27 October 2011

Anatomy of an Acquisition: Inside Cerebrata / Red Gate

The sale of a favourite software company can be disheartening for users, creating concern that the tools and team you love will vanish. Red Gate's Luke Jefferson and Matt Dickens, and Cerebrata's Gaurav Mantri, discuss how they plan to avoid acquisition pitfalls.

Is there anything that chills the soul of a user quite as much as when the company which makes their favorite software, is acquired by a larger company?

It’s the source of celebration for the two companies, but users sometimes feel left by the curb.

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Over the past month or so, I’ve had access to information about Red Gate’s acquisition of Cerebrata and have talked to the principals involved – Gaurav Mantri, Cerebrata founder and CEO; Luke Jefferson, Windows Azure product manager for Red Gate; and Matt Dickens, Azure software developer at Red Gate. I asked a lot of tough questions and found a refreshing level of unanimity in the answers.

I could tell you what I learned, but it’s much better to hear it from those directly involved. So, here in their own words, is why Red Gate and Cerebrata think their union will work.


Matching philosophies and good timing

Gaurav:
When it comes to user satisfaction, both companies are thinking in the same direction. I think it’s just amazing the way that Red Gate focuses on user experience. I recently spent a week in Cambridge and went through a number of user-experience sessions and I can see how much the company has invested into making sure that products work the way users want them to. That’s something we want.

The timing is good. Red Gate has a much bigger team than we have at this point in time, and this is the best way for us to take our products to the next level.

Luke:
Matt and I have got to know Gaurav and he doesn’t talk about customers; he talks about users. He’s really focused on creating the right product for users. He works closely with them and responds to their feedback ridiculously quickly. We really like that, and it’s definitely the kind of focus we put on our products – really doing what’s right for the user.

Matt:
As Gaurav says, Red Gate users could soon become Windows Azure users. When they do, they’ll want to use best of breed tools and that’s what we think Cerebrata has.

A non-conqueror mentality

Luke:
We are continuing to operate Cerebrata as a separate web property. It will continue to be Gaurav’s citadel and we think that’s the right thing to do for the foreseeable future.

We don’t want to start making changes without understanding the market. We need to work with Gaurav to tap into his incredible knowledge. He’s been working on this for years and we need to get up to speed. We don’t want to rush in and make mistakes.

Matt:
The same goes for process. We’re not stepping in and saying “This is how we do things at Red Gate.” We are focusing on trying to help Gaurav by automating things that weren’t automated before. We’re providing assistance rather than setting down any ground rules.

Retaining the people that made the products great

Gaurav:
The entire Cerebrata team will still be working on our products for the foreseeable future and we have a great product pipeline for the next year that I will be primarily responsible for.

We have already started integrating our products into Red Gate processes. We were a very small shop so we were doing a lot of things manually, like preparing a new build; Red Gate will bring greater automation to that and other tasks.

We’ll use Red Gate’s experience in building better quality software, freeing us, including myself, to focus on the next steps that we want to take, to continually improve our software.

Making sure that users benefit

Gaurav:
I’ve been at a number of UX sessions since I’ve been in Cambridge and I think the UX features we’ll implement will be very beneficial for end users. It will be a much better product not just from the technology standpoint, but also from the usability point of view.

The Cerebrata team did not have the resources to do all that we would have liked to in terms of user-experience. Red Gate has admiration and respect in the development community, a great insight into their needs, and a broad market reach. They can help our products reach the next level. And that’s a good thing for our end users.

Delivering results quickly

Gaurav:
We are rewriting the core of our three products. New versions of Cloud Storage Studio and Azure Diagnostics Manager will be released in January 2012. Those two products are being rewritten from the ground up, benefitting from Red Gate’s experience, user input and UX expertise.

Soon after, we’ll release an all-in-one tool called Azure Management Studio. Our vision is to have a single product that will do Windows Azure storage, applications and diagnostics – the first one-stop shop for Azure developers.


To learn more about Cerebrata’s tools for Microsoft Windows Azure Platform, please visit the Cerebrata and Red Gate websites.

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Bob Cramblitt

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