From Idea to Product: How VMware Pivotal Labs Helps Startups Grow

August 26, 2020 Derrick Harris

For some startups, it can be tough to transition from a great idea to a usable product—especially if that product involves software. The same often goes for teams within large enterprises trying to capitalize on new opportunities, or to modernize existing applications to meet the demands of modern users. They know what result they want, but they don’t always know what to build to achieve that outcome, much less how to build it.

Oftentimes, this is because the people who know an industry best are not software engineers. Rather, they’re doctors, lawyers, farmers, home bakers, or any number of other professions that don’t involve writing code or even interacting with people who do. Other times, a company might employ thousands of software developers who are well versed in the company’s existing codebase, tech stack, and processes, but much less so in more modern engineering techniques.

These are the types of teams and organizations we’re hoping to reach with our new podcast, titled Cloud & Culture. We’ll be speaking with experts from VMware Pivotal Labs, as well as their clients, to get the lowdown on jumpstarting product development, building capable engineering teams, and seeding sustainable cultures. We’ll feature insights and advice from experts in everything from Kubernetes to modern platform management practices, on how to do modern software well.

In our first episode, we spoke with Laurie Gomer, the former vice president of business operations and strategy for Salt Lake City-based startup Alluceo (which spun out of a regional hospital network called Intermountain Healthcare). Gomer shares her experiences working with Pivotal Labs on everything from helping the leadership team focus on the right first products, to providing guidance on who to hire and which technologies to use. And then actually developing its first product despite being thrown a monkey wrench in the form of COVID-19.

You can listen to the entire episode below, but keep reading for some highlights from the discussion with Gomer.

Don’t bite off too much too soon

“Pivotal [Labs] really helped us focus on our North star and trying not to get too sidetracked. Because there's always a million things that you want to do and lots of aspirations, and you have to really be able to narrow those down so that you can figure out what can make impact quickly and what can drive value for your end users.

“And I think they were really instrumental in helping us figure out what made sense to tackle first and what was for later.”

Hiring developers can be tough when you’re not one

“I ... hadn't specifically recruited for product management, design, or software engineers. . . . I spent a lot of time with all of the people in those various functions, as well as some of the leaders in the [Pivotal Labs] Denver office, who really helped me understand how they go about recruiting and what their process was. 

“And so then I kind of went back and created what I thought made sense for us, for a company of our size. And Pivotal [Labs] also helped us screen some of the applicants that ended up joining our team, because I should not be the one deciding whether someone is a good engineer or not.”

Later, Gomer added:

“I think we were happy with the quality of folks that we got on our team. And I honestly think part of that was a number of them had either heard of Pivotal Labs or, in fact, worked with Pivotal Labs at some of their previous companies, and really had a great experience.

“And so when we were able to tell them as part of the recruiting process that we were working with Pivotal Labs, I think that was a real bonus for a small startup that presumably they would think wouldn't have much structure. I think that gave them a lot of confidence that we were serious about developing a well-functioning, well-oiled product delivery team.”

Building what you need, not what everyone else has

“Health care, as far as technology, has just always been a little bit behind a lot of other industries. And so you don't want to [repeat] some of the bad habits perhaps of technologies of the past. You want to make sure that you're challenging yourself and building your software such that it's going to be an advantage and an asset to you. So that you can pivot and move quicker than perhaps some of the larger, more established companies.

“I mean, in the end, that's usually the advantage for a startup. And so, I think because the Pivotal [Labs] process is agnostic . . .  it really challenges you to make sure that you're building the right thing, and you're really focused on the user, and you're focused on what are the metrics that you're trying to move, as opposed to, ‘This is what we think we should build, because this is what every company always builds when they start.’”

More information

VMware Pivotal Labs 

VMware Pivotal Labs for Startups

VMware Pivotal Labs office hours

Resources for Remote Software Teams 


About the Author

Derrick Harris

Derrick Harris is a product marketing manager at VMware.

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