Datical Founders on Teamwork, Persistence, and a Good Domain Name
It was a bittersweet evening as students, alumni, and local entrepreneurs gathered in the AT&T Conference Center on April 22. On one hand, the audience received invaluable advice from business moguls Daniel Nelson, MBA '06, and Robert Reeves, MSTC '12; but on the other hand, they had to say goodbye to the woman who pioneered the speaker series. Laura Kilcrease, MBA '92, received acclaim for her 2012 and 2013 position as entrepreneur-in-residence, and she was asked to stay on this year and moderate half of the events alongside Brett Hurt, BBA '94. However, this marked her final night as host, and it was one to remember.
Fortunately, Kilcrease knew Nelson and Reeves prior to the interview and it led to a riveting — and at times — hilarious dialogue. Without missing a beat, Kilcrease started by asking the Datical founders where they first met.
Although the two went to preschool together, Nelson admits that they didn't become friends until much later.
"Funny thing is, at the time I really hated him, and it wasn't until high school that we became friends," said Nelson.
After high school, Nelson and Reeves ended up rooming together at The University of Texas at Austin. Then Reeves decided he wanted to be a rock star and wound up becoming the tour manager for the band Flogging Molly, explained Nelson. Meanwhile, Nelson was back at The McCombs School of Business getting his MBA.
When Reeves came back to Austin, he wanted to start a record company called Phurnace Records. He soon discovered, however, that it wasn't a profitable business.
But they weren't going to put the domain name to waste. Thus the data-software company that Reeves came up with and Nelson pitched at the 2006 Moot Corp competition was named Phurnace. After winning the competition, their success took off.
"At Phurnace, it was about building the software company we always wanted to work at,"said Nelson.
In 2009, four years and three weeks after they created the business plan, they sold the company to BMC. One year after BMC acquired Phurnace, Nelson was honored with the Rising Star award from McCombs for his success and contributions to the alumni network – such as volunteering as a Moot Corp judge and guest lecturing in the New Venture Creation class.
Then in 2012, Reeves and Nelson teamed up again to start another software company called Datical. However, unlike Phurnace, which they describe as the cup-holder of software, Datical is the entire car. In other words, while Phurnace solved one part of the data puzzle, Datical strives to meet the needs of enterprise costumers while solving application schema issues and protecting critical data.
With Reeves as the CTO and Nelson as the CEO, the company has been highly successful. So how do these two produce such lucrative businesses? Teamwork, balance, and persistence, they explained.
"Robert and I work extremely well together; we certainly are complimentary," said Nelson. "I'm very data-driven and methodical about things, and Robert is very intuitive and instinctive. Robert has fantastic taste for market need, and I am good at being very deliberate and bringing structure."
After an hour filled with stories, advice, and many jokes, Kilcrease concluded by thanking Nelson and Reeves for making her last interview so enjoyable.
"We're very happy to call both these guys Longhorns," she said.