From Startup to Global Enterprise: A Journey with Dean Guida, CEO of Infragistics

From Startup to Global Enterprise: The Infragistics Story

The ability to adapt is one of the keys to a business’s long-term survival. Infragistics has been around for 35 years, which is impressive for any business, but even more so for a software development company. In this interview, founder and CEO Dean Guida shares how Infragistics has thrived in a highly competitive and fast-paced industry.

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Infragistics has been in business for 35 years (in a rapidly changing industry)
  • Dean built the business while working full-time as a freelance software developer at IBM
  • The company is bootstrapped, and Dean has never taken money from investors


Business Name: Infragistics
Website URL:
Founder: Dean Guida
Business Location: Cranbury, NJ
Year Started: 1989
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 250

Tell us about yourself and your business.

As the founder and CEO of Infragistics, I’ve led my team through decades of technological change, cultivating Infragistics from a small startup in 1989 into a multinational enterprise software business.

Today, I oversee all aspects of Infragistics’ business operations and corporate direction, maintaining a steady focus on delighting the customer and delivering value to the market. With a developer and UX professional community of more than 2 million, we’ve achieved the highest awards in software development, and Infragistics enterprise mobility apps help users collaborate and get insights and results for their companies. Infragistics has operations in six countries, and its client roster boasts 100 percent of the S&P 500, including Fidelity, Morgan Stanley, Exxon, Intuit, and Bank of America.

Like most entrepreneurs, I’m hardwired to overcome challenges personally, no matter how difficult they are. I’m also usually single-mindedly focused on success. I worked tirelessly for years, always displaying what is commonly described as “grit,” a mixture of passion and perseverance. This was the basis of my new book, When Grit is Not Enough: An Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Taking Your Business to the Next Level, which is the blueprint that everyone from team managers to global CEOs and startup founders can use to navigate people, build a lasting culture, compete in the market–and withstand its forces on their path to scaling far beyond what’s possible with grit alone.

Infragistics website

How does your business make money?

Infragistics provides the world’s largest enterprises with tools and solutions to accelerate application design and development and foster team collaboration. Developers use Infragistics’ enterprise-ready UX and UI toolkits to rapidly prototype and build high-performing applications for the cloud, web, mobile and desktop.

Infragistics’ Reveal is an embeddable SDK for SaaS companies to add analytics, dashboards, and conversational analytics to their applications.

App Builder introduces design-to-code efficiencies during the designer-to-developer handoff and is a low-code tool for developers to build commercial applications with high-end professional quality code output.

Slingshot is an AI data-driven work management tool that helps you become agile in execution, make better decisions through AI and data, drive fast execution through a digital work management platform, and create an agile, data-driven learning organization.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

I grew up in Miami, Florida. In high school, I was working at TGI Fridays in the restaurant business, and saving up money to buy a car to take girls out. Then, the IBM PC came out. Instead of buying a car, I bought a decked-out IBM PC for $4,500 with two 360K drives, a color monitor, a dot matrix printer, and a 300K KB modem.

I taught myself to code on it. I used the computer to launch a business with a friend’s older brother, who was a CPA. We created an accounting software program. Despite never releasing it to the public, it was a great learning experience for me. Entrepreneurship was now firmly ingrained in my blood.

How and when did you launch the business?

I attended the University of Miami and earned a systems analysis degree, which is a degree in deterministic and probabilistic models. While I was at the University of Miami, I operated their mainframe at night, working the midnight shift. By day, I participated in the university’s work-study program and fixed their whole payroll system. The VP of HR wrote me a glowing recommendation letter, which helped me get a job operating the mainframes at Sea Escape Cruise Line. The earnings from that job put me through college.

Following college graduation, I headed to Wall Street. For several years I freelanced for such major companies as IBM and AIG. Financially, I was doing well, but I wanted my own company—one that would create simple and beautiful products.

After a year of consulting, I met my partner, and we founded a software company. This meant long hours – I worked at my consulting job during the day to support our new software business and got the company started at night. We never gave up, even when building the company seemed like an uphill climb.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

I saved $25,000, and with my friend Don Preuninger, we launched a business that eventually became Infragistics. Don worked from his mom’s house on Staten Island, coding night and day. My days were spent freelancing for IBM, and my nights, like Don’s, were focused on coding so our dreams could come true. Over the past three decades, I’ve bootstrapped the company – never taking money from investors.

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

We became friendly with the developer tools group at Microsoft. We built the first user interface components that went out with Visual Basic 1.0. We did one of the first UI components for .NET. We had a great relationship with Microsoft. They were and still are wonderful partners of ours. It was amazing how much they took care of you as a small company. They treated us like we were a billion-dollar company. 

Eventually, Infragistics’s UX and UI tools, which we sold to application developers and designers, were used by major international companies, including Intuit, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Bank of America, Fidelity, Ikea, Exxon, and Charles Schwab, as well as by all 911 systems in the United States.

Dean Guida
Photo courtesy of Dean Guida

Tell us about your first year in business.

Early on, my fledgling startup went head-to-head against Microsoft for a deal that would propel us to the forefront of the still nascent internet software industry. In one corner was Microsoft’s Visual Basic. In the other was our UI components and a visual tool to build Windows applications and generate C code. Our company of less than 10 people left that day with a $300k deal. This was 1992.

Seemingly overnight, I had to go from early internet coder to business operator–a feat that forced me to learn some of businesses’ biggest lessons on the job. I immediately began navigating the nuances of scaling a company, hiring, growing teams, becoming a leader, a manager, and a mentor. We no longer just built products; we had to market and sell them, too.

When we developed our first product, the current software was Microsoft Windows 2.0 and C. This software has evolved into UI frameworks for JavaScript, WPF/Windows Forms, iOS, Android, and design tools for prototyping apps with design systems, usability tests and code generation. Infragistics had early success as a startup, but we would not be in business today if we didn’t rebuild our software ahead of each technology shift.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

My 35+-year legacy at Infragistics is a testament to my passion and commitment to stay the course. As a leader, I’ve built a place where the best designers and developers want to work. My leadership experience has pushed us to become an innovator in the developer and business tools market that our customers love and the marketplace respects.

Strategic plans help us allocate financial and personnel resources into our new products, ideas, and operational efficiencies that help grow the company. Goals and objectives are vital for long-term growth and productivity since they provide measurements of success. With these benchmarks, we can define where we are and how we want to grow.

Infragistics is a learning company committed to the scientific method of driving business outcomes and growth hacking, so we’re constantly collaborating and exchanging feedback as we execute the strategic plan. We adjust to changes in the marketplace, customer buying habits, competitors, and other factors. We find out what works and what doesn’t and change the strategic plan when appropriate. The plan allows us to run our current business effectively and still make the investments needed over the next one to three years to remain nimble enough to move where the market is going and have a competitive advantage.

Whether we’re launching new products like App Builder and Slingshot or supporting the continued growth of an existing platform, such as Reveal, the scientific growth hacking method undergirds the work we do and involves several phases. The early phases are determining market fit for our product, creating a hypothesis and a goal, and building awareness of the product. The later phases consist of acquisition, activation, retention, and referrals.

Tell us about your team.

We currently have 250 employees around the globe, with offices in the United States, England, Japan, Bulgaria, Uruguay, and India. I believe the most important ingredient for achieving a cohesive and high-performing team can be summed up in just one word: trust.

Our culture is based on ethics and values, where teams collaborate productively and efficiently at meetings while maintaining deep human connections. Here employees feel passionate about their work and help one another through honest and nonjudgmental feedback. This enables us to find and retain the best talent available. Infragistics is like a great band—a collective effort that creates something amazing, leaving me and my teams with feelings of joy and accomplishment.

What are your future plans for the business?

Several years ago, we began nurturing a new product called “Slingshot” to help businesses collaborate better and put data at the center of their businesses. The Infragistics Innovation Lab, which allows our internal inventors to experiment with innovations beyond the company’s core UI/UX products, ramped up its efforts to develop the Slingshot platform.

Internal and external beta testing honed the software’s features. We wanted the platform to contain a project management interface with native chat functionality, content sharing, and a data catalog that would act as a central location for the data that matters to an organization, so teams can make informed decisions through dashboards.

With the recent launch of Slingshot, we’ve built a workplace where teams can get work done in the digital realm, allowing members to be productive no matter where they are. Slingshot streamlines companies’ workplace tech stacks by giving remote, in-person, and hybrid teams a single place where they can collaborate, make data-driven decisions, set goals, share content, and communicate within the context of the projects they’re working on.

Slingshot is a digital workplace tool that allows successful organizations to seize new opportunities and drive their businesses forward, both now and in the future. It aggregates data analytics, project and information management, chat, and goals-based strategy benchmarking – all in one, intuitive app. Our aspirational goal would be that by the end of 2025, Slingshot will have two million users.

We also continue to improve and expand the capabilities of our other powerful software products, including Reveal, App Builder, and our enterprise-ready UX and UI toolkits.

How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time?

Infragistics’s first year, I still worked full-time as a freelance software developer at IBM. In year two, I was full-time, and it took another two years before we reached a point of reasonable pay for the founders.

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

All successful entrepreneurs have had this feeling at least once: You’re in triage mode. Every new problem that arises takes more and more of your attention. You try to stave off the deluge by plugging as many leaks as possible through an individual Herculean effort, but the dam is about to burst and soon the problems will drown the enterprise.

My “Dutch boy” moment came during what should have been a time of triumph for Infragistics. We had recently merged with one of our competitors—a company that was nearly bankrupt but had a large customer base. It also had many talented employees in design, development, sales, and marketing to add to our team. It seemed like the right move to get us to the next level as a company.

But within months, we were draining cash. So, I did what I had always done—hurled myself throughout the company. I was coding, writing software, traveling the country and the world, pitching our products, conducting public relations, cutting my pay, and on and on.

With my physical and mental exhaustion came a realization: We were now a much bigger company, but we lacked the processes and procedures to execute at this level. I had to discover a new way to help Infragistics win. Developing a thoughtful and cohesive strategic plan for Infragistics so we could become more agile, efficient, and innovative was a turning point for our company.

In my book, I explain how Infragistics became agile enough to respond to the relentlessly changing marketplace. Our leadership is now self-reflective, transparent, and constantly creating an organization where learning is a primary purpose and goal.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

As Sam Reese, CEO of Vistage Worldwide said, “One of the lasting lessons CEOs have learned over the past few years is that there will always be unknowns when it comes to business. Whether it is artificial intelligence, inflation, or global conflict, being prepared for unexpected issues can make or break a company.”

When unexpected issues arise, we practice blameless problem-solving. We demonstrate a relentless solution focus, rather than pointing fingers or dwelling on problems. At Infragistics, we identify lessons learned, socialize them, and use those lessons to improve our processes and outcomes so we don’t make the same mistake twice. Our teams get smarter and learn from every experience.

Another lesson I’ve learned is that internal innovation is one of the best ways to keep a business relevant and employees inspired. If you’re committed to invention and innovation, your employees will be, too. Innovation starts with an idea. It’s this internal innovation that will keep your business relevant and your employees invested in the company. Whether your company is small, medium, or large, there’s always room for realizing your vision through internal innovation.

Leading a company is not just about managing people, selling products, and day-to-day operations. One of the best parts of entrepreneurship is the ability to be creative and come up with new ideas. Entrepreneurs with to dream and invent can encourage others to contribute to innovation in very tangible ways.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

One of the biggest challenges a software company faces is keeping up with technology shifts. As technology changes, startups and even established companies must be able to pivot, quickly shift, and innovate. The ability to adapt is a crucial skill. Infragistics had early success as a startup, but we would not be in business today if we hadn’t rebuilt our software ahead of each technology shift.

Alignment is another challenge. The more a company grows, the more complex its organization becomes, and the more difficult it is to attain consistent alignment toward an agreed-on mission and vision. Alignment has many key benefits, including promoting collaboration, stimulating more efficient decision-making, optimizing roles, facilitating teamwork, and developing a positive company culture.

We have more than 250 employees spread across six offices in the United States and around the world. When our alignment falters, it’s experienced throughout the entire enterprise. An unaligned team feels like a rudderless boat, at the mercy of the currents, headed whichever way the marketplace decides to flow. Conversely, when a vNext Business like Infragistics designs its own alignment, we put our oars into that current and not only navigate our route but also begin to affect the currents themselves.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

  1. You must work hard at everything you do. Many people think that successful people are lucky, but they’re not, they’re just hard workers. Infragistics wasn’t built in a day, and for 35 years, we’ve had to work hard to create products that offer value to customers and continue to innovate as the industry and customers’ needs change.
  1. Going public isn’t always the best route. A lot of people advise you that you can’t grow and survive in the tech world without taking money and/or going public. We have disproved that — organically growing the company for 35 years and turning Infragistics into a global software company.
  1. Be prepared to withstand a recession. We were hurt during the recession of the late 1990s when the .com industry blew up. We were able to recover by staying focused on sales through customer value and managing cash very closely.

The life of an entrepreneur may not be for everyone, but for some, it’s an exhilarating place where you can forge your own path and follow your passion. Problem solving, self-discipline, innovation and flexibility have helped me in tackling the challenges — and rewards — of entrepreneurship as I continue to drive my company into the future while achieving success in the present.

What is your favorite quote?

“Nothing in life worth having comes easy.”

If you had to start from scratch, where would you begin?

Solve a big problem for a customer segment. Finding that unmet need in the market.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

My favorite books include:

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