SQL Sentry Sets Sail!

Greg Gonzalez

Published On: June 16, 2015

Categories: Community 5

No, this isn't a post about Aaron Bertrand's (b|t) SQLCruise around the Mediterranean, but rather a clever (or maybe not so) reference to the recently announced $25M growth equity investment in SQL Sentry! Read on, and I think you'll understand...

The not-so-secret formula

Work on SQL Sentry software started as a small side project in 2003, to help relieve some of the pain I was feeling trying to manage around 50 SQL Servers for our hosting business. Those servers were the bi-product of projects from the other side of the business, custom development, of which I was also a part. You see, we had been building high-end Microsoft-based systems for external clients for years, and most had ended up in one of our two data centers here in Charlotte.

As a result, I was perhaps one of the first "accidental DBAs", and that small project, later to be named Event Manager, was the first example of our team leveraging its considerable expertise in building great software to address real world needs around SQL Server.

Flash forward 12 years and multiple industry-leading products later, and we are still doing this very same thing. The hosting business was acquired by Peak 10 in 2006, and SQL Sentry software still monitors their SQL Server estate, driving the managed services delivered by our Pro Services team. Most importantly, we continue to keep our software firmly grounded in reality, which remains a key differentiator for us in the marketplace. Whereas others in our space are dependent on surveys and test labs, we know what to build because we still live it daily.

It's good to have options

Many are surprised to learn that we have always bootstrapped it. We didn't take on early investment because we wanted to maintain careful control over how we grew the business, and remain a product-first, customer-centric organization. With the initial funding from the sale of hosting, along with strong organic growth, we were also fortunate not to need it. That said, there have been times where, due to resource constraints inherent to being bootstrapped, we've had to pick our battles. Problem is, today there are more fronts on which to fight, and winning on just one of them isn't good enough. This is ultimately what led us to consider outside investment.

Once committed, we engaged longtime colleague and one of the brightest people I know, Dave Gilroy, to help us find the right financial partner. We started with a targeted list of 40 private equity firms, had real conversations with 35, and received 16 proposals. I believe this is a testament not only to our strong growth and financial performance, but to the strength of our incredible team and the world class organization we've worked so hard to build. I cite these numbers not to impress, but to emphasize that we were fortunate to have options, and were committed to finding the best possible partner for us and our customers.

After careful review, we selected Mainsail Partners, a top tier growth equity firm out of San Francisco. Throughout the process, Mainsail stood out for many reasons, not the least of which is their thoughtful approach to growth investment. We met with their entire team as well as many of their current and former portfolio companies, and to a person, they are an impressive bunch. They took the time to get to know us, our needs, and our market, and most importantly, they are committed to ensuring that the SQL Sentry formula won't change.

Did someone say "change"?

We've all heard the horror stories of investors coming in with a playbook emphasizing growth above all else, leading to declines in service levels and product quality. Our top priority going in was ensuring that this would not happen with SQL Sentry. We have a truly special team and culture here, and many amazing clients and partners that depend on us, and we are not about to mess that up. The best part is that Mainsail wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm not going to tell you that there won't be changes; there will be. But I view them as optimizations versus fundamental shifts in how we operate. We will remain a product-first, customer-centric organization, and the investment will simply allow us to do more in these areas, and others.

We've been in port building the best ship in the industry for years now, and we're about to hit the open seas. For that, I am truly excited... and if you have SQL Servers, I think you should be too.

Greg is founder and Chief Scientist at SentryOne. He is a Microsoft developer by background and has been working with SQL Server since the mid 90s. He is perpetually engaged in the design and development of SQL Sentry, Plan Explorer and other SentryOne solutions for optimizing performance on the Microsoft Data Platform.