DURHAM — It’s been less than six months since Akash Ganapathi left his role as the Senior Director of Product Management with JupiterOne, but as he thinks back that time has been “fast-paced.”
Ganapathi, along with colleagues Austin Kelleher and Charlie Duong, announced their new company, Opine, late last month. The three met at JupiterOne, the highly successful Durham-based cybersecurity start-up.
Building a Team
The origins of Opine grew from JupiterOne in a number of ways. Both Duong and Kelleher joined JupiterOne as “founding” engineers in 2018 and filled major roles for the company. Ganapathi joined the company in 2020 and quickly made strong ties with his colleagues.
“The three of us cared about the same kinds of things in terms of our work really being a part of who we are,” Ganapathi explained.
And in conversations over the years, JupiterOne showed other potential pain points that needed solving.
“We’d be talking about other problems that we thought were interesting, talking about other companies that were doing interesting things, talking about our customers and their challenges,” Ganapathi continued. “We just started thinking, ‘Hey, the team’s big now. They can kind of handle things without us now.’ We’re thrilled to see that we’re not making as big of an impact individually anymore. And we’re thinking, ‘Maybe our time’s coming to an end here.’ So we started brainstorming, ‘What are we going to do next anyway?'”
According to Ganapathi, the three adamantly did not want to leave JupiterOne for anything less than the right project.
“We weren’t just going to all leave [for] another security startup that you know, we don’t have a passion about,” said Ganapathi. “That would be kind of very joyless for us; we love everyone at JupiterOne.”
The “Prove It” Phase
Ultimately, the pain point that Ganapathi, Duong, and Kelleher identified is what they call the “prove-it” phase of the sales cycle for software startups.
All software startups need to show a proof of concept before they can make the sale. This is a particular challenge in early phases, as the product is rarey fully mature, with many features still under development. This phase is also rife with trade-offs, as developers seek to prioritize between the original concept, and functionality that may be a priority for potential sales. It is this phase that Opine seeks to improve.
“Buyers of any software, especially nowadays, they really don’t want to be dragged through this long sales cycle,” explained Ganapathi. “You have this very limited window of opportunity to try and make sure that you put your best foot forward. So a very simple part of the solution is just an elegant design around putting your proof of concept and proof of values on rails, where the buyer really feels like they’re stepping into a white glove scenario.”
The company is also seeking to use AI to facilitate proof-of-concept success through improved processes, both for the customer and the internal sales team. Buyers can use AI tools that provide answers to questions about the proof-of-concept, or direct them to documentation on the product. And for the startup, the collection and resurfacing of buyer experiences can help close a sale.
“So helping your own sellers, like your sales engineers understand when they might need to follow back up with a customer,” Ganapathi explains. “Like, ‘Hey, your customer hasn’t been in the product for two weeks. And last time, they were in there, they were really excited; they they rated some of your requirements as exceeds expectations. But you should really send an email like this that says, ‘Hey, remember that really big problem you’re solving?’ I want to make sure it’s still top of mind.”
Ultimately, the goal is accelerating the the trust between vendors and buyers, made possible with the use of best practices, applied in a streamlined process. The collection and consolidation of buyer feedback are the “opinions” that form the new company’s name: Opine.
Out of Stealth
After leaving JupiterOne last fall – a move that Ganapathi says JupiterOne leadership was “super encouraging” of – the three began work on their own proof of concept. The new company generated plenty of speculation as they began in “stealth” mode, keeping the details of the new business under wraps until late January.
And when they came out of stealth, they weren’t empty-handed. The company has raised about $2 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed funding round that includes local VC firm Primordial. The funding group was very complimentary of the product and plan in the funding announcement.
“As an extremely capable team that is focused on executing a clear growth plan and ambitious product roadmap, Opine is a great fit for Primordial and we’re looking forward to supporting them as they continue to grow.”
The company will be using their funding windfall to do some initial hiring of one to two engineers, and potential product support. And they may be looking for some workspace. While they’re open to remote work, Ganapathi believes that the connections he made with Duong and Kelleher in person at JupiterOne were important.
“We do believe that there’s just something special about you’re in the same room,” said Ganapathi. “One of our core values is ‘Companions build a company’. I haven’t had bad experiences working remote and hybrid but we do really want to be local for as long as we can.”
That said, the company is focused on careful use of their funding. Ganapathi recognizes that last year was a lean one for venture funding, and despite the upticks in the economy, they are looking at the coming phase as “efficient growth.”
“Every dollar we spend we’re thinking of it as an investment. ‘What are we investing in with this dollar?'” Ganapathi said. “What’s the return going to be?”
That strategy will serve them well as the team readies for a private beta to begin later this month. Interested parties can sign up to test or be notified about the launch via the company website, https://tryopine.com/. Ganapathi is optimistic that the team will have something generally available for use in the spring.
“We had over a dozen beta customers lined up very, very early on, which we’re very thankful for,” Ganapathi told me. “And yeah, we’ll [be] releasing to waves of new beta users as we work through any feedback.”
Trust this team to keep a close eye on those “opines.”