“The only things that matter are effort and results.”
Since starting Catchpoint India five years ago, we have grown from a team of three to around a hundred, spanning over a dozen different departments. Catchpoint India represents almost half of the entire company, which is unusual for a startup headquartered in the US. The growth of the India office has been consistently organic, with success driving one opportunity after another.
Our focus has always been on effort and results. We work hard to foster a trusting and open working environment in which people can bring their best ideas forward and be rewarded for their hard work. The high value that we place on company culture starts with our CEO, Mehdi Daoudi. He understands that by giving people the flexibility to grow in the direction(s) that interest them – interests that align with larger company goals – also helps the company grow. This has certainly been true of my journey at Catchpoint.
Following roles at Dell and Yahoo!, I entered the monitoring industry as a Solution Consultant with Keynote in 2011. Three years later, I was managing the Keynote India team when it was acquired by Thoma Bravo and merged with Gomez to form Dynatrace. With all the changes that were happening in and around the company, the focus began to move away from innovation and solving real-world problems. You could see that most of the decisions were becoming solely business driven.
At Keynote, one of my responsibilities was competitive intelligence. When evaluating Catchpoint, I realized it already had several of the features I was interested in pursuing at Keynote. This told me, here is an organization building features that won’t just deliver business results, but can also solve actual problems. Catchpoint is built around Orchestra, its proprietary NoSQL database, which the co-founders continue to update, expand, and polish. I always say that Catchpoint is a company built not just out of ideas, but experience.
As Keynote’s vision wasn’t in line with the market at that point, I reached out to Gad Stanislas, then International Sales VP at Catchpoint and offered to set up an office in India to handle sales in the APAC region. Gad liked the idea, introduced me to Mehdi. By October 2014, the India office was launched. With two other colleagues from Keynote, Bharath Kumar and Vishal R. Shetty, we set out to build a new market for Catchpoint in APAC.
From left to right: Bharath, Nith, and Vishal in Times Square in 2014.
Our first year didn’t come without its share of challenges. The APAC market is not as mature as the US or Europe and user experience was not seen as a key priority for local companies, meaning the Catchpoint product was initially viewed as more of a luxury than a necessity. There were only a handful of companies who could easily afford to add a monitoring solution, or that truly understood its value. Over the first six months, we gave 100 demos to 100 different organizations. However, six months in, we were yet to close a major deal.
By September of 2015, our hard work started to pay off. Our first big win was an airline based in Hong Kong. We knew the challenges involved and that they were using a competitor, but we had confidence because we knew we were offering a superior product. After an intensive effort, we won the contract primarily on the grounds of our technical superiority.
It was a defining moment for Catchpoint India, proving to ourselves and the whole organization that we could close a large deal. From there, our confidence and ability to close deals went from strength to strength; in the year 2016, APAC represented over $1M in annual recurring revenue.
Spreading Our Wings
During our first year and those following, further opportunities for growth have emerged across the whole company.
In November 2014, we visited the US and connected with Arnold Sanchez, the Chief Customer Officer responsible for the technical services team. Back then we only had a 12×5 support team, i.e. 12 hours a day, Monday to Friday. Following the US visit, we started building a team in Bangalore that could scale to 18 hours a day, and eventually to a 24/7 service.
Our first hire for the support org was my former team lead at Yahoo!, Ram Kumar Suriyanarayanan, who was excited to come on board. We spent a lot of time handpicking people with varied skillsets: scripting, networking and always great communication skills – people who were flexible with timings and hungry to grow and learn. The support team has since grown to around 15, offering 24/7 support. At Catchpoint, we take support seriously; we have one of the best support organizations in the monitoring industry today.
Catchpoint is essentially in the data business, which affords us visibility into the global health of the Internet. During our first year, we realized we needed to dedicate greater attention to Benchmark and Data Analysis. There were already some efforts within the company, but no one was solely responsible for analyzing industry trends or looking at large volumes of data to provide visibility into how the industry was progressing. To fill this gap, we hired Ranjana Devaji from Keynote.
Monitoring and scripting go hand in hand. Most monitoring teams don’t have dedicated resources that handle complex scripting scenarios. We decided to hire probably the best scripter in the industry, Loy Colaco, to build our scripting center of excellence; he has since nurtured several other scripting geeks within the company.
During the December 2015 holiday party in Boston, Mehdi asked me if I knew someone to start a Quality Assurance (QA) team in India. I reached out to Gopal Puranik, who was then working at EMC2; he joined as our QA manager mid-2016. Today he runs a 15-member team. Catchpoint is an agile company; we have releases every 45 days, involving new features, enhancements, and bug fixes. The QA team runs tests to ensure the quality of our product and that it is working right before launch. QA is split into three different teams: frontend, backend (core), and the agent team that focuses on our global node infrastructure that powers all of the tests that our customers run.
Continuing our growth story, we hired Mithun Balakrishnan, who joined Catchpoint in 2017, to build a seven-member operations team focusing on managing the IT Ops network 24/7.
There is a sizeable number of employees in the India office who have been with us for several years, and many who have achieved career progression within the company, such as moving from services to operations. Such movement is an integral part of the culture at Catchpoint and it is encouraged across the whole company.
Building a Local Engineering Team
Recently, Vijay Bade joined Catchpoint to build an Engineering team in India; the team has now grown to over 15 people. When scouting for candidates for this team, we encountered multiple challenges due to our unique set of needs and the high demand for skilled, experienced engineers in Bangalore. The industry as a whole here faces a similar issue: hiring and retaining experienced engineers.
Initially, we were simply not getting the profiles we needed to even create a healthy pipeline of potential candidates. This forced us to step back and analyze our recruiting process. We started hiring people who could help us source as many qualified profiles as possible.
While we continue to face stiff competition in hiring, we have made headway in improving the hiring process. Rather than compromising on quality, we have slowed down the speed at which we are growing the team.
Growing Our Professional Services & Consulting Arm
In 2016, I proposed to Mehdi the idea of Managed Services to provide customers with our expertise along with our product. There is a clear gap in the market for this kind of service. Monitoring revolves around four pillars: Reachability, Availability, Performance and Reliability. The industry typically has different teams responsible for each of these areas. Most organizations don’t have a single team to focus on all these aspects at once and interpret how they impact business KPIs.
To bridge this gap, we built a Professional Services team, which over the last three years has grown to about 15 people and is widely used by our customers. We work with some of the largest enterprises from across the world in this way.
We also have our Performance Engineers team, currently a team of eight, who are our very own product evangelists. The Bangalore-based team works with our customers around the globe to consult, educate, and ensure that our customers are getting the best ROI from their investment in our product. They also visit our customers, checking in with them, conducting workshops, and offering advice on best practices.
There are two factors that really accelerate the growth of a technical SaaS product:
- The technology
- The skillset of employees that evangelize and support the product.
For this department, we have sought out people who love to engage with customers proactively and who excel at evangelizing our technology and domain expertise. Mehdi fondly calls this team our “Navy Seals” because they can hit any target (regardless how complex) and come back unscarred! The team also adds business value by helping customers better realize the full potential and value of Catchpoint, often adding new features to their account.
Knowledge is Wealth! Converting Knowledge into Content
Marketing is another area in which Catchpoint India has been able to make a significant contribution to the company despite only having a full-time team of two. 70-80% of the entire organization is technical. These employees have a great deal of knowledge around our product and an in-depth understanding of core concepts as well as the industry at large.
In 2017-2018, we decided to convert that knowledge into content that would be helpful for the larger company. We started a campaign in the Catchpoint India office asking everyone to contribute to the company’s digital content. The India office has now contributed between 75-100 blogs, several ebooks, benchmarking studies, outage analyses, and has a consistent presence on our social media channels, amplifying the work our marketing team does full-time.
Building a Vibrant Culture
Thanks to our people, our office has a vibrant culture. We have been extremely careful with our hires right from the beginning. While a technical skillset is key, we also give great importance to energy, positivity, confidence, and humility.
We have several initiatives that enable people from across the board to interact with each other, share ideas and collaborate, and understand how each piece in the puzzle works together. People who do a good job grow with the company. Having the opportunity to move between teams is of course good for career progression and individual growth, and it also allows the company to build committed employees who know our product inside out. It’s a win-win situation. We work hard to be as transparent as possible and want to ensure that we continue to hire the kind of people who add value.
We consciously celebrate success stories, not just in terms of the business, but also on an individual level. This drives motivation and company pride. I also try to follow the lead of my first boss who was responsible for a staff of 300; he ensured he shook hands with every single person on the floor every few days. I endeavor to do the same; I want everyone who works with me to feel they can approach me about any topic. This allows me to connect one-to-one with every single person in the office on a daily basis.
We put in a lot of time and effort to plan company outings. The office heads out for a two-day trip once every six months. Our HR and facilities team do a terrific job of finding great places inside and outside Bangalore. These trips are probably the most memorable days for any Catchpoint employee.
We even made our Exec Team dance to some Bollywood music.
Working Remotely with the US
Working remotely with the US undoubtedly involves challenges and sacrifices, including long hours. On average, I spend 12-14 hours in the office, but this allows me to connect with each of our stakeholders. Our support organization works 24/7, as do the professional services and operations teams. The rest of the staff has a healthy overlap, working during the second half of the day here that coincides with the start of the day on the US East Coast.
We also travel between offices. This began with the India team frequently visiting the US and has gradually led to more of a two-way traffic. Last year, several engineering managers, engineers, and support managers from the US came to visit us in Bangalore. This has enabled a healthy collaboration between the two parts of the organization, allowing people to trust one another and respect what they do.
We regularly take part in the company Hackathon. In the latest, there were 7-8 contributions from the India office and during the previous one, the first prize was won by one of the teams in India.
What’s Next for Catchpoint India?
I’ve now spent five years at Catchpoint and worked in the monitoring industry for over nine years. Many of my colleagues and I have grown significantly across that time and want to continue to contribute to the company’s growth. In particular, I would like us to focus more on engineering and make a greater contribution to the product roadmap. The services side of the company will also continue to develop as customers continue to seek out great service. This of course includes the thriving professional services arm.
Another area I’d like to focus on is nurturing more thought leaders. As mentioned earlier, our engineers work with over 500 enterprises from across the world. This means they have first-hand experience and visibility into various technologies, practices, and industry trends. Consolidating this and in turn sharing with the community is key.
In many ways, things fell into place in India from the start. We knew what we were looking for and were able to hire the right kind of people, bringing employees on board who work well together and who we could trust to deliver. We started one team at a time, which allowed confidence to build within the company and one success to lead organically to the next.
One of the other reasons the office here has been able to grow so quickly and in many directions is because Mehdi doesn’t look at where an idea comes from. He cares about results and respects contributions from anywhere. If there is talent or knowledge available, people are given the opportunity to share it. This will no doubt help fuel our next stage of growth, and I’m so excited to see where it leads.
Nithyanand Mehta is the General Manager of Catchpoint India and the VP of Technical Services.