It’s like a Pavlovian reflex. You say “Eastern Europe”, I say “coding sweatshops!”
In the widespread tech stereotype, ‘Eastern Europe’ is a place where there are lots of smart – largely poor – people who can code really well. In fact, the further East you go – Ukraine, Russia, India, China – the smarter and cheaper they supposedly become.
A few months ago, Tech.eu wrote about the high tech and startup ecosystem in Bulgaria. If you read that report, or if you know a bit about what’s happening in Bulgaria first-hand, you’ll also know that the ‘widespread stereotype’ is just as misplaced as many other widespread stereotypes.
Yes, outsourcing is thriving in Bulgaria – as it is in many countries worldwide. However, more and more Bulgarian companies are breaking out of the ‘sweatshop’ metaphor to build products and services that bring value to a global customer set.
Mahimainathan (pictured on the right) was introduced to co-CEOs Terziev and Georgiev through former Siebel colleague Bogomil Balkansky, who is a Telerik board member.
“We met and talked many times before coming to an agreement that I would join Telerik as Chief of Product,” Mahimainathan recalled. “What I saw here was a combination of ambition and cultural fit. On the cultural side, Terziev and Georgiev are amazing and ambitious entrepreneurs, but they also show a quality of humility and these are all values that I share… It’s already a global company, but the aspiration and the ambition is to become the SAP or Oracle of the next generation.”
When we touched on the issue of management titles – I pointed out that there wasn’t a single management position that said either ‘Sales’ or ‘Marketing’.
“I know – we’ll fix it! Seriously, our first order of business was laying down the right strategy before we go out and find the right talent. But fair enough, it’s a valid point,” responded Mahimainathan.
When asked about what it would take to bring the company from the ‘Visionary’ classification to the all-important (to enterprise customer CIOs, at least) ‘Leaders’ quadrant, Mahimainathan responded:
“Gartner has two axes on that chart: Completeness of vision and ability to execute. We have clearly shown that our product lineup and strategy demonstrate vision. Now we need to execute on that strategy, in other words, show that a growing number of customers are willing to buy into that vision.”
“That is a key part of my job – working with the dev team to make sure we have the right products for the market, and at the same time working closely with our key, enterprise customers in a way that keeps them happy and keeps us profitable. We’re confident that executing on this strategy can take Telerik to the proverbial next level, and for us, that means becoming a multi-billion dollar company.”
So what are the next strategic steps for the company?
“We need to build on our strengths,” explained Mahimainathan. “Developers are our core community and there’s no way we’re abandoning them. Having said that, we are expanding beyond that core base and beyond our ‘developer tools’ DNA into higher-level applications and solutions. In terms of strategy, we’ve spent a significant amount of time over the past six to 12 months working that out, and our work is now cut out for us. It’s primarily an issue of executing on that strategy.”
Telerik co-founders Terziev, Georgiev, Kosev and Iaramov have built an awesome company from humble beginnings 12 years ago in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the middle of the Balkans. All that is history now, however, and not at all important to their global customers.
The key question is: Can they take it to the “proverbial next level”, as Mahimainathan puts it, and realize their lofty ambitions of becoming the next SAP or Oracle? Only time will tell.
UPDATE: Time has indeed told! At the time of publishing this piece online, Telerik issued a press release announcing that the company has been acquired by US-based Progress Software. So, it seems Telerik will not, after all, be the “Oracle or SAP” of the next generation. It’s a highly successful exit however, so we wish the Telerik team all the best as they continue as part of Progress Software.