Druva has redefined itself twice during its 10 years of existence. Its CEO Jaspreet Singh talks to Josh Budd about how his role has fundamentally changed after he took Druva into the cloud five years ago
"Dheeraj Pandey, the CEO of Nutanix, who is a good mentor for me, said one thing that stuck with me," said Druva's CEO Jaspreet Singh.
"He said the big change is that early on as a CEO all you are thinking about is product and product market fit. Later down the road, it not only becomes about the product, but about how people fit in. How does go-to-market strategy fit in? How are product strategy and go-to-market strategy aligned? How do you build a scalable machine which is a good combination of people and process?"
With their companies founded just two years apart, Nutanix's and Druva's founders have a fair amount in common. Both Singh and Pandey studied computer science at the same university - The Indian Institute of Technology - they both moved to Silicon Valley soon after and they both went on to found and build cloud-based technology companies.
Each CEO is also gradually learning how to lead tech companies that have grown well beyond small businesses with just a handful of employees. Nutanix is now a publicly listed company with upwards of 4,500 staff, while Singh claims Druva will be approaching a headcount of 700 by the end of the year.
Leading a larger company, Singh claims his role as CEO today is almost entirely different from when he first launched Druva in 2007. The task at hand has become so much more than simply creating an effective product to solve a specific business problem.
Despite now having been in business for more than 10 years and employing nearly 700 staff globally, Singh is still comfortable referring to Druva as a start-up. But with Singh making no secret about his intentions to follow in Nutanix's footsteps and IPO the cloud data management vendor on NASDAQ in the coming years, the CEO admitted that the industry's perception of Druva will start to change.
"We will be almost at public company revenues by next year. But we are still growing rapidly, adding a lot of people, spending a lot on innovation; so our spend on innovation and growth and our mind set is what defines us as a start-up," he said.
"If we go below 25 per cent growth, then we would admit that we have changed the gears to be a high-growth large company. But right now, the growth is more 60 to 70 per cent year on year and we're really innovating, so from that point of view, yes we are a start-up."
Druva could IPO as early as next year, Singh said.
"At this point, we need to watch how the market behaves. With Brexit, the China concerns, with the US politics and tax as well, we've just got to see if our growth timing will match the market's timing."
By his own admission, Singh said it took a while for Druva to find its feet. Originally operating from the Indian city of Pune, Druva began life as a disaster recovery company but struggled to make a mark.
"That's why we have the name Druva, the ‘DR' stands for disaster recovery," he said.
"We were building a company for SOX compliance and for the banking centre. There was no set precedent of building an enterprise product from India and we struggled to take it to market. People wanted to buy something like business continuity from IBM or Veritas but not from a start-up. Especially not a start-up out of India. And there was no venture money for tech start-ups out of India either," he said.
So in 2010, Druva completely changed direction and started from scratch with a backup offering for remote offices. After some initial early success, Druva secured some funding and moved to Silicon Valley.
But the Druva of today is built on a second major decision made in 2013: when the backup firm took the plunge and redefined itself as a cloud company.
"I quickly realised that software backup was not something we could really be number one with. It was not a massive problem to solve," he said.
"So we pivoted again to rebuild the entire architecture - this time on Amazon. Then the company took off - this was about five years ago and what we did really worked. We signed the first customer on cloud in 2013 and we reached our 4,000th customer this year in March.
"It was very hard to change the DNA of the company; a software company and a cloud company are very different things, from go-to-market to sales and marketing, all these perspectives. We had to retool the entire company to be a cloud company which took almost a year and a half. We had to say no to a lot of customers and we had to convince a lot of internal employees to rethink how they do their business. So there was a lot of re-architecturing."
It's not just Druva that has shapeshifted and evolved - a lot of its competition have undergone some overwhelming change in the last 10 years.
Its biggest competitors in the early days - HP's Autonomy and Veritas - are now completely unrecognisable businesses, according to Singh, after the former was sold off to Micro Focus and the latter was disastrously spun out from Symantec in 2015.
Other competitors such as EMC have been acquired by Dell in tech's biggest-ever merger and will now IPO as part of its new owner, while Commvault's CEO Bob Hammer was only this year ousted by investors.
"HP has fallen to the side after the business to Micro Focus… which is more of a retention company than an innovation company, so HP has given way. Symantec and Veritas split, which is again a pretty big donor to everybody else in the market and they're giving up a lot of business," said Singh.
"Commvault and EMC are two good contenders that everybody is trying to fight in the data management and data protection space. There are also new incumbents now, such as Rubrik and Cohesity, which are coming up as well and Veeam is still pretty large and formidable and also very aggressive. It is a very interesting dynamic."
Singh is particularly watching EMC, which he believes will return to the M&A game soon after Dell makes its return to the stock market.
"EMC survived an acquisition, and once it does an IPO they may come back to do acquisitions themselves, which may change our competitive landscape once again," he said.
Druva has racked up almost $200m (€174.7m) in funding since its inception, having hauled in a cool $131m in 2016 and 2017 alone.
A big chunk of that money has gone towards growing Druva's European footprint and driving up its global headcount, said Singh.
The cloud data management vendor is now hiring at a rate of almost one new employee every day, and increased its workforce from 400 around 18 months ago to a current 670-strong team.
Druva still generates the majority of its business in the US, but its international business - which mainly comes from Europe - will likely generate around 30 per cent of its revenues by the end of next year.
"We recently hired a European chief revenue officer, Thorsten Freitag, who is German. We hired him with a clear focus for international growth. We've also just made one more hire to run all our inside sales out of our Reading office in the UK. It's not public yet, but it's a very notable hire. So we're making strides to build a strong European team," said Singh.
And it seems that Druva's investments in Europe have not gone unnoticed. UK reseller Softcat earlier this year tipped Druva as a start-up that will see promise this year, observing that the cloud vendor has particularly been investing in the UK channel of late.
"We are trying to understand the role of the channel as cloud takes on," he said.
"With the marketplace coming from AWS, which could be a threat or a big play, the channel's role will change big time. The margins they are used to will not be the margins they could see in the SaaS world.
"The channel's role will dramatically change and so will its margin profile and its business dynamics. There will be a big change in three to four years.
"Softcat made big strides and they are a big partner with Microsoft, and CDW made big strides with AWS. So it is about mapping their growth to our growth and playing together."