Chat with Pete Gatt, Co Founder of Hava

2nd of Dec 2015

Michelle Bourke

CEO

Michelle Bourke:

Okay. Welcome to the program. You’ve got Michelle Bourke here from Art Live Media and Startup Victoria. Today I’m speaking with Pete Gatt, who is the co-founder at Hava. Hey, Pete. How are you doing?

Peter Gatt:

How you going? Thanks for having me on.

Michelle Bourke:

Yeah, no worries. I wanted to start with a bit of background and have you talk us through what Hava does and how it came about. I know, obviously, you’re still also running Vibrato, which is your DevOps agency. How it came about, who it’s for, and kind of how it’s different to the other products and services out there that do similar, but definitely not the same thing.

Peter Gatt:

Yeah, no worries. Basically Hava … Which is Hava.io, so there’s my plug to start with. Hava’s basically a service for giving customers visual diagrams of their cloud environments. That’s probably a bit of a elevator pitch, but there’s way more to it.

Where it actually came out of is James Martelletti and I, co-founders of Hava, around about a year and a half ago we formed Vibrato. That’s obviously a service, but really that was sort of more for a means to an end to start building products. What we really wanted to do was, as consultants ourselves … It was such a long time ago at the customer sites. We’d get in there and say, “Hey, show us what you’re running. Let’s get started. Show us the documentation.” Everyone would just look at each other and be like, “Yep, the documentation. Sure.” Even if they had the documentation, or they had anything to show us, it was normally three or four months, or years, old.

We realized there was a really key problem there, as well, so what we actually did, we built Hava … Which you put into really simple read credentials and in twenty or thirty seconds, you have an entire view of everything you’re running out in the Cloud. It’s not just that sort of one stop shop, though; that was the first prototype that we kind of stuck with. Now, obviously, once you have that visual view and all that live information around your environments, it’s tackling real problems out there. It’s helping with IT sprawl. It’s helping with the lack of visibility around what’s running each environment. It’s used by IT infrastructure: architects, managers, development management teams … A whole heap of different personas. Most interestingly enough, as well, now that we’ve got a whole heap of concepts around cost management and financial management inside of it that shows that visual view, we’ve got the likes of CFOs and product owners and managers using it as well.

Michelle Bourke:

In terms of the value proposition, you were talking about IT sprawl, what’s the craziest story that you’ve heard about Hava being able to save someone from wasting, I don’t know, thousands of dollars on infrastructure they didn’t know existed, or that they didn’t know they were paying for?

Peter Gatt:

Yeah. That’s probably two parts. It’s funny; I guess one of the key ones was we had a customer who first used it … And this is just more so from the financial part. They ran it for the first time. They had a look at and they found some dev environments that had been running for five months at eleven-thousand dollars a month. They looked at us and went, “No, no. You’re application’s broken. We’re not running that.” We’re like, “Just so everyone knows, Hava talks to APIs. It can’t be broken. Everything it tells you is real.” The following day they switched that off, and effectively saved themselves an additional fifty-five-thousand dollars from no one knowing it was there. This is a real common problem. You know? That’s probably a big one in terms of the financial part.

Ultimately, as well, the way the customer’s using it in terms of architecture. We had one group run it and not realise that their delivery teams were only ever delivering anything into one availability zone, and they weren’t protecting themselves. So they circumvented some real issues that would come up. The bigger value now in Hava is that real architectural guidance – making sure that you’re not making mistakes. Collaboratively as well; you can share it with other people in the company. You know? You can think of it as like a virtual whiteboard for AWS architecture. I think we’re able to draw these things, and see the things that are on the screen as well, and make decisions on it.

Michelle Bourke:

Yep, makes sense. One of the things that interests me about you guys was how the business started. It wasn’t just an idea, it has actually been funded mostly out of your services based business. I think this is a question that a lot of startup founders often ask is, “how do I go about getting funding?” This is a different way of going about doing it. Can you talk a little bit about how you found this approach, say, compared to using savings or having a full-time focus on the startup from the very beginning?

Peter Gatt:

Yeah. I’d have to say that James and I, from the beginning, we’re two very interesting characters. Also, really I’ll attribute it to this – is that we started Vibrato as like a means to an end to sort of do that. Ultimately we invested twenty hours a day. There’s no jokes in that, that we were basically getting three or four hours of sleep and that’s seven days a week. We did that for a year and, yep, I don’t recommend that. Anyway, we’ll go though that in a second.

Ultimately when we were, obviously, doing it we were doing the stuff on customer sites. Really we were just … Wasn’t so much using that money to invest into Hava; Hava was our time. We gave it our time to begin with. Really we were working to make money so as that we could put our time, 6:00am to 5:00pm, and then put our time into Hava as well. We also make sure that we do use a consulting service as a way to earn a little bit more money, so as that we can bring on the likes of our head of engineering, Adam Norman … Stuff like that to really start to grow … Without him, we wouldn’t have really got Hava to where it is today. We did that through James and I just literally doing ridiculous hours. So that’s how it started out.

Michelle Bourke:

So what you’re saying is work hard.

Peter Gatt:

Yes.

Michelle Bourke:

Work hard and work hard.

Peter Gatt:

I would actually also make the recommendation though that if you’ve got the means … And I have to say this … If you’ve got the financial means behind you to be able to go and do everything into the product only, that’s actually my recommendation. I think James and I took a crazy approach, and started two companies at the same time. So let’s think one at a time!

Michelle Bourke:

How do you plan to orchestrate, then, this shift from the focus on your service based business over to your SaaS based business, now that you’ve got these two companies?

Peter Gatt:

Yeah, exactly. Really the focus is on Hava. You know? We’ve taken investments. James and I are ensuring that we’re putting in forty hours a week into Hava each. Outside of that, I mean, Vibrato intentions were to switch over. We’re now doing a lot of hiring of people into the different positions inside of Vibrato, so Vibrato’s growing rapidly. James and I take much more of a senior management role in Vibrato, as opposed to the day to day … You know? Getting in there and working on customer sites; we don’t do that anymore. The majority of the time is spent on Hava.

Michelle Bourke:

Yeah, okay. I guess, speaking about funding and raising, you raised both locally and you also did a month-long tour of the US. How did that come about? Can you talk us through what preparation you did, and what the outcome of that trip was?

Peter Gatt:

Yeah, definitely. We actually didn’t set out to go to the US to raise money. It kind of was a hope to go there and speak to investors and that sort of thing. Ultimately the reason we went to The States was we organized to for six conferences in one month. We went to, I think it was, six different states as well to go and go to those conferences. It was to go and get more the brand awareness, and the name, and the idea of Hava out there. That went ridiculously well. That part of the trip, it’s just about talking to different people, as well as building all the partnerships too. That’s one of the key things is a lot of things in technology are governed by The States, and we just had to go there and make ourselves known to everyone there.

In terms of raising money there, we attempted to talk to over forty or fifty investment firms over there. One of the biggest responses that came back was, “You need to be in America. You need to be American. You need to be over here,” and it’s not that we wouldn’t do that, it was just that we live Australia. We love Australia. That might be something in the future, but wasn’t something that we wanted do as an initial thing… Pick up and move.

Obviously, the best thing that came out of The States were definitely the partnerships and the people and exposure that we had there.

Michelle Bourke:

I’ve heard similar things. I was chatting with Adriana Gascoigne from Girls in Tech. She was saying that VCs, particularly in the US, tend to have that response in terms of risk-aversiveness to working with founders in other countries, but that that’s not the case for high net worth individuals or angel investors. One of her goals is to try and find ways of connecting those individuals to people internationally … Which I think is an interesting plan.

Peter Gatt:

It’s actually a great … Look, and to say that … That was for a seed round, yeah?

Michelle Bourke:

Yep.

Peter Gatt:

When it comes to Series A, it’s a different story. Even since we’ve gotten back from The States, we now know all the people to go and speak to in The States when we move to that stage!

Michelle Bourke:

So you’ve got a plan. That’s it.

Michelle Bourke:

Speaking of that partnership stuff that you mentioned. I mean, that’s just so critical. I’m sure whether it was necessarily something that you strategically planned before you went there … Into forming those partnerships. How would you recommend approaching creation of partnerships for startups?

Peter Gatt:

Just talk to everybody. That’s how you approach it. I mean, honestly I’m saying that … Meetups, learn people’s names, make people realise that you’re there, comment on their posts, go on there and actually give a shit about what they’re doing … That’s the key thing. I think that goes for everyone when you try to build relationships.

I guess the partnership stuff, for us, it’s so much more interesting that it’s advantageous but not critical. We don’t rely on the partnerships, but having them there builds a whole heap of channels for us both, for the technology uplifts we can get by having some mutual conversations with them, as well as their marketing and sales channels. There’s also a way to be able to leverage their network and the group of people they know, to really provide information to the people that we know are going to use the product.

Michelle Bourke:

What would be some examples of partnerships you’ve set up that give you some of that distribution access?

Peter Gatt:

Definitely AWS (Amazon Web Services). They’re a great company and our number one partner for Hava. Hava is going to be supporting different cloud environments, but at the moment it’s AWS. That’s because they have such a big hold on the public cloud markets base out there. You know? The AWS partnership is really good, so we’re one of the technology partners with them as well. Through that, and through the sort of channels that we’ve made, we’re able to meet the product owners of cloud formation, of all the things that we do inside of Hava, we’ve met the people running those things. Even having a good idea, as well … Saying, “Hey, what’s coming?” and, “What we’re looking to do …” So they actually play a part as well in working with us on our strategy. That’s how the partnership goes, both way … Give them an ability for their customers to use it.

Additionally for that, we’re really liking that the AWS train us in Australia and some other countries as well. They have all full-access accounts with Hava and, yep, they get them for free. Anyway. It’s really good though, as well. They use it during their training. They use it as a visual view during their training. That really helps us too because, obviously, it promotes the brand through that channel as well, which is pretty good.

Michelle Bourke:

Yep. In terms of some of the wins that you’ve had with existing clients, so far, I guess both with the help of those partnerships and also off your own efforts, what have been some of the key wins, do you think?

Peter Gatt:

Yeah. Definitely for us … I mean, not just through the partnership stuff. The training one is obviously really good. That’s been a really good win for us, because we’ve realised we’re adding value to the education side of things in that technology. That wasn’t something that was sort of attempted, that was sort of something that sort of came along … Which is really, really good.

In terms of the stuff we were attempting to do around, obviously, the cost management, like we were saying, it’s one of the top things that we work with in Australia. We rolled out Hava and saved a fortune on it. We’re really liking that some of the other customers that we’ve got going, they have got it to the point where they’re using it on a hourly basis, which is really great … And also to the point where their CFO, this is an interesting one, uses Hava every day …

Michelle Bourke:

Wow.

Peter Gatt:

… So with one particular CEO he uses it, in running his company, as a stick to wake up every morning. He looks at the environment and says, “Have we spun it up? Why are we doing this now? We don’t need this anyway.” He’s able to look at the return on investment, which is what we really want to do as well because there’s a lot of sprawl, like we were saying. There’s also a big mind shift and change in company structure to move to an operational model, with AWS. Instead of just going and purchasing equipment up front, you’ve got to tackle a new way of doing financing when you look at your return on investments and stuff like that. Hava just gave them the tools to be able to do that. That’s probably been one of the most valuable things that we’ve seen come out of the existing customers.

Michelle Bourke:

Fantastic. So where to, from here? What’s Hava’s growth strategy over the next twelve months?

Peter Gatt:

Our actual aims, and aspirations, and part of the investment that we’ve actually taken has being to grow that, for us it’s now going to be, funny enough, more than anything … Obviously, we’ve got a very rich feature roadmap. As every company and technology company has a rich road map … Ours is the best. Anyway.

Michelle Bourke:

Of course – no doubt!

Peter Gatt:

Yeah. There are a lot of amazing things coming. More and more tools to do a lot of analytics and analysing your environment; there’s a lot stuff coming on that front. I guess, as a business, the big growth for us is marketing and sales. Everything becomes marketing and sales. We’ve got something there that we know people want, and we’re selling to them. Our biggest aim now will be to leverage what we’ve got to try and grow that.

Pulling into new tools like Hubspot and stuff like that. We’ve moved from some of the older ones to these bigger systems that give us a whole view of the pipeline, which has been really great. Then we’ve been using a lot automation around the marketing-sales sort of thing to try and get us to two-hundred paying customers in 2016.

Michelle Bourke:

Two-hundred paying … And where are you at right now?

Peter Gatt:

We’re actually at eleven.

Michelle Bourke:

That’d be about twenty a month, or so.

Peter Gatt:

Yeah. This is the thing as well though: We obviously want that to go faster. The two-hundred is the conservative Australian number. We probably don’t advertise enough about how strong we think we really will go. Conservatively two-hundred, but of course we aim to really hockey-stick the crap out of it.

Michelle Bourke:

Excellent. What advice would you have for other founders, particularly those of B2B focused SaaS products? Looking to create funding, or grow … Where would you suggest to them that they should focus?

Peter Gatt:

Yeah, look. I guess, a few interesting things … James and I did the FI program in Australia, so FI.co. People should really check that out. That made us test our model. Through the advice that James and I have given, even back to other startups, we’ve probably seen ten companies not start. When they actually looked at their models, what they were offering, the business value, and stuff like that, they realised they weren’t selling pain killers, they were selling vitamins. It’s a very key concept. When you explain it to them as well, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, but people may really like that.” I’m like, “Yes, and that probably won’t scale,” and that sorts of thing. The Founder Institute program really, really helped us do that. Read everything you can, so like you said, Startup Victoria. A lot of the meetups and stuff like that, please go and go to them; that’s one of the key things there.

If you’re going to find a co-founder, just remember you’re married to them. I can honestly say that sometimes I feel like I have two wives. My wife thinks I have two wives. I often see James more than I do my wife, Carly, in a week … Which is really sad, slash … You know? We’re building companies and that’s the toys we play with. Right?

Ultimately, I guess as well, the FI because I really, really like the FI program. We’ve also just today found out we’re actually being invited to compete at Founder Ex. We’re in the top fifty.

Michelle Bourke:

Congratulations!

Peter Gatt:

Yeah, I’m pretty exited about it. We’ll be over there in The States again in May representing a show. Yeah. So look, it’s a really good program. There are other programs like that. Ultimately, you need to be married to your idea, you need to be married to business partner, and you need to just go and test your models before you even write a single line of code.

Michelle Bourke:

Thank you very much for your time and, yeah, we wish you all the best for the next year. Thanks, Pete.

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