1:06 - Being obsessed with running businesses
6:28 - Creating the mulesoft open source project
12:15 - Should you solve your own problem?
21:00 - Open sourcing software
1:01:30 - Getting prospective clients to follow through
1:04:08 - Letting go of your CTO position
1:07:51 - Falling into a depression
1:11:14 - Ringing the bell at the NY stock exchange
1:35:10 - Adapting to a slower paced life
Ross has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and jokes that at the ripe age of seven, he was already running his own bootleg Lego club! His parents were business owners, and taught Ross two important lessons for his future projects: you should never lower your bar, and working hard isn't necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy what you do.
In 1997, Ross graduated in Computer Science from the University of the West of England and started his career in corporate work. However, he knew he wanted to build his own path, and open source software was his prime choice, since it gives you widespread distribution and insight about potential product/market fit. That’s exactly how The Mule Project was born. The platform started out as a SourceForge project in April 2003, and its aim was to make programmers’ lives simpler by allowing them to easily enable the sending of data between their SaaS (software as a service), on-premise software and legacy systems platforms which was previously hard and tedious to do.
This philosophy of avoiding “donkey work” became a guiding star for his endeavors. Born in 2006, MuleSource, later MuleSoft, got the timing just right: many open source companies were becoming commercial, and investors were starting to realize it’s actually a viable distribution model. Ross had a strong drive for building the next game changer in a fragmented market. Though integration had taken a big hit after the rise of web services, MuleSoft kept the ball rolling by uniting many different approaches in one platform, with all the proper testing, monitoring, debugging and graphical environment.
Growing the company was a rocky path. Between handling cultural differences, undergoing a draining IPO process and battling depression, things didn’t seem too cheerful for a while. However, those clouds soon passed and let the sun shine through. Ross had always wanted to make MuleSoft public, and his vision became reality. As the team flooded the building and stood beside him, MuleSoft finally rang the bell on the New York Stock Exchange in March 2017! Just a year later, Salesforce.com announced its acquisition of MuleSoft with an impressive deal of US$6.5B.
Plateauing was never an option for Ross. Now, his new firm Dig Ventures invests in B2B SaaS companies, and wants to decode the founding journey by giving framework on vital aspects of company building, such as making compelling events, nurturing team culture and shaping strong sales strategies. Providing not only inspiration but also action is DV’s key motto. Seeing a company thrive is a fulfilling view for anyone, but Ross’s final message shares something founders should keep in mind: working hard is important, but never let it swallow your personal life.
A Sony A6000 camera is a part of Ross's personal setup.
“Many technical founders think that they’ll have a great outcome just by building great software. The reality is that you also have to connect software to the market and have a defined strategy. It isn’t simply about spotting immediate needs, but something along these lines: how do you reprogram people to think differently about the way they’re doing things?”
“Having a fully remote team where people are working everywhere can be difficult because of time zones, but you can do it! In the age of post-COVID-19, it won’t matter quite as much. In the early days of a company, that extra engineering talent can be an advantage.”
If you would like to listen to more episodes on IPOs, check out our conversation with Marc P. Bernegger.
Don’t forget to give us a follow on our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, so you can always stay up to date with our latest initiatives. That way, there’s no excuse for missing out on live shows, weekly give-aways or founders dinners!