Photo: Phoebe Sheehan, Albany Times Union
Sometimes second acts are better in Hollywood — and also in the entrepreneurial world.
Think of Steve Jobs and Lee Iacocca.
Maybe think of Sinclair Schuller, the former CEO of Apprenda, the Troy-based software company that dramatically went out of business over the summer.
Schuller, who has since started a new software consulting company called Nuvalence, says he had no regrets about his 11 years leading Apprenda, which was shut down after its biggest investor, the Philadelphia area venture capital firm Safeguard Scientifics, unexpectedly pulled its $24 million commitment to the company.
But Schuller, who attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and lives in Troy, says he’s never been happier and more excited about the future. He says that’s because he’s able to take all the lessons he learned from leading Apprenda and use them for his second time around, something that a new startup CEO is rarely afforded.
“You really don’t know much of anything,” when starting the first business, Schuller said during a talk this past week at the New York BizLab in Schenectady during its Lunchtime Entrepreneurship Series with Clarkson University. “You conflate a lot of your skills.”
What Schuller means is that a skill that someone has that is good in life in general, such as being a good people person, doesn’t always mean you are good with people in a managerial setting.
“You might think I’m good with people, so that must mean I’m a good manager,” Schuller said. “But they have nothing to do with one another. Being good with people and being a good manager are two very different things.”
At one point, Apprenda employed dozens of people at its offices in Hedley Park Place on the Hudson River in downtown Troy.
Schuller, who is hiring software engineers for the new company in Troy, says that he doesn’t plan on going the venture capital route. But that is because the new company is focused on consulting, helping companies build their own cloud computing systems rather than selling one they built. Apprenda auctioned off its assets in the wake of its closing, needing to pay off a $6 million loan with a Silicon Valley Bank.
“One is a service business, while the other one was focused on selling a product,” Schuller said.
Schuller didn’t really say what led to Apprenda’s downfall, although Safeguard Scientifics officials hinted that the market dramatically changed and the company couldn’t find a buyer in time.
Schuller was asked if he has ever been tempted to change careers entirely.
“I love wine and food, and so I could start a restaurant. It would be kind of fun in its own way, sure,” Schuller said. “There’s always interest and temptation to do something new. But this (the software industry) is my passion.”