is Azure implemented in your solution?
We use Visual Studio and C# to build our solution and link against the Azure SDK.
How did you get excited about Azure?
The idea of a cloud platform that is optimized for the .Net stack was very attractive, as much of our experience was originally in .Net programming.
What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?
We think that PaaS is the ideal solution for stateless components (like our web and worker roles), and Azure delivers the best PaaS platform in the market. Most importantly, the fact that Virtual Machines exist for those things that can’t be stateless (such as our Cassandra cluster), meant that we could use Azure for all of our components.
What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?
Just dive in. If you have existing code, feel free to start on IaaS and use Virtual Machines. Over time, you can build your stateless components easily using web and worker roles.
MetricsHub demo walk-through