CEO explains how he felt he was 'sitting on the sidelines' while working as a VC investor
"I typically don't do long-term planning." This is perhaps not something you would expect to hear from the CEO and co-founder of a vendor that is already valued at $1bn, and considered by some the fastest-growing enterprise firm in Silicon Valley.
But Bipul Sinha's winding and varied path from software engineer to manager to venture capitalist (VC) to CEO lends credence to his statement.
The CEO co-founded cloud data management vendor Rubrik in 2014 along with current VP of engineering Arvind Jain, CTO Arvind Nithrakashyap and Soham Mazumdar.
Last year the company raised $180m in Series D funding, raising its valuation to $1.3bn and achieving unicorn status.
Sinha believes this success is down to the transparent culture encouraged at Rubrik, where board meetings are open for employees to attend and participate in.
This allows the board to take all ideas on board and adds a layer of democracy to company decision making, according to Sinha.
"When we started Rubrik - before we even hired a single employee - we had this mission to build a long-term, long-lasting company that will be around in 30 to 40 years," he explained.
"It had to be built around a strong cultural foundation, where we know our true mark all the time. So we created a rubric that described our core values that would define how to be a Rubrik employee."
Those values are summed up with the acronym RIVET, which stands for "relentlessness, integrity, velocity, excellence and transparency" and which is part of the company ethos.
The transparency part is the one which Sinha appears to hold the most dearly, as it forms part of his own work ethos where he prefers to have open conversations with his colleagues and employees rather than "hypocritical politeness".
"Having open board meetings was a deliberate decision on our part because for a young company to have a long-term large ambition, every one of us needs to be working in the same direction," he said.
"If you have open board room meetings talking about your opportunities and challenges then everyone in the company is aligned and that is what has made Rubrik such a fast-growing company. By some measures we are the fastest-growing enterprise company in the Valley and I put that down to the cultural underpinning of the company."
Rubric for success
Having studied electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Sinha emigrated to the US where he obtained an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.
After a number of engineering roles and a nine-year stint as a manager at Oracle, Sinha moved into VC, where he became a founding investor in start-ups such as HooteSuite and Nutanix. From VC, Sinha co-founded and headed Rubrik in 2014.
Considering it is his first time heading a company, it would be easy to assume that Sinha would look to other business leaders for a template on how to build and manage a successful company, but this is not the case.
After four years of heading Rubrik, Sinha is confident the company can achieve its goals with him at the helm.
"When it comes to business, my point of view is that if you get influenced by a particular business or a leader then you limit your opportunity, because your upper limit is to replicate that person's achievements," he said.
"I like to think that young companies have an infinite future, and what has happened in the past is not necessarily the limit of what can happen in the future."
However, on a personal level, Sinha cites Abraham Lincoln as a historical figure he admires and whose circumstances he relates to.
"Look at how [he] came from a very modest background, was not conventionally educated, was a self-taught lawyer and became the most powerful figure of the 19th century who took the US through a civil war," he said.
"His human imagination and judgement and thinking about things bigger than himself was a key part of his success."
Sinha is not a person to be held back by limitations. His mantra is to surpass any known limits both from a personal and business perspective.
"I should not be limited to engineering, I should know about the business holistically," explained Sinha about the rationale for his changing career path.
"This is my first time in a CEO role but I have been associated with start-ups that have gone from two to three employees all the way to thousands of employees; so I am used to this growth and these kinds of journeys.
"At VC, I always thought that in some ways I am sitting on the sidelines and clapping people who are running, but I'm not [participating].
"I always felt that from all my learnings and intuition in engineering and managing and VC that I could really go and test my own limits of how far I can think.
"Everything I learned from those roles was to apply my own intuition about creating a product, taking it to market and finding customers and staying in the business - many of those things have applied in Rubrik."
Part of Rubrik's strategy to be a long-lasting company is to go public, but its CEO admits that it is not yet ready for such a move, after previously indicating a three-year wait before doing an IPO to CRN's sister publication CPI.
"When I decided to start Rubrik I thought ‘Am I using everything possible to understand this market, this business, how we can enter this market, how fast we can grow, who our competitors are and are we leaving any opportunities behind?'" said Sinha.
"The way I think about it is ‘what can I do today for a better tomorrow?'
"With Rubrik, it was not that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, it was that once I decided that I wanted to create something, it was understanding if I was maximising the potential of that creation."
Maximising potential has been the guiding principle of Sinha's career path and of the Rubrik ethos, and it is one he enthusiastically espouses to employees.
"I am of the belief that we are limited only by our imagination, so how do you think big, and how do you encourage the people working around you to open their minds and think about their possibilities?" he explained.
Another lesson he has learned through the process of setting up and running a fast-growing organisation is how incentives can affect the outcome. He said that the company is going through a lot of learning and experimentation to extend the limits of achievements by staff by creating the right incentives for them.
For him, the right incentive at the moment is to continue to grow the company as much as he can.
"I am too deep into it!" he laughed. "I want to help build it into a very large company, and we want a 40-year span, but I don't see myself running it in by then."
For someone who says he is not a long-term thinker, he is certain of what his future will be in the company.
"In the next 10 years I will look at what I need to do next, but right now I am building Rubrik and the great opportunities that I have got. Rubrik is now 1,200 people around the world and I have to serve them really well.
"It's a journey of self-discovery and understanding who you are, and the company is a manifestation of the ambitions of the co-founders. We are pushing the envelope to build a big company."