As CTO of Web18, Varun Singh was responsible for building the engineering and product management teams at the company. While managing In.com, a portal that was growing rapidly, Singh noticed that his database administrators were constantly battling with making changes to the backend software to handle challenges that cropped up from this quick growth. “I thought if we could device a plug-and-play method to crack this challenge, there was potential to build a startup in the space,” says Singh. In early 2009, ScaleArc was born. Singh adds, “It is obviously very exciting to go out and build something that you have not seen in the market. Additionally, you can build an organisation that has your DNA in it. These are the two reasons that prompted me to startup.”
Singh and his co-founder, Uday Swant, hired two developers as soon as they quit their jobs and got it running. The company raised seed funding from Nexus Venture Partners and set out to build its proof of concept. “Thanks to our experience and network, we could also convince fairly sophisticated technical individuals to work with us as part-timers,” says Singh about ScaleArc’s ability to attract senior technical people. He believes that somehow startups have to be lean without compromising on product quality. Today, ScaleArc’s product, iDB, helps companies scale up in a much more productive fashion, with respect to man-hours spent by database administrators. iDB currently supports MySQL and SQL, and Singh’s next focus area is to build out the product to support Oracle, which is the most widely used database.
All roles in one
Singh explains that one of biggest differences between being a senior professional at a larger company and running a startup lies in the area of execution. He says, “In your startup, you have to do everything – be it buying toilet paper for your office or designing your visiting cards. Nothing can be taken for granted.” For Singh and several other senior professionals-turned-entrepreneurs, this is something they relearn as they begin their entrepreneurial journey.
However, at Web18, Singh was the founding CTO and he did have to build his team from scratch. The idea for his startup came about while solving a problem at In.com. He admits that there are several things that he learnt at Web18 that is directly of use today. “At a direct level, my understanding of various technical, database-related issues is something I picked up at Web18. It gave me the experience of ramping up an engineering team.”
At a macro level, Singh is excited about the macro opportunity in the market he operates in. “Our product is useful to anyone who deals with scalability issues with databases,” he says. Today, ScaleArc’s product is already used at Yatra.com, IndiaGames and several other companies in the U.S. In late 2011, the company raised its second round in institutional funding to the tune of US $5.33 million from Trinity Ventures and first-round investor Nexus Venture Partners. The company also hired Justin Barney, a technology industry veteran who previously worked with Citrix and Juniper Networks in Silicon Valley, as its president and COO.
Singh’s immediate focus is on launching the full-blown iDB product to support Oracle databases and fine-tune the feature set based on initial feedback. From a fund-raising standpoint, he is confident that revenue growth coupled with its current cash will keep the company going till the middle of next year. Singh confidently concludes: “We are looking at growing at about 45 per cent every quarter and touching a US $3 million run rate next fiscal.”
Previous Avatar: Founding CTO, Web18
Current Avatar: Co-founder, ScaleArc
Why he took to entrepreneurship?
The most exciting aspect about building an entrepreneurial venture is that you can build the organisation to your liking. In my case, it is also exciting to build something that does not exist in the market currently.
Professional vs. Entrepreneur:
As an entrepreneur, nothing is handed to you on a platter – from keeping your office clean to buying toilet paper for your bathroom, you are responsible for each and everything.
Lessons from the past:
A lot of the learning has been on the engineering side. I got the idea for ScaleArc from a big problem we identified at Web18. Additionally, as founding CTO of Web18, I did build the engineering and product teams from scratch. This experience will be extremely handy as I go about building ScaleArc.