One of the hardest things about starting a business is coming up with an idea that people will pay money for.
That was the problem Distelli CEO and founder Rahul Singh faced when he left Amazon Web Services in 2012, after spending nearly nine years there. He was its fourth engineer.
Singh always knew he wanted be an entrepreneur. He also had a clear goal of wanting to start a software company. Combining his engineering skills with the customer-centric approach he learned at Amazon, Singh believed he could build a kick-arse consumer product.
But after six months, and a few failed projects that “went down bad tracks,” Singh started thinking he might be better suited for an enterprise startup. After all, he was one of the first people to join AWS and had years of experience in cloud computing. He reached out to people, asking for advice. He spoke to a lot of different software engineers, trying to find the right business idea.
“I just didn’t know what problem I wanted to solve, or what company I was going to be building,” Singh told Business Insider.
But through numerous conversations with engineers, Singh started to realise he was hearing the same problem over and over again: deploying code to allow applications to actually go live on servers was a much more complicated process than he thought it would be.
In order to launch an application, for example, engineers first have to write the code, test it to make sure it works, and then push it out to multiple servers, so it can handle all the traffic it gets. In doing so, engineers often lose track of who’s in charge of what part of the software, or which servers are being used. If a bug is found, it could take weeks to fix the code. Plus, every server, like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, requires a slightly different deployment process that could drag the project further more.
Singh wasn’t fully aware of this problem until he left AWS, he says. It’s because at AWS, engineers have access to what is called “one-click deployment,” where application software can go live on servers with essentially a click of a mouse.
“Inside AWS, we almost took it for granted. But when I left AWS, it became clear that these tools were solving a problem for the rest of the world,” Singh said.
So in 2013, Singh launched Distelli. Its software basically serves as the dashboard for engineers to keep track of who’s working on what part of the software deployment process. It works with any type of server — whether it’s on-premise, public cloud, virtual machines, or containers — and can quickly deploy apps in a single click. In fact, Singh says this flexibility is what sets apart Distelli from its competitors like Rightscale, whose software only works with AWS.
“Distelli allows software teams to ship faster by making it easy to push code to any server – essentially with one click – regardless of where the server resides,” he said.
Although Distelli is still in its early stages, Singh claims the company is growing at a rapid clip. He didn’t share any growth metrics, but investors seem to believe in its product, as Distelli announced on Tuesday that it raised $US2.8 million from Andreessen Horowitz.
Singh says, in hindsight, his business idea seems obvious, considering his long experience at AWS. But he says it took him a while to discover his passion because he failed to ask the right questions. “It’s very important to know what problems people have,” he says. “You always have to be thinking, ‘Am I solving someone’s problem?’ Picking the right problem that someone would pay money to solve for is very critical.”
Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Business Insider.