By BRITTANY MEILING JAN 04, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.latimes.com/sd-fi-dreamtsoft-servicenow-20180104-story.html.
Some of the earliest employees and original architects of the $30 billion tech giant ServiceNow have launched a stealthy tech startup in Solana Beach, and the team is onto something interesting.
The company, called Dreamtsoft, makes an online tool that allows businesses to create their own custom software without writing code. It works by essentially dragging and dropping pre-built parts, kind of like the popular website builder Weebly. But instead of constructing websites, Dreamtsoft users can build business applications for things like logging expense reports, managing human resources, and yes, managing IT services (ServiceNow’s bread and butter). The builder can also turn around business-grade software prototypes in days rather than months, customers said, and full-fledged programs in weeks.
The founders are two guys — Bow Ruggeri and Jerrod Bennett — who’ve become close friends over the past 15 years, first as roommates and later as colleagues at ServiceNow. For those who don’t know local tech history, ServiceNow was San Diego’s one that got away. Founded in Solana Beach, the company grew into a public behemoth, eventually moving its headquarters to Silicon Valley — breaking the hearts of software enthusiasts who wanted the company to call San Diego home.
Ruggeri, now 36, was employee No. 2 at ServiceNow, brought on as a youngster by the company’s founder Fred Luddy in 2005. The engineer was a bit of a wunderkind, Bennett said. Although a high school dropout, Ruggeri learned how to code by treating his local BookStar like a library, studying technical manuals in the aisles and on the floors.
“Bow was the youngest at the time, but became more and more strategically important to Fred and soon was promoted to chief architect at ServiceNow,” said Bennett, who joined the company in 2006.
Together, the duo watched as ServiceNow transformed from a couple of dudes with laptops to a 5,000-employee enterprise. As one of the earliest companies to deliver IT management as a service, ServiceNow’s ascension was quick. For Ruggeri, the growth came as a shock. “I never expected ServiceNow to rocket ship the way it did,” he said.
While ServiceNow swelled into a massive corporation, the two engineers and their friends would hang out at each other’s homes, sipping beers in the backyard and ruminating on the old startup days of years past.
“It was starting to get hard to get things done at ServiceNow because we were getting bigger,” Ruggeri said. “So while smoking cigars around the pool at night we’d ask — if we could do it all over again, what would we do different?”
The ‘dream’ in Dreamtsoft
When ServiceNow was first founded it was called Glidesoft, and its early plan was to build a generic platform on which to construct lots of programs (think of the iPhone as a platform, and your apps as the programs). The idea was to create chunks of reusable code that can serve as building blocks, cutting down on the time it takes to build programs that have similar functions at their core.
The first application Glidesoft tackled was a program for IT service management, and that soon became the flagship product for the company. They rebranded as ServiceNow and this product served the company well.
“All ships turned and suddenly we were only doing IT,” Ruggeri said. “The notion of a generic platform got corrupted. Glidesoft was never finished.”
It’s been in the back of Ruggeri’s mind for years. Thus, the inception of Dreamtsoft — a company that would go back to the roots of ServiceNow and build a platform for cloud-based applications.
Ex-ServiceNow team collects at DreamtSoft
After seven years — and following ServiceNow’s market-reviving IPO — Ruggeri split from the tech giant to focus on a pet project of his own: a software platform that would soon formalize as Dreamtsoft.
Today, Dreamtsoft employs 10 employees working right off Highway 101 in Solana Beach. Among the team is ex-ServiceNow vice president Tom Moore, who helped build the tech giant from $0 to over $1 billion in recurring revenue. Incidentally, the software engineers tooling around Dreamtsoft’s office are also ex-ServiceNow guys, but Ruggeri and Bennett stress they’re not intentionally poaching people from their former ranks. This is just their circle of friends, they say. And there’s no hard feelings at ServiceNow. In fact, quite the opposite.
“Fred Luddy was the best mentor I’ll probably ever have,” Ruggeri said. “The passion I have for software came from sitting in a room with Fred for years and years.”
Competitors, whether they like it or not
Dreamtsoft has been quietly plugging away at this idea for the past four years, engineering chunks of code like Legos and storing away the building blocks. Now, their platform is ready for use, and customers are already lining up at their door.
One such customer is Robert Bull, a former GE executive who now leads software startup AdminaHealth. Bull was an early fan of ServiceNow, and helped the then-startup score one of its first big clients by convincing GE to use the service.
“I was one of the first big ServiceNow clients, but they’ve gotten to a place where the cost per user per month makes it prohibitive to add additional capabilities,” Bull said.
And that’s something Dreamtsoft can do for cheap. With one license, users get access to an IT program like ServiceNow’s, but they also get the keys to the whole platform to build additional programs.
“They’ve created an environment to develop applications with very little coding, unless you need to build algorithms,” Bull said. “I haven’t coded significantly in years and I was able to sit down and use it within minutes.”
Dreamtsoft’s founders say they’re aware that this product goes head-to-head with giants like ServiceNow and Microsoft’s Azure, among others. How will they compete?
“You do a better job for cheaper,” Ruggeri said.
The founders have largely bootstrapped the operation for years, but recently closed $1.25 million from early stage investors, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That round of money flew in fast, Ruggeri said, with investors lining up within one month, and some even turned away.
“It was genuinely shocking to us,” Ruggeri said. “But it was also validating in a lot of ways.”