The Founder Formula
The Founder Formula

Episode · 2 years ago

Tim Delisle, Co-founder Datalogue - Executing Someone Else’s Ideas Inspired a 25-Year-Old Intern to Launch a Start-up


After graduating from Cornell University, Tim’s first gig was executing the ideas of others. He soon realized the Data Science and Insight work he was doing wasn’t solving the pain point that was creating usable data.  


The solution didn’t exist. It needed to be created – and he knew how to do it.   


Thus, the launch of a new start-up and a founder's journey.  


Tim Delisle started his company at just 25 years old. He did his first pitch between college classes, and rather than using a power point or whiteboard, he used a notebook and some sharpies from his backpack.  


On this episode of The Founder Formula, we sat down with Tim to discuss: 


- Finding his co-founder at a Hackathon 


- Building culture by cooking and eating together  


- Not knowing any VC’s when he started 


- 3 keys stages: Seed Stage, Series A, and large growth rounds 


- Translating gut instincts into clear communication  


Listen to this and all of The Founder Formula episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

So I think any good founder has some level of naivete in terms of how hard the thing is going to be to take off the ground, and that's necessary to actually found these companies. The founder Formula Brings you in behind the curtains and inside the minds of today's brave executives at the most future leaning startups. Each interview will feature a transformative leader who's behind the wheel at a fast paced and innovative tech firm. They'll give you an insider's look at how companies are envisioned, created and scaled. We hope you're ready. Let's get into the show. Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. My Name is Todd Galina, and with me as always, is Mark Campbell. Mark, how's it going? A man? Doing well? Doing well, well, we had a pretty good we had a lot of fun in our last interview, our last episode, when we got a chance to talk with Jack. I think he really brought an interesting kind of engineering design perspective to this show. That's focus on founders. I thought it was great. No, no, definitely a little bit outside of our enterprise. I T space, but what a what a dynamic guy, a real industry trend center and someone I want to be when I grew up. I could see you, you know, somewhere, you know building cars, you know, a some rd facility deep inside a mountain in Colorado. I it. Well, yeah, if I, if I actually was ever deep inside of a mountain Colorado, it would be a mining accident. You know, I thought it might be a good opportunity for you to finally bring the Hummer back to public attention. You Build, build Hummer in there? possibly. Yeah, I could an electric commer. Hey. So during the offseason you got picked up by a publication as a regular columnists. That's amazing. You want to tell us about that? Yeah, I did. I got picked up as a columnist for I Tripoli, their computer magazine, and so I have a bimonthly column I'm writing in there. We've had the first couple ones of those published at this point. I've got a few more in submission. Their publication dates will be coming up here rather soon. I I'm typically covering what I call pre emerging technology, so this is before products of pit of market, kind of looking at the research labs and academia and in some of the larger corporations of what some of the technologies that tomorrow might look like, and it's certainly exciting and a ton of fun. Yeah, you're getting some great feedback on those articles, mark, and we're really, really lucky to have you on the team and to have you as a contributor to to i Tripoli. You know, I think we need to mention the fact that we are recording this podcast while mark and I are kind of sequestered. We're in an interesting stage of this covid nineteen epidemic that's hit and mark, it's interesting in some ways. You know, it's just such a difficult thing that to kind of talk about and bring humor to. We try to keep the show pretty lighthearted, but in some ways I think it's important that we mentioned that that is going on outside right now as we're recording these podcasts. Yeah, it is. And then, todd you and I have talked about this a lot, you know. Do we mention this? Do we not mention this? And to quote you, you kind of said, well, it'd be like being, you know, in Pearl Harbor December one thousand nine hundred and forty one and not mention anything about what went on there. So, although we're not going to sit here and wax Poe, addict on it or make light of it or try to give advice or to draw conclusions or political ramifications. This is certainly an interesting time, certainly for pretty much everybody in the world, for world governments, for organizations, but in our funky industry there are a lot of groundswell changes. I know that we're going to see come out of this in the coming months and years companies folding and going away, other companies being created and...

...becoming the new incumbents. We're going to see a ton of change. So, although that's not the theme of our show, when we talk to these founders, one can easily imagine that they may be getting ready to lay the bricks for the foundation of some of the next large companies. We certainly saw that in two thousand and one with companies like face book and Amazon and Google and so forth. So don't know, can't promise, but it certainly is trying times. In a a big shout out to those on the front lines that are fighting this while goofballs like you and me, we kind of are on the sidelines at home trying to make sense of it all, yeah, and trying to bring people maybe a little bit of a respite with everything that's going on outside of their home and and we're asking our guests to do the same thing. Let's focus on you know, what it's like to start a company and take our listeners through that. Yeah, definitely okay with that. I think we're ready to bring on our guests. Yeah, this is a founder of a newer company out there that we are seeing some of the most amazing traction in the market with the of any startup that I've followed, probably within the past two years. So signing episode, let's get into it. Okay, ask promised with us as a CEO and founder of data log which is a data processing and automation company found in two thousand and sixteen and located in New York City. Let me introduce you to Tim de Lysle Tim, welcome to the program thanks a lot of tidd honor to be here. Well, it's great to have you so, hey, how is this whole remote workforce thing working out for you guys so far? It's definitely changing that landscape. For us as a company, it's been a stressful transition for a lot of the people in the company, but one that was pretty natural for us. We already run kind of two offices, so there's a lot of collaboration that happens over video conferencing technologies. But really I think the remote work in general is probably going to become a big part of of people's work lives in the future. So this has been an interesting transition for a forced transition for us, but we're big believers that it's possible to drive a lot of value for shareholders in this environment. Tim just for contact our audience, tell us a tiny bit about your company and why you started it. So I think probably like most good bounders, it started from feeling some deep visceral pain in terms of the areas that our product addresses today. And the way that this happened for me was I actually transition from to Grad degrees. was originally doing business at Cornell in the APHACA campus and was drawn to doing a masters and engineering at the Cornell Tech campus, which was their brand new, Shiny Entrepreneurial Institution based out of New York City. And when I transition between two degrees, I spent a summer at MERC on the data, signs and insights team and there I worked for some professional corporate guys who had a whole bunch of ideas and then I was the intern who was kind of stuck executing all those ideas. So we really started the company from me sleeping under my ask one too many times and feeling the pain that was just creating usable data and the enterprise, and so dedicated then the next two years of my career on the academic side doing research to figure out how we might be able to use machine learning to automate away the pain that I felt during my stint at work. So was it the pain of sleeping under your desk that told you that you needed to quit that day job and go start your own company? What was the pain point that that triggering a bit? So the biggest thing was we were trying to answer business questions in a data driven way and what was incredibly painful was the amount of manual, ad hoc, repetitive work that was associated...

...with answering those business questions. So you could think about the analyst today and the Enterprise has to hunt down where the data lives, then they have to figure out what the data actually means right understand its contents and then they need to transform it for use in their particular project. And that entire process is insanely manual and painful, and that was why I had a couple kinks in my neck from sleeping under my desk. So I think I'll pretend like I've done some sort of research on this, but I think some like ninety seven point four percent of all ID professionals dream about going and starting their own company. However, some point, something in your background made you think that you were one of the few that would actually succeed. What was it in your maybe your history, your personality, your ambitions, that made you think that you were the one that could go start a successful company? I think it's a combination of two things. One is the team that you feel you can build around yourself and some optimistic naivete that's associated with with solving a really hard problem. That I think essentially comes from most entrepreneurs and it's really this inherent feeling that somehow this problem can be, like a particular problem is solvable. So I think any good founder has some level of naivete in terms of how hard the thing is going to be to take off the ground and that's necessary to actually found these companies. And then what really made me feel confident that no matter how hard it was going to be. Was the team that we're able to build. Some of our early hires have been absolutely, absolutely critical towards taking this company off the ground, and there they're still with us and we've grown since and kept acquiring incredible town. Now, you didn't start out on your own. You have a cofounder, Brian, and how exactly did you run into Bryant figure out he had the same leanings you did? How did that chemistry all come about? There's so many good stories for how that relationship developed, but I think it really started when he and I were at a Hackathon at Cornell Tech when I was still on business school. I was traveling to the Cornell Tech campus, he was finishing up his MBA and we're brought together to solve some pretty interesting data challenges in the healthcare industry and we ended up teaming up and on that day I won the ethical Hacker Award, which was I was really the only person in that Hackathon who worked the full twenty four hours and got the thing across the finish line. And Brian had gone home to sleep for a couple hours and came back and brought a toothbrush and he said Hey, man, you probably need it. I needed it, I used it and from then on our relationship just started kicking off and really that, I think, was the genesis of the the culture that we built within the company, which is one that centered around a absolute zealous obsession towards delivering incredible things in a short amount of time, and then also this obsession with with getting together and having great food, because right after that Bryan and I would just get together cooked dinner and since then we've cooked these incredible dinners. So with our team, were thirty people now and we gather the entire team together cook some incredible home cooked meals and hope to do so as we scale here in Tim what the heck? And Ethical Hacker and ethical hacker? I have no idea how they defined this, but it's just the guy who stayed up all night was it was the ethical hacker, the guy who had the thinks of the hack. I don't know, it was just a cute name that I think they came up with. That's pretty wild. So you get ready to start the company, you've got a cofounder. I know that you guys have gotten some rounds of funding, but going out and actually pitching the idea to a VC. It seems from some of our prior guess...

...we've had on that that was either one of the most daunting task that they've ever undertaken or they had some sort of inside track that they kind of felt confident going in. How was it for you? I mean, was this very intimidating, or did you, you know, goof up two hundred time and got it on the two hundred and first? How did that all go down? A mark, you know, and from Keback. Actually born and partly raised in Montreal, so my network was non existent. I didn't know anything seas. I didn't know anyone, and the most daunting thing for me was, if you look at the the number of enterprise grade founders right you guys had Moha and and Joe Tie on the on the calls like they weren't twenty five when they started their legendary companies, and I think a lot of people had this vision of what an enterprise software company founder looked like. Usually they have a PhD, if they're still academics, or they they have an extensive enterprise experience. I had none of those. I was twenty five ish, bushy. I'd kind of naive about how we're going to go and start the business. But one thing I was fundamentally a believer in was that we were going to bring our product market with some of the largest brands in the world. And you guys know some of our customer lists and they really are premium and some of the hardest companies to actually sell into. And props to some of the VC's who were early believers. There's chip hazard at Flybridge and Shevon Zil said Bloom Bar Beta, but they saw that, they cautiously saw that we might be the team to just get it across the finish line, and so I think the most daunting thing was just having this perception. At back then I had super long hair, I was Super Geeky and engineer did knew nothing about sales, and then going out and pitching the fact that we're going to sell our product to some of the world's largest businesses that they usually you need to have an extensive amount of experience sell into. So that was pretty daunting and I definitely did fail over and over and over again until we succeeded. We got to the point of almost going completely broke, if not being completely broke, for a little bit and then Chavon essentially took us up, brought together the syndicate for a first round and then we were off to the races. Hey, Tim, can you tell us a little bit about about that pitch? I mean it's a pretty romantic thing for someone to pitch to a VC. Not so romantic to have, you know, super long hair. But were you with a team or how did you do it? Tell us about the pitch. I raise completely by myself generally. This last round I did with our head of product and he supported quite a bit, but generally I like to to fundraise kind of almost surgically. So have the list of people that I want to go after and then I go and pitch. And the for the people who know me from from those days, they'll know that there really wasn't a pitch, that there wasn't a deck. Everything was done with a white board and this one partner meeting that I had, I walked in and there was no white boards and I still needed to do the pitch, so I pulled out this notebook from my backpack because I was still running between classes in school. I remember opening up the notebook and having the two partners overlooking my shoulders as I was drawing the pitch with Sharpie's on this notebook, and it really wasn't inherently sexy. It was just an engineer with what we believed was an incredible idea for how you might be able to bring automation to the world of ETL and just a series of vcs that ended up believing in the vision and the need for company like ours to exist.

So you've got some funding, you've got a little runway, a little bit of oxygen in your scuba tanks, you start chase some after some potential customers. Do you want to share with those a couple of those early customers stories, Roms kind of like okay, wow, we gotta sale, someone's actually interested in this, let's go out, let's make sure it works scale. Do you have some of those, kind of the official these guys help put us on the map stories? Yeah, so you one of those customers is a shared customer of trace three in ours. They're one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world and definitely in the United States, and we collaborated with the trace three team to go to market with them and brought together a series of partners including ton scale, which is a time series database, and Vidia, which provided some compute on top of which we could sit on the side, which can generated some some advanced accelerated analytics for us. And we want to market with this incredible solution that this company ended up putting in production. And what ended up happening was Jensen from nvidia picked up on on that use case and ended up presenting it at GTC. Spent almost fifteen minutes talking exclusively about the use case and the value proposition that we brought to market there. And what was fascinating is this cut this customer, Had the vision to take what was a very early stage age, immature product and molded into something that generated in this same amount of value for these guys. So they're quoting to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day that they're saving after using the platform for a year. And that's because, I think one of the best quotes from our champion there is that the killer APP really isn't the dashboards or the storage or anything like that. It's usable data that's coming in consistently and reliably, and that's what our platform was able to provide. So I would say this. This early big TELECO customer really helped us put it on the map, and then the the series of partners around that use case, you guys included, and Videa time scale and on the side, really did us an incredible solid to just tie everything together and make sure that that was easy to consume for for folks who really are not into the space of ETL and data processing and that kind of stuff. And correct me if I'm wrong, I don't think this is confidential, but in vidious really one of the hottest companies in tech right now, kind of like the old commercial. They liked it so much they invested in you guys correct. Yeah, they did. They actually invested in one of our very early rounds to and it was it was absolutely the funniest interactions. Jeff Herbs on the bed team out there runs a really, really cool team and we're super happy to have them as partners and it's been great to surround ourselves with people who who have been incredibly successful what they do and then helping them kind of bring to the table some interesting value proposition for their customers, because doesn't matter how many gpus you've got, if you don't have the data to pump through them. It's it's a dire investment. We often hear about companies pivoting and taught and I have kind of made, outside of the podcast, some observations that in some circles pivoting is almost become a cult onto itself. If you guys had to pivot the target that you're aiming at from the initial inception through pitch, early customers and so forth, or are you pretty much kind of still heading towards the same compass point as when you began? How's that gone for you guys? The mission has been holding study which was really to get usable data to the hands of the people who really need it to make an impact on their business and and that we've kind of held as our true north. How we deliver on that? That mission has changed a little bit. Early on, the way...

...that we wanted to tackle this problem was just create a incredibly large repository of usable data that people could just kind of pull from, and we kind of call that early model the Amazon of data. Right you should be able to just find the data you need and then consume it right away. And it turns out if you're going to be the Amazon of anything, Amazon is eventually going to do it, and indeed they ended up building a data catalog a few years after a pivot. But the thesis was for the pivot was that in order to enable these large scale kind of data marketplace to exist in the world, you would need to solve the problems and we solve today, which is you would have to bring automation to the very manual Labor that's associated with creating usable data that people can then consume. So we narrowed the scope down from just this bigger vision of creating the big repository of useful data in the world to really focusing on being the machinery for that to exist and being infrastructure for those companies who eventually grow off of so we're pretty happy today with the state of the product in the sense that we believe that it can be a genesis for different types of business models, different data providers coming on board to our platform and then leveraging it the capabilities to actually build a better, usable datasets for their customers. So I want to circle back on something. As you just said there what you were like, you know, wanting to be the Amazon of data. But whenever you want to be the Amazon of anything. You eventually run into Amazon. The widening the scope of that just a hair. Do you track your competition? Is Amazon? Is there a fear that they may just decide, wow, that looks interesting, I'll throw five thousand programmers and eighty five billion dollars at it and just go conquered. How do you? How do you if you will keep your head over your shoulder looking at the other runners in the razor? Are you just focused on full steam ahead? My early philosophy on this was that race horss race with blinders on for a reason, like they need to focus on winning the race. And it turns out that jockeys, which ends up being at the CEOS, also need to be aware of their surroundings. And so I think an intelligent analysis of the competition is really, really important. So, and that really becomes important when you start competing from a sales perspective with these these different competitors. So we look at competition with a very kind of deliberate, honest look try to figure out what are they doing? That's incredible, like some of these companies have been around forever and they they've brought to market products that still people use unclear whether they love using those products, but they definitely use them with a competition has done some things very, very well, and so today we take a look at the competition to understand what are they doing doing well and what are some of the remaining gaps that they have. And from a sales perspective, that allows you to kind of set up the playing field in a way that that you can win. And if you neglect your competition to the point of not understanding how to set up the landlines for them, then you end up losing deals that your product might win, but then you're your go to market team and Sales Force camp actually get across the finish line because you just didn't understand the the field that you were playing them. Hey, tim you talked a little bit about pitching Solo and then you talked a little bit about how important a bunch of people were to founding the company. Tell us about scaling the company, you know, bringing people on and building out the team in a large scale. That's been one of the most humbling experiences for me. I think very early on there's this naivete again front from founders. They really the only thing you need is skill and that experience doesn't really... that big of a role when starting early stage companies that are trying to do big things, and it turns out that's totally, absolutely wrong, that there's a group of people in the industry that have quite a bit of experience starting and building companies and then scaling them up. And what you find is that that distribution of people has skill sets that are very curated to this particular stage that you're at. So there's great people when you're in seed stage, there's great people when you're in series a, and then great people for for the the large growth rounds as you scale and move on. And what's fascinating is keeping those great people around is very, very much difficult, and building that talent to scale is also incredibly difficult, and we've taken a deliberate approach to building and retaining talent that I think has worked quite well for us. Some of the early employees that we have have been with us now for almost four years and that's that's a pretty long tenure in tech and and I don't see any any reason for why they wouldn't be it with us for another five to the six years as we scale and grow the company. And so scaling for us has been a question of making sure the capital ejection is there and and that's kind of my job when I fund raised, but then also ensuring that our talent pool grows and we can attract experience talent for that stage appropriate, and we've been able to do so from our network and from pulling in people that that we fundamentally trusted. So that's been definitely a challenge, but it's scaling is all about people and I think that's one of our our core differentiators, as we forgot, an absolutely kick ass team that's that's world world class and what they do. So you mentioned a kind of you had discovered that there's this, let's say, very specialized set of skills certain people have for certain stages in a company's evolution. That was a discovery on your boy probably very pleasant because you've amassed some terrific talent at dayalog. But what are some of the myths that either you read in a book were conventional wisdom part of your naive days? You mentioned coming into this that you've not to just absolutely be untrue. I haven't yet discovered any myths that are fundamentally untrue because I believe that a lot of myths are grounded in some sort of story and you just need to dig to figure out what the underlying reason is for the myth. I think what I've found is that pretty much every single time that something has failed, it has been from not trusting our gut instinct enough. And I think what the skill that you learn there's to express to your team and two people around you what your gut is telling you, and that's a really, really difficult thing to learn. So the even though there weren't inherently myths, I feel like the this is not something that anyone tells you you need to learn when you're in Grad school or anywhere, which is you need to figure out how to communicate the things that make you very uneasy in your gut to your team in order for them to conquetize the problem statement that it is that you you're trying to uncover, and that's that's been a really, really tough skill to learn and it's come across it many different ways, whether it's like lack of confidence in a meaning or just not being clear at communicating what is in my head or what are in my thoughts and formulating that in a clear way and I think the learning that was probably the most important experience so far that that I've had to come across. Probably a burning question that most people have is will Canada remaybe unified country if the ABS actually don't complete...

...a season? Oh Shit, I don't know, man. It's well see how that goes. But one thing to note it on Canada is we actually have in our entire engineering operations or based out of Montreal, and that's been really, really cool for us as a company to very early on become a multinational business. But the main competitive advantage there, and maybe the pitch for anyone listening out there for Canada, is that today, as you kind of compete to acquire some very, very expensive and sought after talent, one of the ways to compete in that landscape is just to think globally right and to think about how might you be able to leverage talent that's coming from the hotbeds of of the world, whether that's Eastern European developers, folks in Southeast Asia or anywhere. You really have to start kind of thinking globally if you want to compete in this space. In Canada just happens to have a incredibly permissive immigration system where you can get people in very, very quickly in those environments. So Canada has been even though we were still hoping for the HABs to not just complete a season but really take the Stanley cut home. We're big fans of the Canadian ecosystem in general. I've got a high school buddy that will do cartwheels when he hears that awsome. Hey, Tim, this has been great. We really appreciate you sharing your story with our listeners today. Can't thank you enough for popping on the podcast with market myself. It's been an absolute pleasure. Guys, we we truly truly love every interaction with your team. So this has been another great one. Terrific. Thanks, man, awesome. Thank you much. Trace three is hyper focused on helping it leaders deliver business outcomes by providing a wide variety of data center solutions and consulting services. If you're looking for emerging technology to solve tried and true business problems, trace three is here to help. We believe all possibilities live in technology. You can learn more at trace threecom podcast. That's trace, the number threecom podcast. You've been listening to the founder formula. The podcast for all things start up, from Silicon Valley to innovators across the country. If you want to know what it takes to lead tomorrow's tech companies, subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time,.

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