Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Interview with Mehdi Daoudi, CatchPoint Systems
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Mehdi Daoudi is CEO of CatchPoint Systems (www.catchpoint.com), a new Los Angeles startup focused on the web site and web application monitoring industry. Daoudi was previously an executive at DoubleClick. Daoudi spoke to us about how his experience at DoubleClick resulted in starting up CatchPoint.
What does CatchPoint's software do?
Mehdi Daoudi: The idea is very simple. We're trying to make monitoring of web sites and applications sexy and simple. This is the plumbing on the Internet, which is never really sexy, but it's very important at the end of the day. It's all about ensuring a good quality experience, and ensuring a web site and applications are fast and available. I'll give you some numbers. When Google slows down by 500ms, they lose 0.59 percent of their search traffic. A blink of an eye is 400ms, imagine how many million dollars that represents. That's why web performance and web monitoring mean serious dollars. That's why companies need to basically monitor themselves, because no one likes bad performance, particularly on the web, where there are so many other choices. If you can't book on Expedia, you go to Orbitz. If there's no Orbitz, you go somewhere else. If you can't buy a book on Amazon.com, you go to Buy.com. Performance is becoming a differentiator, and is becoming more and more critical.
Why the need for your software -- aren't there tools out there that do this already?
Mehdi Daodi: Web performance monitoring has been around since 1997. It was pioneered by Keynote Systems, which has been around for a long time, and is now a public company. The reason we decided to move into this market was I used to work at DoubleClick. DoubleClick was an amazing company, where my responsibility was in web monitoring and operational monitoring. In order to do my job, I basically had to use a lot of services--those services that are now my competitors. We spent a lot of money on those things, spending upward of $20M over ten years, or more than $2 million a year on these services. After the Google acquisition of DoubleClick, I decided to build my own company. I wanted to see what it was about, and we focused on this particular sector because of our expertise and experience dealing with these tool sets and services. The problem with those tool sets, is they have not changed since inception. There are growing pains, and a growing frustration with them, which I experienced first hand.
What we've built is a better service, based on innovation. We've created lots of features that help customers troubleshoot and optimize their web pages. The users of web monitoring tools are IT operations folks. Those people are invisible most of the time, but ensure that web sites stay up and that applications are up. They are the people who get alerts at 3 a.m. telling them that their web site is down, and that they have to jump on those issues and fix those fires. The frustration they have is they might have 5,000 servers, and they have to find out which one is causing the problem. Is the problem on the East Coast only, is it my problem, or is it something completely out of my control? Our tool set is designed with that in mind, to make it easier for the operator to get in, find the information they need, and get out. It shouldn't take a Ph.D. in Computer Science to figure out where the problem is.
We make it very easy to troubleshoot. What makes us different, to be honest, is that the industry hasn't had too much innovation in the past few years. We're different--our product and feature set is extremely rich, and every month we release a new version. Our competitors only release one or two features a year. We are focused on making our customers happy, and are focused on building tools that customers need. We also make it cheaper. Web monitoring is an extremely expensive business. One of the things we try to do, is to make it more affordable. In the end, everyone wins if the web is faster, and one way to do that is to provide the right tools.
This is available as Software-as-a-Service?
Mehdi Daoudi: Yes, it's a software-as-a-service, subscription model. People can buy the service on a monthly or a yearly basis. You can gain a login and five minutes later you can be monitoring your infrastructure from 26 locations in the U.S. The way monitoring works, is we have probes all over the country and the world. Those tools act like a real user, performing what we call synthetic monitoring -- robotically going to a site like Amazon.com every five minutes, adding certain books to a cart, and checking out. Another side to monitoring, which is more and more important, is real user monitoring. What happens, is we use a 1x1 pixel graphic to track real end user performance. What we are doing right now is merging the two, synthetic monitoring with real user monitoring. Why that is extremely powerful is combine the results of your A/B testing on performance with information how your site might be working with folks in Iowa. You can use that data for marketing, for capacity planning, to understanding where your users are, and how their performance is, so you can make decisions based on data, not just whether you're up or down.
How long has your product been out?
Mehdi Daoudi: We started working on CatchPoint in September of 2008. We released this April into full production, and went to alpha and beta with a few companies. That helped us to design the right features for customers through the IT spectrum, ranging from ad serving companies to publishers.
How are you funded, and what's next for your company?
Mehdi Daodi: We're privately funded so far, and have done this with our own money. The four founders took some of our Google cash and converted that into CatchPoint. The next big things for us is a round of financing, and the next one is building an international presence. We'd like to expand into international data centers, so we can start offering monitoring from France, Australia, Germany, etc. We'll also keep building sales. Right now, we are doing this ourselves and taking advantage of online marketing--we've just started. The next thing is to build a great sales team.