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Jeff Gray of Gluware: “Life, business, projects are a marathon, not a sprint”

Recognize that one customer’s pain will be another customer’s pain — If one enterprise has a specific issue, then it is very likely that many other enterprises have the same issues. Translate the experience you gain servicing one to create solutions for the others. Use every opportunity to troubleshoot customers’ needs before they know they have them. As […]

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Recognize that one customer’s pain will be another customer’s pain — If one enterprise has a specific issue, then it is very likely that many other enterprises have the same issues. Translate the experience you gain servicing one to create solutions for the others. Use every opportunity to troubleshoot customers’ needs before they know they have them.


As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Gray.

Jeff Gray is the CEO and co-founder of Gluware, the leading provider of Intelligent Network Automation. As CEO, he oversees business operations and strategy, as well as the development of enterprise-leading intent-based network automation technologies adopted by some of the largest Global 2000 enterprises from Pharma to Finance. Gray has been a networking industry leader for decades, starting with the commercial development of innovative high-bandwidth networking solutions as a student at California Polytechnic State University.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My journey started while I was a student at Cal Poly. I co-led the Multimedia Research Project (MMRP), a student led multi-vendor integration project featuring a home office of the future, digital imaging and printing project, and other futuristic solutions created with blue chip sponsors, including Oracle, Sun, Microsoft, and others. The premise of these projects was to network all of the different vendor technologies to work together via the Internet in a real world setting. Of course, it did not work out of the box — we had to make all of these different vendor products work together after tuning, tweaking, and working out all of the bugs to get solutions that actually work so we can demonstrate interoperability to the industry at trade shows across the country. The vendors loved us because we were their testing ground. Being part of the MMRP gave me real life experience with networking and insight into what IT teams really had to deal with to get these devices to actually work in production. This is how I cut my teeth in technology.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

My experience co-leading MMRP and working in the networking industry post-grad led to my meeting Olivier Huynh Van, Gluware’s co-founder. Olivier and I were working in a managed service provider in the UK when we thought of the idea for what would be the foundation of Gluware. If we could automate the advanced architectures that we were rolling out, there would be a lot of value there for businesses and their network teams. So we created a single-vendor Managed Service Provider (MSP) that set us on the path to bootstrapping a full blown software product.

We did not exactly recognize it at the time, but the “Aha Moment” was the invention of intelligent automation software that would serve as the foundation of self-operating networks. We did not know why we created a means for automation in this certain way, we just knew we were on the right path and we were creating something much more intelligent than had ever been created before. We did know that it was higher-resolution, much more capable of delivering advanced changes, and markedly different from what other larger, legacy networking companies were doing with their network management platforms and even with their SDN controllers.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

When we were trying to raise money, investors wanted to see a prototype before we could even spark the conversation. As a first time CEO whose co-founder was based in Paris (while I was in California) and trying to raise money at the same time, this threw a few challenges my way. We bootstrapped the company for three years. In order for us to get through that, we had to fund ourselves, which took a lot of conviction. Once we had something built, the goal posts continued to move. For example, we needed a committed customer before the investment could be closed. The key thing that I had to keep in mind is that everyone gets knocked down — it is inevitable. But it is the ones who pick themselves up, dust off their boots and get going again who succeed. The further you get in your journey, the larger the challenges get, and the harder you will get knocked down. But if you can acknowledge that life is not always easy, the best thing to do is to accept it, move forward, and do the best as possible with your talents.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going extremely well! We recently launched Gluware 4.0, which is the newest version of our cloud-delivered intent-based network automation platform. As I mentioned in my earlier response, it took a lot of grit and resilience to bootstrap our company, develop a prototype, and find early customers. Success will come when you stay mission focused, which we have certainly done with Gluware. I am happy to report that we have seen a major acceleration in customer adoption. The organizations we are working with are able to deliver substantial business results because of the technology we have created.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

One of the funniest mistakes early on is when I made a light hearted joke that was meant to be “off the record” to a reporter who ended up publishing it. I learned early on that nothing is “off the record” when you are talking to someone, especially in the media. It is also important to trust your gut. Yes, you can take advice, but it is more important to make your own decisions.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Gluware is able to automate the roll out of global networks of thousands of devices in weeks/months for companies that have spent years attempting to self-build or use legacy networking technologies. In a short period of time, we are able to deploy a fully operating solution that solves a number of IT-related business problems. It is not just because we are service orientated, which we are, rather, it is because of the framework that we built that allows us to offer extreme flexibility to customize automation capabilities for each customer’s unique environment.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

My approach to avoiding burnout is to have the mentality that:

Not everyday will be perfect

Do not make important decisions when you are too low or too high, focus on decision making when you feel like you have an even keel

Life, business, projects are a marathon, not a sprint

Recognize where you can improve yourself and commit to those changes — it will eventually pay off

Surround yourself with a team that can carry your water

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My late father. He was always a supporter in good times and bad. He was my cheerleader and always helped me drive forward. I was very fortunate to have him in my corner. My mother has been right there as well, always rooting for me. My wife, who has endured the trials and tribulations of my entrepreneurship. We are a team — if it was not for her support I would not be able to do what we have done with Gluware. She has been unbelievably important for me to keep climbing the entrepreneurial mountain. I also am grateful for my mentor, who has played an instrumental role in helping me foster my personal success and navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship, investors, and the Silicon Valley business community. I am also thankful for our investors, our team, and our customers for their support. It has been a collection of people that actively contributed in many different ways to help create success. We are all interdependent in this world.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We saw 300% ARR growth in this year alone. We work with entire networks of global credit card companies, global pharmas, big four tax and audit firms, global engineering companies, insurance, and financial companies. Some of our marquee customers include Mastercard, Terracon, Acuity Insurance, First Bank and many others that have a few thousand to 25,000 devices within each of their global networks.

These are the three steps that helped us build a large community around our technology:

Build the product and prove its value to the real world. It is important to invest in the product to be able to truly solve the customer’s problem at the scale that is required. In our case, we started with the most complex and hardest enterprises in the world where the barrier to entry was extremely high.

Make customers champions of your technology and publicly referenceable. Look for opportunities to create cheerleaders out of partners and customers so others know that you are real and can provide immense value.

Listen to customers and look for their future pain points, not just the current ones. Look for ways to continue your business journey — barriers to advancement will always grow so you need to be proactive in overcoming them.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We first funded operations through perpetual licenses, however we have moved to a subscription-based model based on the number of devices. We have a software stack that segments into different apps so customers can sort out their pain points and choose what offering works best for their specific needs. We have also launched a cloud-delivered SaaS offering to provide further value to a wider audience of potential users.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or SAAS technology? Please share a story or an example for each.

Below are a few suggestions:

Make sure you have a broad market appeal — Try to not be an ingredient and depend on other technologies. The market has to be big enough that your technology can stand on its own feet and deliver a standalone solution.

Deliver solutions that solve customer pain points — It is important to listen to customer feedback and create solutions that directly address their needs.

Land and expand — Have a path for growth beyond your initial offering — be able to start small to gain initial traction and then grow your offering once you have delivered initial value.

Recognize that one customer’s pain will be another customer’s pain — If one enterprise has a specific issue, then it is very likely that many other enterprises have the same issues. Translate the experience you gain servicing one to create solutions for the others. Use every opportunity to troubleshoot customers’ needs before they know they have them.

Evolve with your customers — Provide your customers with a solution that solves their problem, deliver on that promise and grow your solution as their problems change. Customers will see you as more than a vendor — they will have a partner that is actively listening and adapting their solution to solve future problems.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

We are living in an increasingly fragmented society. Historically, when social issues cause people within our communities to turn against each other, the outcomes often have grave consequences. That is not something that we — as people, as a culture, as a society — should be willing to tolerate in the context of our modern communities. We need to actively look for ways to foster unity, to find commonalities and to fix many of the bridges that are disintegrating before our very eyes. Technology can be a massive enabler in this regard, but it has also been one of the catalysts for the issues we are currently experiencing. My movement would be looking at how we can apply technology and innovation in socially responsible ways to foster unity and creative discussion in our world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/grayjeff/.

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