Dheeraj Pandey on how he built Nutanix
Theme: Axe to grind
Records and timeline: Went from $0-$17mm in one year. Went from idea to public company in 7 years despite 'self-righteous pundits' in 'ivory towers' writing him off.
Early days: Nothing to lose. He and his mother received support from the family, she sold jewelry to pay bills.
Lessons from Oracle: Reliability and not being callous about quality. Gained transferable skills on distributed systems. Learned to ship high quality enterprise software that 'just worked': safety, scaling, stability, testing, regression, etc. Learned Larry's people management; rewarding on the spot, high meritocracy, top 1% earned a lot of money. It's ok to volte-face and eat the humble pie.
Finding product market fit: 31 years old, had learned a lot at Oracle. He and his 2 co-founders had spent months brainstorming the premise at a Starbucks. Decided to do something about gut calls on the core thesis. For the launch, they picked one workload, a contrarian one that many people said wouldn't work. But they stuck with their conviction. They made reliability their focus. Existing customers were spending more money on them, a type of product market fit. Their goals were always stretch goals but not bombastic or flamboyant. For their Series B, they told Khosla their revenue target was $4mm, they did $17mm.
Finding growth: Docusign helped turbocharge hiring. The CEO approves every hire even when the company reached 3000 employees and 300-400 joined each quarter. Doesn't interview everyone, but a peripheral vision on who is being brought into the company helps.
Being a CEO: Focus on things that matter, listen and respect everyone from your most junior employees to smallest customers. Nutanix has a bigger designer/developer ratio than most other software companies. Design is core to everything including a CEO's role. From designing APIs, and graphical interfaces to organizational design, to bringing about cohesion, collaboration, and reducing conflict, finger pointing and politics. How to bring in mindfulness, thoughtfulness, social and political consciousness. Building something of lasting value and proving the naysayers wrong.