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Friday, December 20, 2013

Nashua 20/20 Emerging: Paula Long, generating excitement in technology circles

By Ashley Smith

Correspondent

Paula Long arrived in New Hampshire about 20 years ago to work for Digital Equipment Corp., a company that helped launch the computer revolution and establish Greater Nashua as a high-tech hub.

For years, Long watched her co-workers leave Digital Equipment to start their own companies and felt herself being pulled in the same direction. ...

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Paula Long arrived in New Hampshire about 20 years ago to work for Digital Equipment Corp., a company that helped launch the computer revolution and establish Greater Nashua as a high-tech hub.

For years, Long watched her co-workers leave Digital Equipment to start their own companies and felt herself being pulled in the same direction.

“A lot of great companies spawned out of Digital. I was watching all these startups pop up around me,” she said. “I wanted more influence and to set culture. I knew I wanted to do a startup.”

Long would achieve that dream – and then some. She went on to co-found a computer storage company called EqualLogic that was scooped up by Dell in 2008 for a whopping $1.4 billion in cash. Now, she’s the co-founder of another Nashua company that is generating excitement in technology circles.

The new company, DataGravity, received $12 million in funding when it launched in 2012 and another $30 million earlier this year. The company has 50 employees and expects to deliver its first product in the first half of 2014.

Long’s transition from Digital employee to entrepreneur was methodical. When she left Digital, Long decided to join existing startups in various phases of development to learn about the process.

She first joined Bright Tiger Technologies Inc., a company that was later sold to Internet software provider Allaire Corp. Then she joined IronStream Inc., a company in an even earlier phase of development, where she learned to find funding for startups. IronStream didn’t make it, but it was there that Long met her EqualLogic co-founders, Peter Haden and Paul Koning.

Long is considered the driving force behind EqualLogic’s engineering, and she built strong loyalty among staff members there.

“Paula was a huge part of EqualLogic – she built the stuff,” IT analyst Steve Duplessie, founder of Enterprise Strategy Group of Milford, Mass., was once quoted as saying. “One of the very, very rare companies that I’ve dealt with who laid out an outrageously aggressive development plan, and always hit it. I give her a ton of credit for that.”

Long stayed with Dell for about two years after EqualLogic was purchased, but the itch to have more direct influence over a company returned. Long briefly worked for a robotics company after Dell before leaving that position to form DataGravity.

DataGravity was co-founded with John Joseph, who was a vice president at EqualLogic. The firm aims to make large-scale data analysis, so called “big data,” available to small- and mid-size businesses. Long has long been intrigued by the concept, having bought the company’s URL in 2004.

Unlike the technology, Long’s hopes for the company are simple: lots of customers and a happy, positive culture.

“I’d like to see us with thousands and thousands of happy customers because I think that’s a measure of success,” she said.

Aside from work, Long is a big supporter of Nashua-based Girls Inc. of New Hampshire, a nonprofit that works to boost confidence in young girls. But in the midst of building a startup, she’s not finding much time for outside interests.

“As a founder, work is your entire life, she said. “So most of my outside activities are sort of curtailed at the moment.”