Tamr CEO & co-founder Andy Palmer recently said, “It’s fun to think about starting a company, but the actual doing of it is much more difficult,” as part of his advice to would-be entrepreneurs on the Venture Fizz podcast.
In his conversation with podcast host Keith Cline, Andy shared the wisdom he has accumulated over decades of starting and investing in tech startups. Andy explains that early on he worked as a software developer to support his rugby-playing habit, a habit that he feels prepared him for the full-contact world of startups.
“One of the things that is amazing about rugby that is unlike American football, when you play rugby, the players are the ones that make all the decisions. The coaches sit up in the stands with all the fans. Doing startups is the same thing. You can’t really move fast unless you have lots of people that can make decisions every single day on the ground. So I have always thought there is this similarity between rugby and the independence of the decision making on the field and what startup people need to do in early-stage companies.”
Andy takes us through the evolution of columnar database company Vertica and how he and Turing-award winner Dr. Michael Stonebraker first met and brought the technology from an MIT project all the way to an acquisition by HP. Andy explains that small startups need to be “scrappy,” and while many people assume there must have been a clear plan for Vertica all along, it was really “quite the opposite.”
Andy explains that his current company with Dr. Stonebraker, Tamr, is designed to help large enterprises save money and grow faster using their own data. Tamr brings data engineering muscle to big enterprises that have treated data as “exhaust” for decades so that they can manage their data as an asset.
In addition to his career as an entrepreneur, Andy has invested in ~60 startups as an angel investor. Among his advice to first-time founders is to avoid raising capital in the early days of starting your company and to focus more of your time and energy on your customers. He reminds young entrepreneurs that fundraising is not an “end in and of itself” and can be a major distraction. According to Andy, “The best pitches are a reflection of the work you are doing on the ground with your customers.” You can listen to the complete podcast here.