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The Open Source CEO: Ranga Rangachari, Groundwork (Part 9)

In this ninth installment of the Open Source CEO Series, I talk with Ranga Rangachari of Groundwork, an open source IT management company.

In this ninth installment of the Open Source CEO Series, I spoke with Ranga Rangachari, CEO of Groundwork, an open source IT management company.

IT Groundwork has been around for several years; in fact, it was one of the first open source startups I discovered when organizing the first Open Source Business Conference back in 2003/04. The company was doing well at the time, but I believe it was Ranga's influence (starting in 2005) that has ratcheted up the company's profile and performance.

Name, position, and company of executive
Ranga Rangachari, CEO, Groundwork.

Year company was founded and year you joined it
Groundwork was founded in March 2004 and I joined in July 2005.

Stage of funding and venture firms that have invested
Groundwork has raised $23 million in three rounds of funding with investors that include Mayfield, Canaan, SAP Ventures, and JAFCO.

Background prior to current company
I have over 15 years in the IT management software space. Most recently I was founder and CEO of Invio Software, a data center automation play, which was acquired by Symantec. Prior to that I was VP of Sales at Legato Systems, a leader in enterprise storage management software that was acquired by EMC.

Biggest surprise you've encountered in your role with your company
The pleasant surprise was the phenomenal domain expertise in IT management that the company had since the day it was founded. The other surprise was the high quality of customers that the company had acquired in a little over a year (prior to me joining them). Both made my job easier.

Hardest challenge you've had so far at your open source company
Recruiting talented, passionate individuals to the team. This is one of the perils of being an employer in Google-land :-). But it's more than that. To succeed in open source, you need exceptional people. The model depends on it. So much value is tied up in the people who serve the customer that you can't afford to hire "B" employees.

If you could start over again from scratch, what would you do differently?
I would have tried a lot more unconventional Go To Market strategies much earlier.

Top three pieces of advice for would-be open source CEOs

  1. The business model drives the licensing model - not the other way around;
  2. Be agile and listen to your customers. Understand customers' buying cycle before you worry about your sales cycle!
  3. If you are going the venture-backed route, make sure you pick investors that have solid track record in the open source space. We have been very fortunate on that front.

Thanks for the feedback, Ranga. The IT management space is highly competitive...even within the open source world, what with Hyperic, Zenoss, and OpenNMS also competing here. Ranga's experience and focus have served Grounddwork well.

Next up in the Open Source CEO Series...Dries Buytaert of Drupal, an open source web content management project.