A little over a year ago, EMC and its subsidiary, VMware, gathered up 1,000 employees (500 from each company), and spun out a new company, called Pivotal. The man who ran VMware became CEO of Pivotal, Paul Maritz.
Pivotal offers enterprise cloud computing services. But it isn’t focused on hosting their apps, like the cloud services from Amazon, IBM or Microsoft. It wants to help them write new and unique apps that could never have been written before. It has two divisions, one that sells app development software. The other writes custom apps for enterprises, Maritz told the crowd at the Fortune Brainstorm conference in Aspen on Monday.
Maritz says Pivotal is part of a third “massive” shift in why companies use computers. The first shift was the mainframe computer which was “all about automation of accounting.” The second shift was using computer servers and PCs, known as “client/server” in the tech world. That one was all about “automating the paper-based process of white collar workers,” he says with things like Microsoft Office and email which is why PCs have files, folders, inboxes/outboxes.
Today, thanks to the technologies known as “big data” computers can capture things as they are happening and “can affect events as the events are unfolding.”
Those 8 words: “can effect events as the events are unfolding” are huge.
This ability, to see what a single user is doing in realtime and make a decision to influence behaviour, is what turned Google into the search giant it is today.
It’s also a really hard engineering problem for a lot of enterprises who don’t have the software development skills to tackle it, he says.
Pivotal wants to do that for every enterprise.
For example, a phone company today might know it drops 1% of calls, “but can’t tell you whose call they dropped,” he said. With realtime cloud apps, if a network gets overloaded, it can “kick off the person paying us the least amount of money, not the one paying us the most amount of money,” he describes
GE was so excited by this prospect that it became a customer and an investor, paying $US105 million for about a 10% equity stake, shortly after Pivotal was founded.
Maritz said that the decision to do a spin in, was “unashamedly” a “repeat in a different form” of what EMC did with VMware. EMC’s CEO Joe Tucci calls this tactic a “federation” strategy.
“When you see a [business] opportunity as big as your existing business, the correct response is not to integrate it back into the mothership,” Maritz said.
That means that Pivotal’s culture can be, and is, vastly different from both EMC and VMware.
For instance, he jokes, “If you are under the age of 35 or don’t have at least two tattoos, you can’t work at the San Francisco office” but are “sent down to the Palo Alto office.”
Human resources is unique at Pivotal, too. Everyone works in pairs, he says. Less experienced folks are teamed with older mentors. Teams are switched up frequently so everyone learns every aspect of the business.
“Software, at its core, is a team sport,” he says. And HR problems bubble up quickly. “If someone doesn’t want to pair with someone, that’s a red flag, coming in real time,” Maritz says.