Fred Dumoulin, founder, and CEO at PipeGears tells us about serverless integration and automation of business.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Fred Dumoulin: We are doing relatively well despite everything that’s happened this year. Thank you.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded PipeGears
Fred Dumoulin: My background is in software development and product management. Early in my career, I worked on research into encrypted communications, high availability, and data center infrastructures, including research for Intel, IBM, Alteon, Radware, and other leading networking firms.
I was a founding member of Coradiant, a Montreal-based software startup that raised $20M in series A funding in 2000, at the time the largest in Canadian history for a tech startup. Coradiant was eventually acquired by BMC Software in 2011, where I helped lead their product strategy and roadmap for Application Performance Management (APM).
Since BMC, I’ve helped many clients build and optimize web applications, and I see a recurring theme. Many of the problems we try to solve in APM are caused by application design issues or inadequate architectures. These are problems that could be avoided by adopting proven patterns in application development. Ironically, these patterns are often re-implemented or re-invented unnecessarily, wasting countless hours of effort, which seldom produce better results. How can we encapsulate years of best practices in application development and make them available more seamlessly? This is what led me to found PipeGears.
How does PipeGears innovate?
Fred Dumoulin: One of the most important aspects of innovation is to understand a broad range of technologies and figure out how to apply them to a particular domain to solve problems in ways that may not have been considered before. We’re constantly learning new things and becoming more familiar with our customers’ problem domains, then merging those two inputs to create innovative solutions.
For example, there’s a rich and rapidly evolving ecosystem of infrastructure services available to build cloud-native applications, but the learning curve can be steep and difficult to keep up with. Combining these services with best practices in application design in an easy-to-use format allows our customers to build applications that are fast and reliable and bring them to market more quickly.
PipeGears encapsulates the common functions needed to build applications and makes them available in a platform that’s robust and easy to use. It provides a stateful serverless runtime to execute code that runs seamlessly in combination with reusable modules available through a library of prebuilt components. These functional modules rely on proven design patterns and allow our customers to benefit from years of industry experience and best practices. This eliminates the need to provision infrastructure or manage servers and makes it easy to build and deploy resilient applications.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Fred Dumoulin: Our business is software as a service, and we’ve always used a remote work model, so it was mostly business as usual from that perspective. However, we noticed some effects in revenue from customers who were more directly impacted by the shutdowns and travel restrictions. There’s a segment of the workforce in tech that’s long been comfortable telecommuting but sometimes feels guilty or uneasy for not being there in person when given a choice. On the positive side, these people are now feeling less anxious, and managers that were skeptical about remote working in the past are now starting to accept it as normal.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Fred Dumoulin: At the beginning of the year, we had plans to attend conferences and user groups to interact directly with our target audience so that we could learn from them and build brand awareness. Everything of that nature was scrapped, and we had to refocus our efforts. We realized quickly that some of those events just aren’t as effective in virtual formats. It forced us to get creative in building relationships with customers online and reformatting our communications in a way that works well through virtual channels.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Fred Dumoulin: Being effective at managing a remote workforce is essential. We focus on deliverables rather than processes and rules. It’s important to make sure objectives are crystal clear at the macro and micro levels and that people have the tools and support needed to accomplish their goals. In reality, working from home will always entail a certain number of distractions. It doesn’t matter if someone is sitting at their desk from 9 to 5 or something else, as long as they’re responsive and producing the outputs. I communicate proactively to make sure that people aren’t stuck. They have what they need and are in the right frame of mind. We’ve built a culture of free and open communication. In terms of tools, web conferencing has become very good in the last couple of years and is much more fluid now than it’s ever been. The main communication tools we use are email, chat, and web conferencing.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Fred Dumoulin: There are so many offerings in the market these days that it can become distracting to focus too much on what everyone else is doing versus how to solve your own customer’s problems better. I like to think about competition in terms of being the best at understanding customer pain points and improving our solutions accordingly. So the keys to staying in the game are to be nimble, focus on our customers, and never stop learning.
Your final thoughts?
Fred Dumoulin: Work on things you are passionate about. Contribute something useful. Follow your instinct if you really believe in what you’re doing. Not everyone will get it, and that’s fine, don’t let that distract you. The rest will fall into place.