By Joseph Kleinschmidt, CTO, Leverage Software
I'm Joseph Kleinschmidt, CTO of Leverage Software -- we're an on-demand social networking platform that companies use to connect their employees and customers with one another. We tend to be particularly good at helping connect companies that are really large or distributed -- it's not uncommon for us to serve companies that might have a few hundred thousand users.
We've worked with Microsoft for some time -- we're now a BizSpark One partner, something we're thrilled about -- and last week we were invited to participate in the SharePoint 2010 SocialFest.
What an interesting week! So different from our typical day-to-day. Our company has two offices -- one in the South Park neighborhood of San Francisco, and one in a brick-walled loft in Chicago. Both offices are pretty non-corporate -- for example, in San Francisco our windows look out onto a city park, and the Chicago office is just down the street from an art studio.
So initially we figured spending the week on-site at the Microsoft campus would really feel different. The campus is beautiful, the buildings are quiet and peaceful, but there is more of a traditional office feel to things -- or so we thought at first.
But it didn't take too long for us to start to get into the groove -- Josh putting together a new design, Chuck and Mark cranking away on some code, and each of us discussing a feature or idea from a different angle. And (well-fed by a seemingly endless supply of food -- I could go on-and-on about that), soon enough we would find ourselves at 9:00pm or 10:00 at night working to get the next idea completed. And the other folks around us -- whether they be Microsoft employees or people from other start-ups -- all seemed to be “in that groove” as well. So suddenly it DID feel very much like a start-up, which was cool. Tons of great energy.
Every day our engineers were cranking away from early morning to late at night -- but we did manage to carve out a couple hours one night to get everyone in the company together for a dinner at a Greek restaurant in Palo Alto. It's a great feeling to sit in front of a giant fireplace, look around the table at each person in the company, and realize not only how much each person can contribute to the company individually, but how much more everyone can do as a team as well. That's the part of start-up life I personally like the most. We tend to lean on each other quite a bit -- something you can only do if each person is particularly strong.
And that's the feeling that we've always gotten from working with Microsoft too -- that it always comes down to the people you meet and are able to connect with. Just as with our company, I've always been impressed not only by so many Microsoft people at an individual level, but also that so many folks seem to really “get” what a start-up is all about and work together as a team to help make interesting things happen.
And I think SharePoint 2010 SocialFest was a really good example of that. Maybe it's because we're a bit further along these days -- we have a growing number of Fortune 500 customers, so we're really well “out of the garage” at this point -- but I loved the fact that while this was a coding week, we ALSO had the chance to connect with VCs, with really talented people from Microsoft, and with folks who are experts in the Enterprise 2.0 community. I really like that “real-world” nature of Microsoft -- that idea that the best thing you can do as a start-up is just build some great stuff and then go talk directly with top-notch people to see what they think of it. It's a great way to learn things in a hurry -- and it's tons of fun as well.