How An Erupting Volcano Lead Ross Mason To Create An $80 Million Enterprise Startup

Ross Mason MulesoftRoss Mason, cofounder, Mulesoft

As we’ve previously reported, MuleSoft has quietly become one of the hottest startups in the enterprise arena, with VCs and other enterprise companies throwing investment money at it.

The six-year-old startup just raised $37 million, including investments from software industry rivals SAP and (Total to date: about $81 million.)

Business Insider caught up with MuleSoft cofounder Ross Mason to hear how this company went from a project built from his couch on the Mediterranean island of Malta to where it is today.

MuleSoft solves a hard problem. It lets apps talk to each other and share data. With the free and open source Mule software or MuleSoft’s cloud service, developers get an instant connection to hundreds of popular enterprise apps and cloud services.

Enterprises spend $500 billion on custom app-to-app integration, Mason says, and he is turning that expensive process into an affordable product.

It’s working: 150,000 developers use Mule at over 3,000 companies, including about one-third of the Global 500, the company says. Today, MuleSoft employs about 200 people.

It’s all thanks to the Iceland volcano Eyjafjallaj√∂kull that erupted back in 2010.

Before 2006, Ross had been living in Malta and working as an corporate IT developer “complaining to my wife every night how stupid everything was. One day she said, stop moaning, start doing something.”

So he spent the next three years writing and promoting Mule. Because he was running his company from Malta, Ross was commuting regularly from Malta to the Bay Area, more than 30 trips in about four years. He was on the plane when the pilot ominously said an emergency was forcing the plane to return to San Francisco.

“I immediately thought a terrorist attack and 1,000 other things, I started worrying,” he says The problem was that a volcano had erupted in Iceland and covered Europe in ash.

He was stranded in San Francisco for weeks and decided he needed to stop his crazy commute altogether and move MuleSoft to San Francisco.

Until that point, the company didn’t really have a home office. Everone worked remotely. Since then, he’s done an about-face and won’t hire remote workers anymore.

“You get the best results when everyone’s in the same room. We like to have people in the room enjoying the wins and also understanding some of the pains. If they’re not there. It’s hard to sympathize with they were thinking about,” he explains.

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