In episode 48 of EnterpriseReady, Grant Miller is joined by Sanjay Poonen. This expansive conversation draws on Sanjay’s long and storied career in software, from the early engineering days at Apple and Microsoft to his executive and entrepreneurial experience building and scaling multi-billion dollar businesses like VMware. Together, Grant and Sanjay unpack invaluable lessons on engineering, product management, marketing, sales, work-life balance, and much more.
Grant Miller: All right, Sanjay. Thank you so much for joining.
Sanjay Poonen: Hey, Grant. A pleasure to be with you. I've heard a lot about these podcast series, and it's an honor to be with you today.
Grant: Yeah. We're very excited to have you. Let's dive in. Tell us a little bit about your background, how you got into enterprise software. You've had such an amazing career, tell us how it got started?
Sanjay: Well, listen, Grant. I've got really humble roots, I don't know that there was a perfectly articulated plan. It's sort of like a river that meanders.
If you had told me when I was 18 about this term called enterprise software, I wouldn't have known what you were talking about. But growing up in India, I'm an immigrant who came to this country, we'll get to that in a second, I liked maths, I liked physics, I liked the sciences.
I wanted to be an engineer of some sort, and then I remember when I first started playing with an old computer, one of those computers that you load software from a cassette tape.
I mean, that's how old, in the 1980s. I really liked to program and play games, and then I began to understand the basics of BASIC, so to speak, computer science language, and logic and things of those kind. So I said, "Okay, you know what? I want to study computer science."
And it was very clear that software was starting to become important, I had heard about these things called PCs. We're talking now the mid to late 80s.
Then I was very fortunate to get a scholarship to come to the United States to study computer science at Dartmouth.
Most often people who come from India come here in their graduate programs, but I came here as an 18 year old, $50 in my pocket.
I was very fortunate to have a scholarship. So my tour into this country really started with the quest to study computer science and become a software engineer.
Enterprise software all happened much, much later. I just wanted to be a coder and a developer and a software engineer, and I was very fortunate to have a really good curriculum at Dartmouth.
They were one of the first schools to really embrace personal computing, they encourage every study to have a Mac, so I spent a little of my savings to go and buy that first Mac Plus. So there was lots of these early forms of Apple or Microsoft that were prevalent at Dartmouth and that really exposed me to some fundamental principles.
Dartmouth was also one of the first schools to invent time sharing and the idea of what's the popular aspects of the internet now, in that day and age with just a mainframe computer. So many of those concepts that are today very pervasive, in the 90s I started to learn very early, and I was very grateful for that foundation.
Grant: Amazing. So then you came from India, got a scholarship, which that's got to be a tough thing to do for sure. And you got a chance to go to school at Dartmouth, you graduated with a computer science degree, I'm assuming.
Then you started your first job, and I think you were at Apple for a little while. Is that right?
Sanjay: Yeah. So Grant, my first job was actually at Microsoft between my junior and senior year, they employed students to... It was almost nine months between my junior and my senior year and I had gotten into an internship with Microsoft.
This was in 1990, spring, summer of 1990. I had a great time there. Microsoft Windows 3 had just come out. The company only had 2,000 employees. The interns, there weren't many of them, probably 50 or 100 of us, all had a party at Bill Gates' house. So it was one of those things that was just phenomenal, just to see this software company really changing the world through personal computing.
I was a developer just eager to learn, building code, what eventually became Microsoft Exchange but at that time was called WorkProreps, so I had a great time there.
When I graduated I ended up coming to Apple. These were the two companies. Ironically, I wrote a blog earlier this year about my 2022 predictions, and we're talking about Apple, Microsoft today.
But in 1991 we were talking about two companies, Apple and Microsoft. They were rivals with each other.
Grant: That's funny, yeah.
Sanjay: So I came here to work at Apple as a software engineer and that was my first foray into the Silicon Valley. I knew nobody here, but I just wanted to work at Apple.
These were the wilderness years of Steve Jobs, he'd actually been fired from the company and there were other people running the company.
But the ghost of Steve Jobs was still around, people talked about how design principles... Which I'm sure we'll talk a lot design thinking and so on.
So those were things that were user centric design, all of those things were things that got ingrained very early into my mindset, thanks to my experience at Apple for the first four years that I was here in the Silicon Valley.
Grant: It's funny what a breeding ground some companies like Apple and Microsoft can be for the next generation of talent.
You obviously went on to many roles after that. It looks like you started a company after Apple, is that right?
Sanjay: Yeah. Listen, I'm just going to back it up for a second. I didn't think of myself as this great talent, "I'm going to go to Apple."
I was the youngest engineer there, I just wanted to learn, and I think that's one trend that's really done me well. Carol Dweck wrote this book on Growth Mindset, that's really stuck with me, which is, "Listen, you have an inquisitive mind and you're trying not to be a know it all, but a learn it all."
You're looking for people that know more than you that you can learn from. You're asking questions. You're asking, "Can I take you to lunch?"
I was the youngest engineer on the totem pole and they were all these incredibly smart engineers who I revere, and I wanted to understand how they thought about stuff and they were willing to take me under their wings. I mean, age, I have no problem asking stupid questions.
So I'm just grateful for those first four years for people who were willing to invest in me, answered questions. Both Microsoft had that same type of mindset.
Anyway, so four years into it, the project I was working on at Apple spun up a division into a company called Tallagen.
I joined the venture and it wasn't going anywhere. Much later on Apple dissolved all of that stuff and when Steve Jobs came back, Next became that core operating system. The experience was very good.
I ended up taking two years off and going to Business School at Harvard, got my MBA and came back, and that's when most Business School students when they come back, and I was an engineer, but they typically go and become management consultants or investment bankers.
I chose to come back to my roots and become one of the founding members of a company.
So I didn't actually found it myself, but I was part of the founding team, building analytics applications, a company called Alphablocks. A great idea of building analytical applications for the web, the internet was just starting to come out and this was my first kind of tenure as a product manager.
You still are coding a little bit as a product manager, but not as actively as a C, C++, Java developer on the developer side.
But I will tell you the thing that I got turned onto product management, my last job at Apple/Tallagen was still doing software engineering, but I remember doing the demo of the software we were building, and I really liked doing that demo.
I built the demo, I built it to be engaging, and when I did the demo a bunch of product management people came to me in the audience and said, "Why are you in engineering? You should be the product manager."
I said, "What's a product manager?"
"You get to do these demos."
"Really? Well, it can't be that complicated."
But I began to realize that the art and science of building a product was a skill to itself, you got to talk to customers, you worked with engineers to build a product.
You didn't actually necessarily have to code, and I began to like that. So my first foray coming out of business school was in product management, and of course as a founding member of a small company you do everything.
You're doing product management, you're doing product marketing, you're doing a little bit of engineering, you're doing whatever it is to take this company off the ground from zero in revenue and zero customers, to 10, 50, 100, and that was a tremendous experience for the next four years.
Grant: It sounds like that was the first time you were really building, what we would call today, enterprise software, right?
You're selling the software, Alphablocks, to other companies. I'm guessing you're selling it as software at that point, right?
Sanjay: Yeah. That's absolutely right, Grant. That was my first foray to B2B enterprise software as you'd call it today.
Again, I now know that term, software that's sold to other enterprises or to governments or so and so forth. I really liked analytics, I'm a data and analytics guy.
That was actually my first foray also into the space of data and analytics and data warehousing and business intelligence, predictive analytics, AI, all those things.
In those days we didn't use all the terms that today have become a lot more popular, but I was very interested in my thesis work at both as an undergrad at Dartmouth and then later at Harvard.
It was around optimization, algorithms, I had done some masters work at Stanford in optimization and operations. So I really liked analytics, and this was a software company focused on that area, and we sold to businesses.
So yeah, understanding what it took to both build software that was best of breed, relative to competition, how do you win a customer, watching sales teams that were really good, understanding the sales cycle. Those were my first forays into understanding how enterprise software worked, and it was tremendous.
Again, when you're a young kid from the block, you can come in with a little bit of an arrogance when you have a Harvard MBA, to think you know it all. But you know nothing about selling.
Just because you have an MBA from an Ivy League school doesn't mean that you know how to sell software.
You never learned. I found it tremendously educational to just hang with some of the best sales people who've had maybe 10, 20, 30 years of selling experience, learn from the scars on their back of what makes a good sales process, and watch them at work.
Because even as a product manager, as an engineer, you're learning something you don't know which is the art of selling, the art of marketing.
I think when you're at a startup that you have no brand relevance in the world, you don't have the... Apple and Microsoft have a safety net, which is their brand, but for an unknown company like in the case of Alphablocks or every startup that starts something, you have to create interest in your product when nobody knows who you are.
That takes a lot of work, it takes standing in trade shows and talking to hundreds of thousands.
At that time it was like you go to trade shows and you're sitting doing demo booth duty for a whole day, your legs are tired but you made a lead, you take that lead seriously.
So that sort of old school style of learning how to both build a product and then sell it, and product management is often at the center of all of that, is a tremendous learning experience.
Another lesson I would share with people is if you're an engineer who wants to get close to the customer, the best time to do it, especially as a startup, is to ask yourself do you have a passion for dealing with customers? Are you a good presenter?
There was one skill that I certainly had as a child growing up, was I was a good speaker, I was a good communicator, I could give compelling presentations, I knew how to appeal to an audience.
And you can put that skill to work in a product management job, and typically if you're technical because your roots are in engineering, I'm a computer science, electrical engineer by background. I wrote code.
No one's going to BS you on the capabilities of the product because in many cases you may have built it. But often because you built it, then you can understand how to explain it in simple terms, because the vast part of the world is so complex.
Da Vinci said something that always stood with me, which is, "Simplicity is the greatest sophistication."
So when you find a way to be able to take something that's complex, and enterprise software is extremely complex, and you can simplify it over and over and over again to make sure that people who know nothing about what you do can understand it, that's an incredible art.
Grant: Yeah. I'd have written a shorter letter if I had more time, kind of concept. Right? It takes a lot of effort to simplify things and to really distill things down to their most valuable components.
Sanjay: Such a great, profound line. There's a reason they call it an Elevator Pitch.
I'll build on one of those examples you talked about, "If I had more I'd write a shorter letter."
Abraham Lincoln was asked, I believe the story goes that he was asked, "How long do you take to prepare for a five minute speech?"
A reporter asked him, he said, "It takes me five days." And the reporter was like, "Wow. It takes you that long? How long does it take you to prepare for a 15 minute speech?" And Lincoln said, "Three days." Whoa now, the reporter is really stumped, third question, "How long does it take you to prepare for a 45 minute speech." He said, "I'm ready right now."
So the more long winded you have to be, you can... and you are not as tight. So I encourage, especially now, now we're talking a little bit of moving away from the coding part of it, which is where I started my life, to the presentation aspect.
I often see product managers, and often it goes all the way up to CEOs because CEOs often are a product manager. They're very sloppy in the way they present what they do, they haven't really thought through how to make it simple and compact, and it's like---
Telling an aspect of your product or your company is like telling a story, right? Nobody wants to listen to a boring story. Every great story has a beginning and it has an end, once upon a time, they lived happily ever after. So you have to think about the way in which you're going to present your product or your company in a way that's an incredibly compelling story.
Just like Tom Sawyer, while we're talking about these great... Huckleberry Finn, whatever these great novelists that you admire. I think way too often in enterprise software we gravitate to the complex, we take courage, we take a stand behind and hide behind the complexity and we don't do enough...
Certainly someone like Steve Jobs was probably the best I've seen in the industry at being able to take complexity and make it so simple. He did it over and over and over again. Probably the best was the launch of the iPhone, which we talked about.
But I think that was what I learned in a rigorous fashion, if I take one significant experience from a no name startup company to being a product management leader there, is how do you create relevancy and simplicity with what you're doing? Differentiation?
All of those skills that you need. It prepared me significantly for the bigger jobs that I had later. I go back to many of those core skills I learnt in those first four years working right out of Business School, in the trenches as an entry level product manager at a startup that nobody knew.
Grant: Then the other thing that's interesting, is that was during the first bubble, right? So Netscape went public, everything was crazy. So what happened to Alphablocks?
Sanjay: Yeah. Great story. In fact, I would argue most of my life lessons have happened where when you look at someone like me now, you're like, "You must've had such an open into the right story."
My life story is a bunch of valleys and peaks and valleys and peaks, and I've learned a lot more in the valleys of my life than the peaks. The peaks are nice, but quite frankly, if you've hit a peak you're probably going into the valley again. It's the story of life.
My time at Apple ended because the division of Apple that I was involved with, Tallagen, was going nowhere, I decided to leave. Alphablocks, in fact one of my lead partners was Netscape. I watched the implosion of Netscape. I mean, I saw some of the key reasons why Netscape was not successoftwareul.
And some of it was also the, what people would now say, monopolistic behavior of Microsoft with Internet Explorer, but there were missteps and misexecutions that Netscape did. They were our key partner, down the street from us in Mountain View. But Alphablocks also had many missteps, and I think I reflect on that.
I wasn't the CEO of the company, but I reflect on what I would've done if I was the CEO of the company.
And then of course we hit the year 200, the end of Dotcom, 9/11, and by that point I decided like, "OK. You know what? This was a good run, I want to do something different."
And that's where I went to Informatica, and my life's been for the most part, except for the last 16 years, four year chunks. Four years in one company, four years another.
So I went from Alphablocks to Informatica, still the same space, data, analytics. I love that industry, and spent about four years there.
Now I was in a much more advanced role. I was now running engineering and product teams as a general manager, and then later on as CMO of the company.
So I was in much more of an executive role there, but I don't think I would've been ready for that had it not been for the experience I had at Alphablocks.
I think it was tremendously good experience to prepare me for a more executive role in Informatica. Because once you're an executive, now everything is different.
I mean people are watching you. As a product manager, you're not as much watched, you're not part of the executive team, you're contributing to that.
But when stuff doesn't happen, you can blame the executive team, "I'm just following their orders." So to speak.
But when you are a leader, there's a saying that I think used to be said in many of the countries that had kings and queens, "Heavy lies the head that bears the crown."
So people like you and me, Grant, who are leaders of a business, it all falls on us. At the end of the day, the buck stops with us, we take responsibility as the C level executive of the company and that comes with a lot of onus.
I began to realize how important the sanctity and the future of my team, whether it was 50, 100, a few hundred people, and that lesson stood with me all the way through to much larger teams that I managed at SAP and the tens of thousands of people.
But when you get your first team of five people or 50 people or 100 people, you become like a mini parent to them.
It's not pedantic in the sense that they're literally your children, because some of them might be even older than your age.
But you have to think about their success like you think about your kids. They have families. They have lives. They want to be motivated.
They want to see someone who really has got their interests in mind, rather than your own.
I mean, this notion of servant leadership, I began to build that concept in my own thinking at Informatica.
So it was a tremendously valuable experience, there were some ups and downs in the business we can get to if you want.
But I would say the end of my Informatica tenure was actually a very abrupt one because I got fired from the company.
I've talked about this publicly, one fine day the CEO pulls me aside and says, "Listen." I had moved from an engineering job to running marketing for the company, and I wouldn't say a pure marketing job is my forte.
I'm a product guy at heart, and I think I like building product and selling product. I think the CMO role was probably not my strength, but I thought I was doing a decent job.
Still a real shock when he said, "Listen, I want to bring in somebody else to run the marketing at the company." And effectively sidelining me and firing me.
Although they didn't use those words. I was doing a decent job, I knew I was being shown the door, and it was very humbling.
It was the first time in my career that someone was saying, "Hey." I thought I was doing really well, I am a Type A person who wants to excel at everything I do, and I thought I was, and so did my peers at the company.
But the CEO didn't think so, and I had to go through a little bit of humiliation to realize.
Again, these are all the valleys of my life. You think you're working at Apple, it's not working out, you leave, you're working at Alphablocks, the company is not going well, you go to Informatica. It's going well, but then you have this.
I remember telling my friends, "I think the season is over on this thing, but hey, I'll bounce back up." I took six months off, it was very helpful for me to just...
Any time you have those breaks in life, either because you choose to have it or someone choose it for you, I tell people, "Really do self reflection of what motivates you. Clean up your life if you need to, or go and help other people."
Because in that you start to soul search, and I needed to lose some weight, get back in better health, help some people in my life that I could spend more time with, and ultimately that season also helped me meet the wonderful person I'm no married to.
I'm not saying I wouldn't have met her if I had been, but it allowed me the time to slow down and really think about what's next. I ended up then working at Symantec for two years, but then began for the 16 years after that, around 2004, 2005, two incredible runs I have had at SAP and VMWare.
Which we could talk a lot about, because I would say most of my enterprise learning, enterprise software, were built at companies like Alphablocks and Informatica and Symantec, but most of my, I would say, school of hard knocks happened at SAP and VMWare between the last 16 years.
Grant: Yeah. So let's dive into that. Let's start with SAP where you had very major roles.
I remember being on Hacker News a couple years ago, and there's a post from a company called Retool and the post says, "What is SAP?"
So there's all these engineers, and it's a very upvoted article because I think for a lot of folks probably listening to this podcast, they've heard of SAP, they don't really understand what it is and why it matters and why it's a $100 billion plus market cap company.
So one, it would be great to just get a little context on what is SAP? What is ERP software? Why does this matter?
And then talk a bit about all the things you did there and you learned there, I think this is probably where you started to develop some of those early frameworks around go to market motion and product and things. So yeah, let's dive in.
Sanjay: I love that you ask me what the heck is SAP, because that's such a relevant Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, whatever you call the current generation of developers. Why should I care?
I mean, they've all heard of Google, they've all heard of Facebook, and then they don't know what is SAP. Listen, the best way to describe what it is, is when you balance your books at home, either you do it on a spreadsheet or on some web based accounting software, or if you've got QuickBooks or something.
You use what's called accounting software to do debits and credits and balance your books.
A general ledger for a big company, in essence, is that accounts payable, accounts receivable, you balance your finances in a ledger.
That software, accounting software, the company that is the king of that hill is SAP.
It's not like accounting software didn't exist, but in the 70s it was done on mainframes, and they were the first to take that notion of how to build... ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, but it's really resource planning, that's really what accounting is in client service offered.
This is well before, you're talking the late 70s, early 80s, when you had servers and potentially laptops, and they designed this, really did this well.
Went and focused on a couple of key industries like oil and gas, became very quickly the household name amongst CFOs, Chief Financial Officers, for systems of record for accounting.
Now, fast forward way fast to 2005 or so when I joined the company. These systems of record, accounting systems are like a system of record where data is stored.
But you want to analyze the data to detect patterns. "Okay, I have done all these sales, but what product sold the best? Why? When? How?"
That analytics software, SAP was weak at, and there was a whole host of companies, Alphablocks was one of them, BusinessObjects, Hyperion, Cognos, in the 2000s leading up to 2005.
They were all building business intelligence analytics software where they took data from those systems of record, like SAP, and systems of engagement were companies like BusinessObjects and others.
I'd always felt, and this is what I told... I remember Shaya Agassi was the president of SAP, running all products and I met him. He was a phenomenal person.
My first thought was, "Here's this German software company with an Israeli guy running it."
That story in itself was amazing. It was in Palo Alto and he was really shaking up the way SAP software was being built. When he interviewed me for the role I said, "Listen, I've always felt if SAP really took analytics seriously and created those systems of engagement, they would just wreck all these other companies that are trying to do it standalone because you have the data."
The systems of record are all SAP, you just haven't built the analytics, and he said it was exactly what we needed to do. So fortunately he hired me in and I began to build out the analytics strategy and portfolio of products of SAP one by one.
Organically, did some acquisitions, then we did the big one of BusinessObjects that I eventually got to run, and we built a multibillion dollar analytics business that in the 2005, let's say to 2010, era was one of the key reasons SAP went from 10 billion to 20 billion.
I would say during that run of 10 billion to 20 billion, half of that revenue came from the products I built or was managing.
Later on I moved a little bit more to the go to market side. But we built out Hana, which was an in memory appliance that came underneath the business intelligence analytics software and aggregated data in memory really fast.
We took that product from zero to a billion really fast. So that entire tour of duty of really understanding the analytics stack was fantastic.
I mean, if I want to share a framework here, one of the.... There's two or three things that I learned from Shaya Agassi. He's since left SAP before I left.
But I would say there's two or three things that I learned from him that I would still take away as very key lessons.
He would ask us, "If you're going to do something in a space, how much better is it than the alternative?"
We said, "It's 2X." He's like, "That's not enough. How do you do things 10X better than that?"
And that notion of 10X stayed in my head, it's the first time I'd heard it. He wasn't satisoftwareied with just something that was a repeat, he wanted something that was 10X better.
Even if it wasn't 10X, you were shooting for the stars and then you may land on the moon, so to speak. So often if you only shoot for 2X, you may end up with something that is just incrementally better. Then the second thing he would always ask us is why not? Just keep asking why?
You say, "We can't do this." Well, why not? Just keep asking that question over and over and over again, because sometimes it just breaks down these barriers of artificial impossibility that sit in your head, and forces you to say, "No, no. We're going to break through that wall. Why not?" And then the third question he would really pose is what if.
What if we introduce something? And it would always be something revolutionary, the guy was an absolute visionary thinker. Again, unconstrained in a room before you start to write code or plan out, you should be asking these questions. Certainly as a business leader, which is what I was as a business unit leader at that time.
Encouraging engineering teams, product teams, go to market teams, and I was very fortunate too.
I mean, the SAP experience really taught me not just exercising those three questions over and over again in the business we were building. But the global presence.
One thing that's so amazing about SAP, it's a German company that built an incredible presence in the US, and to be successoftwareul there you really had to... I mean, I was an Indian American. I had to go spend time in Germany.
I remember taking the Lufthansa flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt, I think it was a 454 was the number.
I even remember the number. I had my favorite seat on that plane, because I did so many flights from San Francisco to Frankfurt and then from there to Waldorf to get to know the German team in Waldorf.
It's one of those relationships, because there's probably 20 or 30,000 people in Waldorf, you've got to get to know them in person.
Go have food with them and beer, whatever have you.
And once they know and they trust you, you can really get things done even if it's remotely, whether it's Bangalore or Germany or the US, and I really learned a lesson that even when you're working in this remote world...
Of course, Zoom makes a tremendous difference because doing this with video is so much different than just doing phone calls.
Those days, all we had was conference calls. But for the first few meetings with people, it makes a huge difference to be face to face, and press the flesh and get to know them.
Even in engineering jobs. Half of my eight years at SAP I was building products, and then the last four years I moved to a go to market role where I was selling many of those products. Then on the selling side I had tremendous learnings, which we'll talk about.
But I really loved my time at SAP. It was a tremendous learning.
Grant: Yeah. So talk a little bit about the early years there, because one of the most important things is I think one of the hard things.
I've talked to a lot of different founders about this, to maintain and define, particularly as you get bigger, is to get great product and engineering philosophy right.
But it sounds like you built many of these products, I mean Hana is still a massive product for SAP, and a foundation for what they're doing.
So was it the leadership? How did you get teams to really produce such foundational, game changing products?
Sanjay: I wouldn't say that our strength was velocity. Certainly some of these game changing products were.
We had to build that sort of scrum, agile mentality into the company, sometimes through acquisition.
But certainly Hana was a good example. I wasn't responsible for the engineering aspect of that, my colleague Vishal Shikra and his team built that, but at that time I was responsible for the go to market of Hana.
But I'll tell you, in the other analytics products that we built, we would often acquire companies that were in an area where we were weak.
So we acquired a company named OutlookSoft that competed with Hyperion and others. But they did budgeting and planning and consolidations processes for analytics way better than us, and it provided us a very nimble Excel-like experience.
And none of these companies are perfect. Listen, I'm sure years later there's things about the scalability of that solution. But the user experience was so much easier.
One of the challenges at SAP was it was an extremely functional German car, but the user experience of many of our products sucked. It just was terrible.
You would say this is a beautiful, highly functional car, but hard to use. The screens look terrible.
Could you give me a Facebook, Google-like experience on top of that? So often not just skinning it differently, but having software that integrated deeply with SAP but was extremely to use.
We acquired companies like them and allowed that speedboat to operate alongside the big aircraft carrier, so it wasn't going to be out there on its own.
It got all of the benefit of being close to this mothership, but then could move fast in its own lane, you got the best of both worlds.
Then we would use those engineering teams that came in, put a lot of incentives to get them to say, you couldn't get them to stay forever. But at least two, three, four years. So they brought some of that agility and fast mindset. In the case of Hana, it was all done organically.
Listen, Hasan the chairman was the brainchild behind driving in-memory, he had a passion for that, he had been lecturing at his university in the past to them, about in-memory. There's something unique about founders that have a passion, and he's one of them.
He drove with a maniacal speed capabilities that needed to be done. We moved extremely fast, and then he was hands on in terms of its success and features and functions. For why?
Because he wanted to disrupt Oracle, the Oracle database was often running underneath SAP. So he had a passion for it, and I would say he was certainly the spiritual force behind the success of Hana.
Grant: Interesting. I didn't even realize, but your point there is you would buy SAP's ERP system, but underneath you would have an Oracle database that was where all that data was stored. Right?
So you would set up the database and then set up the SAP software to talk to that Oracle database?
Sanjay: Yeah. Think of SAP like an application.
It's an application layer, the data then sits in the database. We didn't own the database often, and the database was just as important because you'd set rules and logic in the database.
And because we weren't a database company, most often SAP applications run on the world's greatest database.
And Oracle was comfortable with that because... They are now today a lot more in the application space, but in that day and age they needed SAP to sell a lot more Oracle databases. So in fact, there was a good partnership between the two companies.
But once Oracle started to get in the app space, they bought Peoplesoft and Sebel, and SAP had to ask ourselves, "Do we get in the database space?"
And for a long time we didn't. But once we had Hana, it gave us an avenue, even though we were primarily an apps company, to have a database or a data layer that we owned that was differentiated.
I mean, it was differentiated in the sense it was in memory. With memory, with RAM pricing being different, flash price.
You had a variety of doing things as an appliance. This was all before the cloud.
The way in which Snowflake is now doing this in the context of a cloud based data warehouse, which is where we arrived, the likelihood to do it prior to that was as a very fast in-memory appliance.
So it was a lot, again, and I knew very little about appliances and hardware. I was very much a software guy, but to learn how to build that. Often it was done with HP and Dell and IBM.
It was a fantastic learning experience, and for that period of time we took that business from zero to a billion really fast, 1,000 customers and really got it off the ground.
Those I would say, analytics, big data, and then the third business I was very involved in running was the mobile business of SAP, which was really a tremendous learning and led later on to the foray that I was able to start off in VMWare with.
From my perspective, working for a large global software company, SAP, eventually I was president there, helping drive the company from 10 billion to 20 billion, which was a tremendous learning experience, and getting the breadth of both an engineering job at scale and a go to market job at scale.
Big companies allow you rotation, I worked for probably one of the best bosses in the world, Bill McDermott who's now CEO of Silverstar. I have tremendous respect for him.
A lot of what I learned, especially on the selling side, I learned from him. But I take these opportunities as an engineer, I'm an engineer product guy, to really get a scaled experience at go to market.
It happened at SAP and I have so much gratitude to many of the great sales leaders, chief of all Bill McDermott, that simple... I mean I could write a case study of all of the things you want to do as a go to market leader, lesson after lesson after lesson that I took out of the McDermott University, so to speak.
It was fantastic, and those have stayed with me to this day.
Grant: Yeah. Let's dive into a few of those because I think one thing I love is when someone is building products and then goes into more of a customer facing role and has to be like, "I just built all that stuff and now I have to go actually sell it and see customers use it. Okay, this is going to get real, right?"
And so you're stuck with your baby that you helped create, and now you need to go take it to the world. So it's kind of like the right responsibility and to give someone that chance.
Sanjay: Yeah. I think the lesson is true of innovation.
I remember I was a product guy and Bill invited a bunch of us product people. This must've been 2009 or so, it was about four years into my tenure.
So think of me as like all the way from 1991 to 2009, 18 years I've been a product and engineering guy.
I've done some product management, never really on the dark side, so to speak, sales and marketing.
So a bunch of us product people were presenting at Bill McDermott's sales leadership meeting, I think it was at the end of the quarter and I think it had been a tough quarter for us. Maybe we didn't make our numbers, I forgot what the context was.
He lined up a bunch of us product people, and then at the end of that he pulled me aside and said, "Hey, listen. You are hands down the best person presenting your product area, but you're in the wrong side of the business. You need to be on the sales side, not the engineering side."
I said, "What are you talking about?" He said, "No, come work for me." And it was clearly a recruiting pitch.
But I was like, "Well, you know, I don't know. I don't want to be flying around 70% of the time."
I mean I always viewed sales guys as they're just traveling around, and when you don't make your number you're going to be fired.
I wasn't worried about being fired. I was like, "Okay. You know what?" I didn't think that that was what I'd be good at, and I didn't want to be flying around.
I had my wife and I had a daughter, and then twins were on the way, so we had two more kids coming soon.
But he was like, "Hey, don't worry about it. It may be 70%, it may be less, but you'll learn. But you need to make a decision by this Friday."
So I had that conversation on Monday or Tuesday, and by Friday, Saturday he needed it done because he was going to make a decision.
So I called a couple of people that said, "Hey, listen." They said, "The opportunity to learn from Bill is once in a lifetime. You should take the job." I was like, "Okay, fine."
So I did, and I will tell you, I learned. The first lesson was essentially what you were talking about, you'd learn tremendous empathy for sales people once you get in their shoes.
As a product guy you're always like, "That guy can't sell. If only the sales person knew how to sell my product, it would be better."
Okay, let's see how you would do it, and you get in that person's shoes and you realize, "My goodness, it's tough."
You have to make this thing, first off you realize the flaws in the product that you built, but then sometimes you realize, "Hey, if this thing is not competitively better than the competition, even the best sales leader is not going to be able to get an intro or whatever have you."
So I have to really understand differentiation, what's the unique selling proposition? Secondly, you learn to be extremely... If I have to take away a lesson, customer focused. Bill was so good.
He'd have a meeting with a customer and within 24 hours there'd be a nice letter back to the customer saying, "Thank you for meeting with me. Here are the follow up three, four, five items." I'm like, "Whoa."
And that's like anybody's CIO who was bought from Bill McDermott, I'll tell you that's a Bill... I mean he is so thorough with his follow up, and typically I'd be copying along to those emails because the actions were to me, as one of his lieutenants, like, "Go do this, go do that."
But it didn't matter, here I am being copied with the CEO/CIO of a big company, and as a result of doing that your Rolodex expands.
You're just starting to meet all these people because you're getting into meetings. I'd be like, "Hey, I don't care. If I can get on a sales call with a C level executive with Bill, he's going to put me in the meeting. I want to go, and I'll take any of the action items that come out of it." That's the second lesson.
Then the third, I could go on and on, but let me give you a third one and then pause for a second. Embrace escalations.
Most often engineers or people who come from engineering, product, a lot of times when it comes to an escalation they run, they flee for the hills. They don't want to be involved because they either want to blame the customer or the consultant or the sales rep, and it's never their call. I began to learn, like, listen, the best time to embrace a customer is during an escalation, with the hope that you can turn their rants into raves.
Sometimes I wasn't successoftwareul, but I will tell you, the times I engaged and doubled down with a customer during an escalation, and I turned them around, those customers are my customers even today. They call me like, "Hey, how are you?"
They became friends for life. It's a lot like a doctor. In many cases when you're dealing with a customer as a sales rep or a go to market person, you're like a doctor, you're prescribing things to them.
And you think about the doctor who has done a surgical operation on you that saved your life, man, you're forever grateful to that medical professional.
I think it's the same way when you have a consultative way of not shoving product down their throat, but consultatively doing what's right by them, even in some cases saying, "Hey, we're not ready. I'm not ready for right now. Give us six to twelve months, and if you end up buying our competitor, that's okay. But I want to learn what are the missing features, I'll come back to you in twelve months."
I can't tell you the number of CIOs who were like, "Man, I'm so amazed that you are willing to say that."
So all of those lessons of what we would call customer success and customer excellence today, I learned working for Bill. Then there's many, many tactical things I take away, how to run a forecast call well.
It was just amazing, man. I tell you, during those four years from 2009 to 2013, I just had a ball, I would say learning many of these lessons. And there were others, Bill wasn't the only person.
Rob Enslin who now runs sales at Google, a good friend of mine, watching him at Action Pristine.
Great, great. I mean he's one of the best. It's a little bit like sports, right? You watch these athletes, you're good at something, if not you wouldn't be playing in the same field as them, but you watch somebody else who's got a craft and they're really good at it, and good athletes, they're in there competitive.
But LeBron is respecting Colby, Magic Johnson is respecting Michael Jordan, Patrick Mahones is respecting Tom Brady.
There's respect because you see something they've done that you want to learn from, and that's I think the tremendous aspect of leadership. I think as a leader we've always got to look to people.
Grant, when I first met you and I started to hear what you were trying to do at Replicate, I was like, "Man, there is a fire in your belly, there are things that you're looking to do in your small company that I want to learn from."
So as much as you're making this interview about me sharing lessons, part of the reason I agreed to do it was I like what you're doing with the company and I like the hunger that you have, and the ways in which you are exploring making yourself relevant in platforms and containers and Kubernetes and everything at Replicated, is something I want to learn from.
The day you, as a leader, start to think you know it all and don't need to learn is quite frankly the day you will die.
Not literally die, you will die mentally and certainly die in relevance to other people who want to learn from you.
So I think when you do that, you're a happy person because every exploratory conversation with somebody else as you're asking them questions, as opposed to just talking, talking, talking all the time.
Grant: Yeah. And you said something earlier that I thought was a great way to wrap that up, which was, "Don't be a know it all, be a learn it all."
I don't think I've ever heard someone say it that way, but I love that because it makes tons of sense. I mean, a core value at Replicated is always curiosity.
Sanjay: Ask Carol Dweck. There's a great book called The Growth Mindset, I'm just quoting her. She's fantastic.
It really applied to learning, when I first read her book it was about children, you want to develop a learning mindset.
When you think about a kid, they ask questions that are very open ended. Here is a good example of an open ended question, why is the sky blue?
That's a very open ended question. Adults tend to ask a question like this, "Hey, isn't the sky blue?" That's a close ended question, right? So when we start to ask more inquisitive, why, how, what if, things of those kinds, you learn a lot.
So she was writing how kids tend to be in that stage where even when they have failures, you want to develop the learning mindset, learning mindset, learning mindset. "Okay, I made a mistake. That's okay, it's not the end of the world. What did I do wrong? I learn, I move forward."
Certainly celebrate the victories, but when you have that mindset you start to build that part of your brain, which is a learn it all. I found it to be extremely helpful to not just... I mean, you could apply that to your kids, which is good, but you can also apply that certainly to our leadership, growth.
Satya Nadella, if you read his book Hit Refresh, he is all over Carol Dweck's research. He used this as his basis of his coming out as CEO of Microsoft, and that's what turned the company around.
His growth mindset was what put Microsoft on a very different trajectory eight, nine years ago, whenever Satya took over as CEO of the company.
Grant: Wow. That's great. The idea of constantly learning and coming at things with curiosity, I find to be just a really important approach.
Even when you think you understand in a personal relationship, or if you think you knew someone's motivations or why something happened, bringing that sort of curiosity into even personal relationships and just trying to make sure that you know that you aren't in somebody else's mind, right?
You actually need to approach how are they receiving this and perceiving everything with curiosity?
That way you can actually learn like, "Oh, they weren't thinking in the thing that you were ascribing to their intentions."
I've found that stepping back and just asking questions in the beginning for anything, to clear up much more misunderstanding than trying to say, "Hey, I think you did this because of X, Y and Z."
You're trying to almost accuse somebody of doing something, right? It's much better to like, "Hey, tell me more about what happened here. How did this happen?"
That's been a huge growth opportunity for me in the last year, realistically.
Sanjay: I think that's great, Grant. Well said. Listen, I want to hang around, I'll tell you the type of people I want to hang around are people that I could learn from, that, "Hey, I want to ask you questions any time we meet."
Unfortunately this podcast is a lot of me talking, but if you and I were doing a one on one-
Grant: Well, that's the point. That's why I wanted you here, so we could get your story.
Sanjay: I appreciate that, but when we do a one on one, you know that because we've done a few of these, I'm asking you questions. I've got like 15 questions.
I mean, we're only doing a half an hour, but I want to learn about what's making you grow from Milestone X in ARR to Milestone Y that you're trying to do, what are you seeing in the market.
That's what I think we all have to do. Listen, everything in life isn't always about learning because at some point in time you do become a smart person.
Your job if you are a smart person in a particular area, call yourself a teacher then, is to teach others because you have to share.
Part of this hopefully, if there's some small nugget that this podcast teaches another entrepreneur something they can take away, mission accomplished in doing this podcast for you, Grant.
So I think that's how the circle of life is, right? You've got this virtuous cycle of teaching and learning and teaching and learning and teaching and learning, and then you never retire.
You're doing that till the day you die, physically die I mean. When I talk to retired people who have physically retired out of their job, they're still learning and they tell me, "Listen, I got to keep my body physically active, but I've also got to keep my mind, which is a muscle in itself, mentally active. And if I don't do that in some form of mental-intellectual capacity..."
You find they age faster. Especially with COVID now and many of us are working out of home, it feels a little bit like semi retirement.
You've got to find ways by which you're constantly looking to learn and teach and learn and teach. It's a virtuous cycle.
Grant: Yeah, I love that. It's the virtuous cycle of humanity, that's why we have the amount of success that we do.
We build on what our ancestors and the people that came before us learned, and then we bring more value and then we teach the people after us, and it keeps progress moving. So I love that.
Sanjay: Yeah. I call that your teachable point of view. I learnt that from some of the work at one of the companies, it was I think maybe Informatica. We had someone who was teaching leadership at GE, Noel Tysse, he was a gentleman, an incredible professor who ran the leadership program for GE during the years of Jack Wells.
But he came and taught us this point, I've written a blog about it if you search on Google Sanjay Poonen and Leadership Lessons: Teachable Point of View. I think every one of us has to build a teachable point of view, GE's was that they were the company that minted the most CEOs.
Some of the biggest and best CEOs came out of GE. They were a people factory, so you didn't go to GE necessarily to be the best in financial capital, GE capital, but you learned to be a general manager very, very well there.
So each of us has some gift that we are developing as we get better and better at it, that if you built a teachable point of view, you want to be able to then use that to be able to groom and grow others, especially those younger, to learn from you.
Then if you're a growing leader, hopefully your collage is a mixture of the things you've learned from other people, and then a good part of it is your own DNA.
I admire basketball, I love sports, I love practically any sport. But Kobe Bryant was somebody I loved but you could watch Kobe Bryant, and you could say, "This guy has been watching Michael Jordan from his... Every move of his."
But then there was a nuance to what he did that was different from Michael. There was places where he would improvise on that, right?
So you want to allow individuality and not just be a carbon copy of some other leader, because we're not made to be just robots.
But I think there's many people that I admire, but then I look at their qualities, often things I like, things I don't like, and then say, "Listen, there's parts I admire, I want to emulate. Then I am who I am, I'm going to be different."
So I think those are great, great lessons and that did me very well for both SAP and VMWare, to take a good collage of the people of my life that I could learn from.
Grant: Yeah. It also underscores the importance of... It's kind of like you're an average of the five people you spend the most time with or something, right?
That kind of concept is true in work as well, so people join great companies to be around other people who care and are working hard and they're trying to accomplish interesting.
It's funny, because the other core value for us at Replicated is always care deeply. I really just want people to work here that really care about the work that they're doing.
I always say, "You don't have to totally define yourself by the work that you do, but you should partially define yourself by your career, by what you're up to." And that's not always the most common or popular opinion, right? Work-life balance is important, but I still want people.
I talk about background processes. I want folks to actually, when they're on a run or in the shower, think about a problem from work, think about something we're trying to solve because that's really valuable time.
And only folks that actually care deeply are going to put that kind of effort in. They make such a difference, and if you also really care about what you're doing, they're the people who are a joy to work with because you might butt heads with them, but you both care and that matters so much.
Sanjay: Passion is very important. Listen, I've been very fortunate. I think I can quote another framework, Warren Buffett said he looks for three qualities in people, energy, smarts and integrity, and if you have the first two but don't have the third it will kill you.
Integrity is like the foundation of the house, you absolutely don't want to be hiring someone who is a bad apple because they will corrupt the good apple basked.
That's really fundamental, and pretty sad. I see a lot of people who tolerate people with poor integrity of some kind. Especially how they treat people.
When I talk about people who are rude and condescending, whether it's misogyny or whatever it is, that's got to be rooted out of every company.
But then the other two pillars are just as important. Smarts and energy, and I'll say there's a lot of...
When you have someone who is both cerebral and charismatic, it's a really, really great combo, and I've always thought to say, "Listen, what I want to bring to every day in the workplace, you're going to sense energy and passion from me." I'm going to put everything on the field. That's how I was born to play.
I'm an energetic, passionate person to start with, but I'm going to bring that to the workplace, so I'll bring that to anything I do, and my team hopefully then feeds off that energy.
Because so much of winning is just about that mindset, right? Hey, we are going to win, here's why we win.
I'm going to be the last guy to turn the lights off and maybe the first guy to come in the office. I'm much more of a late night owl than an early morning bird, so I'm going to be probably the person there.
But I'll work the midnight oil and you're going to see hard work from me, and you're going to see that kind of undefeatable energy that's so... That's when you talked about those are the type of people you want to work with if you can create...
No, everyone might not be charismatic and pounding the table, high energy, and sometimes you don't want people who are just artificial forms of energy that are just hot air without substance.
But I do think there's something to be said, I see a lot of companies that feel deflated when that energy level leaves the organization and you have to, as its leader, constantly look for people who are Energizer bunnies who are bringing that into the company in measured doses.
Especially when if you're not that type of person yourself, you need to surround yourself with people who can bring that charisma and energy to the company.
Grant: Yeah. It's just as important remote as it is in person too.
There's a level. I was telling folks, it was like, "When you're hosting a meeting and you're the virtual host, you need to be engaging and make sure people are moving along and having fun, and you have to bring a lot of energy."
It's funny, I take naps after some of my meetings because I use so much of my energy trying to bring it together.
Sanjay: I think Zoom and remote has taught us a lot about, "Listen, you have to do things that also mix it up."
It's been a while since I've been on large conference calls, but in 2021, I posted them all on YouTube or a LinkedIn. I do goofy stuff. I mean, I would record a song because I'm a musician, a pianist, and I would sing a song that was like a little spoof of all my team members.
I'd record it and four minutes of the team meeting was listening to that, and people would... I just watched their faces. It's on Zoom, I'm like, "Hey, I recorded this song for all of you guys as my little Christmas Holiday present to you."
And it was a song done to The Beatles' song Let It Be. People loved it. It's on a YouTube video, watch it.
But it was a way of just saying thank you and great and poking a little fun at a few of them. Everyone on my staff got a line in the song, and it was fantastic.
It took me all of like 10 minutes to record it, I wrote a few words to it, I improvised on The Beatles song and did it and then mixed it up.
Another time, my kids are watching this little YouTube channel called Dude Perfect and it's got all these little crazy shows of these college kids who are working at home, remote.
And I stole one of their screenplays to do a variant of a Zoom call gone bad. They did it really well in 30 seconds, I was like, "That's a great idea."
And I wrote a script for all of our team meetings Zoom call gone bad, and it was last year this time that I posted it on YouTube and LinkedIn, and it was fun.
We would just do these kinds of stuff, and in the remote setting you just have to find other ways by which you're making fun of yourself, you're poking, you're having humor injected.
You have to find ways by which you're lighting it up, and you want people to be able to say, "You know what? I loved working for that team or for that person. They were a great person to work for. They took care of me and they were just fun to be around."
That's that person I want to be, right? When you work around people like that, it's infectious.
I want to be around people, when I see people like that that just exude energy and are constantly looking for ways to bring the best out of people.
I'm stealing their ideas because I want to add that to my playbook because that's really what gets teams energized.
Grant: I love that. Yeah, I actually refer to myself sometimes as the Chief Entertainment Officer. So it's the same idea, right?
I put on the full body green suit and got in front of a green screen to disappear. You got to do little fun things in order to create, and you have to break up the days and create shared experiences. It's so important.
Sanjay: Yeah, and just humor. Especially self deprecating humor. The best humor is the one that's making fun of yourself, as opposed to making fun of others.
Listen, that scowl, I'd often... Lets talk a little bit about the soft side of life, right?
Everyone's different so what I'm going to say now is not necessarily applicable to everybody, but I often think about my life as a juggling act with four balls in there, okay?
I'm a juggler. These four are not necessarily the four that everyone has, so please, people listening to this, don't feel like these have to be the exact same four that you have. But you're all juggling balls of some kind. My four happen to faith, family, friends and work.
If you want to add a fifth ball it's my workout and my health and all that, but you can add more. But let's start with the top four.
It just so happens three out of those four are made of glass. It's not a tennis ball, and I'll let you figure out which three those are.
I will tell you, it's not work, I've come to realize because glass meaning that if you drop it, you may never get it back. That's how you want to be thinking of life, quite frankly.
So when you look at that with that perspective, you're like, "Man, you know what? For the whatever time I'm at work, what's the worst thing that could happen to me? I'm fired, and big whoopee."
But I want to make my experience here one where people really enjoy it, certainly if you're a leader. And most often they remember how you treated them, especially people who are junior to you.
I see a lot of leaders who kick down and kiss up. It's the worst kind of leader.
They treat people below them, you watch them as they come in, the receptionist or the people who are several rungs below, they just treat people as if they're a commodity and then they kiss up to the CEO or the board or whatever have you.
Those are the worst people to be around. I want to be a person who actually inverts that pyramid, that's what I call Servant Leadership.
You take the person who's at the bottom of the period, a leaf level node. It's usually an engineer or a sales rep, and you invert the pyramid and say, "Listen, me as a C level exec, I'm at the bottom of this pyramid. You are at the top because you are serving a customer or you're writing code."
What do I need to do as a leader to take obstacles out of the way?
And then take the ax to the root of bureaucracy because all of those layers between you as a C level executive and that engineer or sales rep are just like layers... In fact I would show at my leadership meetings this picture of a bird sitting on various different rungs of a tree.
The head bird is looking up and what do you think the bird at the very bottom looks up and sees?
Just crap flowing downhill, because they're just watching the stuff flowing downhill. I'm just being PG-13 on my statement here. But that's often what the engineer at the bottom of the pyramid feels like, "Here comes the stuff from the CEO. It's rolling downhill. The CEO passes it onto VP, and VP passes it onto the Senior Director, the Director and the Manager and finally I get it."
And quite frankly, when you invert it you're like, "Hey, listen. Guess what? I'm serving you. I'm not the chief bird sitting at the top of the pyramid. What do you need to get your job done?"
I would find in my go to market roles, half of my time at both SAP, which we talked about, and VMWare at this time, where half of my time was... I had a much bigger go to market role at VMWare.
But I found the most rewarding times as COO of VMWare where I was running all of the front office, was going on sales calls with reps.
All the layers between me, there may have been seven or eight layers between me and the rep, were not in the room. It was just me and the rep.
I was like, "Man, this is fantastic. I can ask this rep what's going on in the field and all of this filtered information that I'm getting in forecast calls, now I get to really ask."
If we went on a sales call and we could go and have a meal afterwards, I was peppering that rep with every question I could because I was looking to get the reality what was actually happening in the trenches, as opposed to something that by the time it got to me up the pyramid, I don't know if it's true or not.
So I think as a leader you have to really sidestep all... Layers are there for a reason.
You can't have all 80,000 people at SAP when I was there, or whatever, 35,000 at VMWare all report to me as a C level executive. No, you have to have layers.
But you as a leader, especially the higher you go, you have to find a way by which you are sidestepping the layers and getting right to the leaf level and celebrating their success, understanding what they're doing and empowering them to come to you.
Not to just rat on their boss, that's not what you're trying to do, just a snitch up the chain. But if there's things that they need to get out of the way you won't hear it.
By the time it gets to you, it's insulated, they're trying to make sure only good news travels up. I want to hear about the bad news as soon as possible.
Grant: Yeah. That's a great point. And you realize when you do those super skip levels that things aren't as good, right? You're like, "Oh, we need to fix these things."And sometimes you get plugged right into the problem and you can help allocate the resources and move folks around, and-
Sanjay: Easier in a smaller company, Grant. Tougher in a bigger company. But I think your point is still made, it was absolutely right.
You want to be hearing it and being... Listen, some people, when they realize that they become master complainers.
They say, "Oh my gosh, the C level executive is doing the... I'm going to just vent."
And okay. So often when people come to me with a list of complaints, the first thing I ask them is like, "Okay, have you thought about possible solutions to this that you've thought about? Don't expect that I have the answers to all of it, but how would you solve it? What suggestions do you have?"
And if they haven't thought about it, like, "Okay. I love what you're doing, Bob. But why don't you go and spend a week thinking about a solution and send me an email with ways in which you would suggest."
And then when you force them to think through that right, I think you actually come back with people who are actually solving some of that.
Amazon, has this. I learned a lot from Andy Jassy and the culture that Jeff Bezos set up at Amazon.
We did a lot in my years at VMWare with them and Andy was a classmate of mine in business school so he was a good friend.
But a lot of the ways in which they built improvement to their culture, they'd make people write a document on what you want to do as opposed to just spouting it off in words on a PowerPoint.
These are ways by which you start to develop rigor into your thinking, even as a low level.
Someone could write a nice five page document that was more powerful than any of the mid level managers, and that could be the plan that Amazon was going to say, "We're going to go pursue," because an engineer decided this was what they were going to pursue and had an innovative idea.
You want to be able to find ways by which those ideas are being celebrated and pulled up as quickly as possible, because when you get to be a larger and larger organization, bureaucracy sets in and it's the sad truth. I see so many people leaders, vice presidents, then you have senior vice presidents, whatever, they're just resting and besting at big companies. The hunger is gone.
They're collecting their paycheck, they're N years away from retirement, and they manage managing escalations.
They're like, "Okay, my customer is happy."They are not building innovation, and then some startup comes and disrupts them. That's the nature of life.
Grant: Yeah. That's why I like startups, because I think there is a lot of that out there where folks are fat and happy and you can go build something new, creative, innovative and really work your butt off to create a lot of enterprise value. That's why I think this is a fun game, even though-
Sanjay: Well, I like that you're doing that at Replicated. Certainly in my time over the last four, five months since I left VMWare, it's been incredible meeting entrepreneurs.
I just set a goal last fortnight, just to meet as many entrepreneurs, CEOs who are doing great stuff and learn from them, ask them in a few cases, even investing and funding them. But it's fascinating, yeah.
So I celebrate CEOs like you who are looking to innovate and building something embryonically.
You have a much tougher job as a CEO of a small company than a mid level or a senior executive at a big company that has the brand.
But the lessons you will learn about hunger, about teamwork, about grit are lessons that often the big companies don't learn because the fat and lazy folks there are sloppy in whether the way they build a product or the way they sell a product.
Grant: Yeah. The determination you have to have to work for startups and be able to hear no and keep coming back, is definitely a valuable, valuable lesson and skill you build up over time.
Let's talk more about your time at VMWare. I want to dig in there a little bit, because such an important company in enterprise software, created so many of the foundational technologies that really paved the way for what the cloud is.
So let's just hear about what your role was, how it came about, what you started off doing there, some of the things you accomplished and some of the things you learned there too and lessons you take away.
Sanjay: Yeah. Listen, way back to 2013 I was at SAP. I sensed that my career was stalling a little bit in the sense that I think if I really wanted to progress, I felt I probably needed to be in Germany.
I was happy, I was not unhappy. But at that time Pat Kelsing was CEO of VMWare. He's now CEO of Intel.
Joe Tucci was chairman of VMWare. Called me because they were trying to rejuvenate the end user computing division of VMWare.
This was the product that built virtual desktops and they didn't really have a mobile strategy. But it was a small business, maybe about 200, 300 million.
The company at the time I think was about 4 billion in revenue. It was literally across the street from me at SAP. If you come to Palo Alto, there's Hillview Avenue.
On the one side of the street is SAP and on the exact opposite street is VMWare.
So I really admired this company that invented virtualization and I watched the growth of virtual machines and really admired what Diane had built in that company so there was a great amount of admiration.
What they needed was a little bit of an adrenaline shock to take end user computing to the next level.
My thesis there was, "Listen, this is 2000 and..." Really my life had been revolutionized by the iPhone and iPad, and everything that Steve Jobs had invented at my favorite company, Apple.
I felt like mobile was going to change the world, so I remember asking them like, "Hey, what's your mobile strategy? I mean, okay, there's all the virtual desktops around, but the world's not desktops. I mean, yeah, there is some desktops. What are you learning about security and end user computing?"
I joked you could end user computing if you didn't have a mobile strategy. I think the company had, but wasn't bold enough, so I encouraged them like, "Hey, we got to be bold, and I think that means possibly an acquisition."
And even before I joined I got a sense from Joe, who was the chairman of the board, that he would support if I put a good thesis together. That helped.
I think having the chairman of the board be like, "Hey, you put a good thesis together. We didn't have confidence that somebody inside the company could run this, but you seem to be someone who's done this reasonably well at SAP."
It gave me, like, "Okay, you know what? I still have got to do the work to put the case together, but here I've got support not just from the CEO but the chairman of the board, to say, 'Hey, you come in here, put a case together, we'll support you.'"
So I had a clear sense coming in that there were two companies, largely because I was seeing them, I was running the mobile division of SAP.
There were two companies that were doing security and mobile devices very well, Airwatch and MobileIron, I mean at that time.
This was 2011, 2012, and they were just beating us at SAP every single time on that aspect.
There were many other things SAP did in mobile, but that piece of it, those two companies were just eating our lunch. Every single time we would compete against them we would lose.
I tried to buy one of those companies at SAP but we couldn't make it work.
Anyway, so I was tracking those guys from a distance and I had a perspective that those were one of the two companies that would succeed and over the course of the next six months we built a case to buy Airwatch.
And even the thinking on why we bought them, MobileIron is a very good company, we ended up hiring a number of people from and respect them.
But actually Airwatch was the smaller company and in the magic quadrant, I think if I remember right they were behind MobileIron in mobile execution or vision or one of those sort of axis.
In revenue they were certainly behind, but I liked the hunger of these young kids in Atlanta.
It was a group of maybe 1,000 or 800 employees. They all had this trading floor, a big office where everyone was on a trading floor. Everyone was on one single floor, huge office.
You could just feel the energy in that room. All like University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, a whole bunch of southeast grads of some college.
Young and were vibrant, and they just wanted to win. I felt like, "You know what?"
A lot of the Silicon Valley, I don't want to insult the place where we all live, many of the engineers here, they have an entitlement.
You buy them and two years later they're gone, they want to go start the next big company.
I didn't know if that was going to be the case, but I was worried that MobileIron would have that mindset and we would lose the employees, and I wanted something that was tucked away, four or five hours, and with that energy that I found so infectious.
They just needed a platform, VMWare and it happens, so we end up buying the company in early 2014 and it changed everything in our end user computing business.
It just took off all of a sudden, we had a mobile strategy, we were competing against not just MobileIron but Citrix and a variety of others, and all of a sudden, wow, people said, "VMWare is back."
The next, I would say, three to four years that I ran that business we just hired incredible people and the team from Airwatch just did an enormously good job.
All I had to do was be like the Phil Jackson, again to come back to sports. I wasn't any more the Michael Jordan.
Whereas when you get to bigger and bigger roles you start to realize you're not the star with six seconds on the clock, there's other people that are going to do it.
You just need to be the person orchestrating them and I had to find... These were very different characteristics of people in Atlanta from the core team at VMWare in Palo Alto, culturally very different. I had to really try to be the glue, and we were very fortunate.
We set up a way to integrate that in reasonably well by giving them both autonomy. Now, I had had a fair amount of experience integrating acquisitions at SAP and so it wasn't the first time I'd done it so I had a playbook of how to do that well.
But the support from the VMWare executive team and the board was very strong and we were reasonably successoftwareul in taking that business from, I think two or three hundred million to multibillion. In fact, I wrote a blog of my lessons on that which you can find on the internet.
So I would say that that first foray of, again, a product to engineering type of job, running end user computer, was tremendously helped by the acquisition of Airwatch.
Grant: And just for me really, when you're building the case around buying a company, is it like a similar case around the way a VC might look at an investment and say, "Hey, here's the writeup, here's what we think this can grow to, here's where we think we can actually find some efficiencies, here's how we can multiply out the sales channel."
And you're really building a case for the economic value that you can, "Hey, if we can pay this price for the company but 10X the sales within two years." Is that the overall strategy?
Sanjay: No, different companies are different, so I think it was helpful to me to have our head of M&A, Shekar Ayyar at the time, he was very good at knowing how VMWare's board looks at an M&A case.
I had known how at SAP, but I was a newcomer there, right? So I spent a lot of time with him, helping to understand. He did a masterful job at helping me understand.
Ultimately I relied on him for the mechanics and the execution of it, but I was the strategy behind it, but he had dealt with the board in a number of different... This was the biggest acquisition in 2013, 2014, that we had ever done, at that time, 1.5 billion.
So we were asking the company to spend a lot of money and at that time, I mean 15X, I think the company was about 100 million in revenue at the time. Today 15X is an incredible multiple, I'd pay that in a heartbeat.
Grant: It's a deal, yeah.
Sanjay: Those were crazy evaluations. But at that time 15 was a number, one board member said, "This is as much as Google paid for YouTube. You're going to make it a success like YouTube?"
I'm not going to be as big as YouTube, but I think it's important. So in some senses, this was viewed as a risk and it wasn't in the core business of VMWare.
VMWare is not a mobile end user, they were a data center company. So there was lots of questions I had to be prepared to answer to practically everybody on the board.
But listen, I got to tell you both the management team, Pat and the team there, and then Joe Tucci on the board, I got to tell you, the support he provided as the chairman of the board to lean in.
I felt like he kept his word. When I was interviewing he said, "Listen, you put a good case together, I will back you."
He was a man of his word, and trust... Bill McDermott used to say, "Trust is the ultimate human currency."
I respect people who keep their word, when they say what they mean and they mean what they say. Listen, things can change and things, but the people I respect the most are the people who when they say they're going to do something for you, they come through and they do it. My respect goes up 10, I'll do anything for that person.
When they don't I lose confidence in them, right? So Joe was a man of his word and he helped really say, "Here's what you need to do."
All the places where it wasn't, and he would be... Once the chairman of the board is supportive, he's going to go to work with the rest of the board to say, "Listen, we're going to do this, okay?"
I don't need to go and convince every single board member or the chairman of the board and the key members of the board are... So that art of knowing, there's certainly, yeah, your presentation and your logic and your financials are good.
But when you're making a decision of this kind, there's many softer aspects of it that I was very grateful to many of these folks who were able to help. For me, being a new executive to VMWare, I needed to come across with a little humility and not arrogance, like, "I can do it, put it to me."
Because I'm new, who is this kid? Why does he think he's going to be able to do it? I certainly didn't have a track record at SAP, but I wanted to approach it with a sense of hunger by humility. I use those terms a lot, hunger and humility.
You want to be hungry, they want to realize, "Hey, listen, I want this asset. This should be at the top of our acquisition list, above anything else."
But I'm going to be humble and not arrogant, I'm going to be very transparent as to all the risks and then I'm going to go manage those risks so they don't fail.
So we knew coming in, I did a lot of due diligence on the reasons Airwatch lost to their competitors and we did an internal bake off with our own IT team, evaluating the product because I wanted to know, once he bought the product, when I do the conversations with that management team trying to vet the company, they're only going to give me the golden, glossy reasons they win.
I want to know the reasons they lose from a buyer. So I would call MobileIron customers who would pick MobileIron over Airwatch, "Why'd you pick them?" I'd have our team look at it. And I knew coming in all the reasons this tool lost.
They were fixable reasons, but I wanted to know those. So you want to know every aspect of the skeletons in the closet.
This is all what people call due diligence, right? Do your due diligence, and you're never done completely.
At some point they're going to be like, "Listen." It's a little bit like dating or a marriage , you've got to be like, "Okay, this is good, let's do it. Let's go for it. We're going to discover the rest of it as we go along."
There were many things I discovered about Airwatch after the fact, but many of the early surprises were not early because I knew. "Okay. We're going to be dealing with this aspect, whether it's a product issue or a cultural issue."
We made a deal with the CEO and the chairman of the board, two very incredible people, Alan De Veery and John Marshal, said, "Hey, please stay with us."
And we made it financially attractive for them to stay with us for... I told one of them for two years and told the other one for three years and they didn't blink.
They kept their commitment. There certainly was a financial reason for them to do it, but more than that it was their reputation. They've now gone on to do something else.
There now founders of another new company, but that's how it works. If you do well and you sell your company to somebody else, and you're willing to stay and help that be successoftwareul, when you start the next thing some VC is going to ask me, like, "Hey, what do you think of these guys?"
I'm like, "Hey, I back them 200%. They were so successoftwareul at VMWare" So there are many elements like this.
Now, listen, I've had other acquisitions that have not gone as well. But certainly I have learned a lot from the ones that have gone well as to the playbook I'd want to apply in other acquisitions, and I think for the most part if you ask people... It's been many, many years now.
Eight years ago that we acquired, eight years ago actually this month. Yeah, last week of January, 2014. So it's many years ago but I think that for the most part if you ask people at VMWare they would say, at that time for the first four years Airwatch was a smashing success.
And hey, credit to the team. I was certainly the Phil Jackson who orchestrated it together, but the Dennis Rodmans and the Scotty Pippers and the Michael Jordans were the people who made it happen.
There were many, many people there from both Airwatch and the VMWare team that made it successoftwareul.
Grant: Yeah. Those acquisitions, it's really chilling how the sausage is made, right?
Because it's hard to get that insight, it's hard to really understand. I've been on the other side of it, my first company was acquired for just a little bit of money and so I've been acquired but I've never acquired anything, right?
So it's really interesting to hear how you think about it and how you actually process it.
I love the idea of just such deep diligence and being consumed with this idea and really diving in. It's great.
Sanjay: I'd say the other thing is, let's say I was looking to acquire you, you start to build a camaraderie with the CEO of that business and you sense like, "You know what?" I really liked John Marshal and I liked their grit and the way they just went relentlessly after a market, and they were different from me but that's okay.
Look, the people I'm friends with aren't all like me.
But you build a camaraderie with them and you realize what you want to do is just put more fuel behind their fire, more logs into their flame.
They've got the fire going, your job is not to come and say, "Hey, the fire is all wrong. Turn it off, let's move it somewhere else."
Of course if it's broken you need to do that, but if it's going well you don't want to come in and mess with it.
Just put more logs. So like, "Hey, what can I bring to this incredible operation where everything's going well? More leads, they need sales. Okay, I will introduce you to every CIO I know and open the door for you, and if you have an escalation I'll handle it. But I'm not going to interfere with you. If you have a roadmap that's not great, I'll ask questions but I'm not going to meddle with your roadmap. Go get it done. If a customer calls me to complain about the product I'll listen to them and then I'll go help you."
But that's a very different mindset from coming in, micromanaging them and saying you need to go here, and then you start pulling apart the baby. So we left everything, engineering, sales, all underneath the CEO and said, "Listen, run it for another two years without us dismantling the baby."
Now, after two or three years we started to integrate it a little bit more in, so we had a recipe and a playbook of how we were successoftwareul and I think that and one or two others... By the way, this was the same thing we did for BusinessObjects at SAP so I was used a little bit to that playbook of gradual integration as opposed to a speedy integration in.
Especially when you have a strong leader, a strong CEO and a strong leader who can make that happen. So yeah, I would not say I can write the textbook on successoftwareul M&A.
I think there are many other companies who have done it many more times at scale. I think Salesoftwareorce has got an incredible process for integrating M&A and they've done it very well with large ones, whether that's Tableau or Mulesoft or now hopefully Slack will as well, and in the past some of the things that they acquired before that.
Cisco has been mixed in some of their acquisitions so I don't know, but in the past they were very good at it.
So you always look at these bigger companies and you can certainly tell the ones that are bad and good ones and the ones that have not done good ones.
Grant: Yeah, I look at some of those companies that do really great acquisitions. I think you're right, Salesoftwareorce has been one of them.
Sometimes you have to just take some bets and go after and go get something that other people are like, "That's a high price for it."
Sanjay: They have taken those bets, man. Can you believe that? I mean the bet for Slack was, goodness... They almost bought LinkedIn, they almost bought Twitter.
They've had a lot of considerations for things so I admire. That's the chutzpah of Mark Benioff, he's willing to shoot for the stars if it's for him, so you got respect people like that.
Grant: Yeah. He's been a force there, for sure. Are there other lessons from VMWare?
The other thing I want to talk about before we wrap is just some of your board experience too because I know you've advised so many great companies and you've been such a great board member for other places so would love to dive into a little bit of that.
Sanjay: Yeah. Listen, my time at VMWare you could divide into two halves, one of which was product.
It's a little bit like SAP, one was a product and engineering job and the second was CEO of running all of sales and marketing.
Probably the biggest lesson I would say from the second job was humility again, now for the first time... I ran specialist sales teams at SAP, meaning all the industry and specialist people who were now at VMWare I was running all of the sales team directly.
I think I had 18 or 20 quarters, and you want to approach every one of them like, "Hey, I could get fired if I don't make the number."
So you want to meet and beat, you have expectations and you have a sales team to help you do that and there's always a moment of reckoning the last few hours of the quarter when you're closing a quarter.
It's either a moment of jubilation or a little bit of reflection at the earnings call, because at public companies it's confidential to reveal it, but enormous jubilation if the quarter has gone great and then you congratulate the sales teams.
Or kick offs when you've had a great year, nothing like that.
So I loved that side of it and I naturally like the skinning the gap, going and getting a nice big deal.
So some of the biggest deals that we ever did, I was just really delighted to be involved in cracking some of them nine figure deals and so on.
So we had a lot of fun and we built a good team into it. I think the other piece I really took away was the ecosystem, I have always believed that you sit on the shoulders of giants. Newton said that, right? "You see more clearly when you sit on the shoulders of giants."
And these ecosystem players to us, AWS, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba again and FirstDSIs. I believe we needed to build a strategic partnership and it wasn't something VMWare did well.
They were a smaller company, didn't sell as well to the CIOs. They viewed Amazon for a length of time, I wrongfully saw it as a competitor.
In fact, I think one of the biggest mistakes we ever made was trying to build a public cloud to compete with Amazon for, I think, three or four years.
That was an unmitigated disaster that ultimately we had to unwind and we wasted four years doing that, and then finally we did the Amazon relations and I was very fortunate to help lead and architect some of that relationship.
Part of it was Andy Jassy had been a friend of mine and classmate so I had a relationship with him and I pushed really hard.
Ragul was also involved in that, he is current CEO of VMWare, he and I worked very closely on that. Pat, our CEO at the time, supported it, and we went and got that done.
That was a turning point for the company, the partnership with Amazon, all of a sudden... I have called it when I've talked about this publicly, a Berlin Wall Moment.
You took that Soviet Union and US tension and the Berlin Wall just fell, and all of a sudden customers... Literally for the next two or three years the stock price of the company just rode on the momentum that VMWare had a cloud strategy. We were building the product, we didn't even advertise yet.
But the Amazon-VMware partnership really put a level of chutzpah on the company and I think that was a really watershed moment for the company around 2015, 2016 where we... Our stock price was in the tank because people didn't believe in our cloud strategy.
The previous CEO of the company left, the CFO left. Two senior executives quit. Pat asked me to become COO of the company, and here we were rebuilding the stock price.
It had gone from 90 to 45 and then digging back up, and that was a fantastic next three years.
So everything in life is about these ebbs and flows and you have to, again when you hit the valley, realize, "You know what? We can get out of this valley."
That $45 stock price of the company, 18 billion market cap. I still remember that vividly. I was in India at the time and I was just watching the stock price crumble, after a Q3 earnings call. I think 2015 or 2016.
It was the toughest point for the company, and several senior executives left, the board was divided, some board members left, Michael Dell bought EMC so we now had a new chairman of the board, new board, everything.
I think building out of that valley with a new strategy, a new partner and everyone then saying as we broke, came out in the open, "This is the right thing." Seeing the reward of that taught me enormously.
Then the next two years we were very fortunate to build on that partnership with Amazon and then we did that with... We were the only company that had marquee, pristine partnerships with AWS, with Azure, with Google, with Alibaba, with Oracle, and I was really fortunate to work on all of them.
So I felt like that experience of deal making with these biggest cloud providers taught me a lot about... We got to see the insides of all these cloud companies.
I could tell you where customers were deploying AWS, Azure, Google, but I could also tell you how the AWS versus Azure versus Google versus Oracle versus IBM or Alibaba Team thought about the world because we were inside executive level discussions with all of them on how they view the world.
Now, of course we weren't sharing with each other of them because there's a Chinese Wall in each of our relations there, but we understood their playbook of how they were going to win and why there were going to win, and joined discussions.
We wanted to make those joint customers of AWS and VMWare or Azure and VMWare, enormously successoftwareul. I learned a lot just watching the public cloud large players because these guys are now... Think about it, AWS, what Andy has built is a $60 billion plus machine, Azure is probably 40 billion and I think Google is about 20.
So between those two you have 60, 40, 120 billion of revenue, current revenue run rate and growing at some astounding growth rate, might be 38-40%.
That is amazing, and to know how and why they're being successoftwareul was tremendous.
I don't think there was any other company that could have that inside birds eye view than VMWare and we took advantage of that.
Grant: That's actually really interesting, that partner strategy closely aligning. It's hard to be able to win with all of them, and to your point, the strategy probably five years before that was something to be competitive to try to like, "They've got the Zen Hypervisor powering this whole thing at AWS, and it should be VMWare that's powering all the VMs there and it's not, so let's build our own."
And then realizing that there was a complementary strategy together. It's really interesting.
Sanjay: Life is a lot of those learnings. Okay, should we talk about boards?
Grant: Yeah. Let's hear about lessons from boards and your experience there. I actually think that's another really interesting chapter.
Sanjay: Listen, for the bulk of my time at both SAP and VMWare I was on one non profit board of a school, when I was at SAP, a good learning experience.
But I always found I managed taking time away from either my family or from work and I was like, "Man."
So I viewed it as a tax I didn't like, so as I joined VMWare I resigned off all boards and said, "I need to focus on work."
And then Info first came to me, they were an ERP company, and now that I wasn't in the apps space, I was in infrastructure space, the app space was clean so I joined the Info board. There were trips to New York that I needed to do but I could combine that with business.
The part of being on another board is you just have to realize that it's extra time on your hand and it's going to be time that you take away from.
Now, of course you're not the operator so you're not judged, you're not running the company, but you have to read the materials you want to be.
Your job has a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders, whether it's private or public, to help the company be successoftwareul and to provide strategic advice and counsel that's thoughtful. And you're sitting around other people that are really good.
So I viewed it as I would join one, maybe max two boards, in fact I think VMWare only allowed you to join two boards as an office of the company, one public, one private, and I had my one public.
It was about to go public. But then once Info got sold to the Koch Family I decided to jump off and I served, Michael asked me to serve on the Boeing board, I did that for a while. Then when I left VMWare I had a little more capacity and I decided I would be on two boards, one public, one private, and that's what I'm on now.
It's not yet finalized but I've been nominated to the Philips board, it's a European company, the company that's made originally lighting, but now it's there in the med tech business and it's a fascinating board.
For me the criteria as I was getting called by many of these bigger brand companies was I wanted to work with other colleagues on the board who I really respected and I could learn from, again learning.
People like Enzo Nui, Fica d'Gemma, these folks. It's a very eclectic board of very international experiences.
These are seasoned people. I mean Enzo Nui, she is a Indian American leader and chairman and CEO of Pepsi, whom I had admired all my life and now you get to watch people like her.
So it's a very good board and the quality of the board was one of the biggest reasons, and then of course the intrigue of what healthcare could do to change and impact lives because it's a very important business.
So a lot of learning there. Then Snyk is the other one, it's developer security, I love security.
Some of my people who work for me at VMWare, Peter McKey who's CEO of Sneak, had been talking to me for a while about joining the board and I really loved what they were doing and I thought they could become the next Palo Alto Networks or Crowdstrike.
When he asked me to do it I said, "Okay, this will be my own private company."
So those are the two, and then others... Listen, where people need advisory help or investing, I'm invested in Replicated, I like what you guys are doing.
You just make yourself available. So after I left VMWare I think I invested in 15 or 20 different companies.
Again, I'm not writing the size of checks of big VCs, but it's an opportunity to get close the entrepreneurs.
I then now don't have necessarily conflicts of interest because I'm not working specifically. I also didn't want to join a VC firm because I didn't want to do it for just one VC.
I wanted to just be able to meet entrepreneurs and if they felt I could add value and I had time, help them and also put some money behind the firm.
It's been tremendously rewarding, again with the spirit of learning and asking yourself how you can help them build a word class company?
Grant: Yeah, I think having you as an investor, we're very proud and happy and you've been super helpful.
I think we met initially through Maynard Webb and their fund, the WIN, Web Investing Network, which is just a group of people that are some of the best people in the world. Maynard is one of these.
I've had the pleasure of knowing him for five years, you probably have known him much longer, but every time you're around him, everybody that he's around, he's such a great servant leader and he's always been so helpful to everybody that everybody in his network just wants to help other people in the network.
Talking about integrity, talking about long term, that group of people just exemplify that to me. Once you're in it, you're kind of vetted too, into that group.
I think it's one of the best networks of investors and advisors that's out there. Really technical doers.
Sanjay: I love those people, and Maynard Webb is everything you're describing and more, Grant.
He's just so amazing and I love the fact that I've been involved with the WIN. I probably should've talked about it some.
But his WIN network, I'm just so honored to be in there because when I see companies like us and i say, "I love the idea of this company."
A small amount of money there obviously, see you vetting it with the network to see if they can get money in.
So yeah, that's how we met. Meeting entrepreneurs like yourself who have a vision for what they're trying to get done, and then in the niche of what they're doing are building great technology.
Opening a door for whatever you might be, whether it's a customer, an engineer or spending some time with your sales team to help them share some of these lessons.
Man, that's the best way to give back, is to help other people be successoftwareul. I'm sharing back, like I said, it's always learning.
You don't realize it, but when you have a playbook of what you're doing that's successoftwareul... You will know a lot more about the developer and container and Kubernetes market than I will ever know.
So if I can tap a little bit of your brain, I'm just using that as an example, there's no need to replicate.
And how to sell to ISVs, how do you make it appeal to the dev sec ops pipeline building of these people who are infrastructure developers at these ISVs?
What do I want for your success to be? I have a vested interest because I'm an investor, but even if I wasn't one and we were friends, I just want you to go out and do it right on whatever metric it is. Whether it's ARR growth, a customer account or employee satisoftwareaction.
One day when let's say you take your company public, "Man, I knew that guy and they were successoftwareul."
Maynard is that type of person, he just celebrates the success of entrepreneurs. He has his book, The Letters I Wrote to Founders.
People like that are people who you want on your board, the people you want to get advice on, and they're accessible when you need them.
Maynard has always been that way, "Hey, Maynard. I need half an hour to get your advice."
It's not like maybe once or twice a year, he makes himself infinitely available if it's an introduction. People like that are just worth their weight in gold.
Grant: Yeah. And to the earlier point too, it's surrounding yourself with people that you actually really enjoy and you can learn from and you want to work with, and make this one of those pleasures of your life, is the work that we do and the impact we can make.
So Sanjay, I know I've had you for a long time here. This has been incredible.
Sanjay: Well, I hope it's not too long for your listeners. I've enjoyed every minute of it and you are a great podcast interviewer.
Man, I just regret that I've been doing a lot of talking. The next time we've got to reverse roles and I've got to interview you.
Grant: This was too fun, we can do another one where I interview you for another three hours because there's so many stories you have and so many interesting insights. Thank you.
Subscribe to Heavybit Updates
Subscribe for regular updates about our developer-first content and events, job openings, and advisory opportunities.
Content from the Library
Open Source Go-To-Market and Enterprise Readiness
One of the advantages of a bottom-up open source go-to-market is that when done well, it’s the most efficient flywheel for...
Growing Together: Building Ecosystems to Grow PLG Startups
How to Build an Ecosystem to Support Product-Led Growth Any time you build a strategy for any org at a product-led growth (PLG)...
Understanding Legal Issues for Open Source Software Start-ups
Viewing Open Source Startups Through a Licensing and IP Lens Open source software (OSS) is a vibrant and rapidly-growing space,...