5 tips for startup growth from a veteran serial entrepreneur

startup-growth

BV Jagadeesh is no stranger to the VC community. His successful track record as a VC, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropist speaks for itself. We welcomed him recently to ElasticBox as an advisor and member of the board. When you talk to BV, you quickly realize that he listens more than he speaks. But once you get him talking about running a company, he’s inspiring. So we asked him more on that and why he joined ElasticBox.

1. What attracts you to ElasticBox?

Solving problems at scale excites me. Most of my career, I worked on mission-critical issues for IT and datacenters. Naturally, it makes sense to advise companies in this space.

ElasticBox is also in the same space. I like that ElasticBox helps enterprises migrate applications from a datacenter architecture to the cloud. Themes like cloud architecture, development and test environment automation, and migrating applications from the datacenter to the cloud are all areas purely centered around enterprise needs. These areas have the most challenging but also the most interesting problems.

2. You successfully founded, led companies, and turned them into billion dollar enterprises. What can you tell us about your experiences?

I’ve observed two things crucial to the success of any person or company.

First is passion. When you are passionate about solving others’ problems, success follows. Can you make someone sleep peacefully at night? Can you empathize enough with their challenges to come up with clear solutions? Do you believe in what you are doing? Are you persistent? Are you able to evangelize your thoughts into the minds of people?

Second is being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs innovate. They are creators who think of new and better ways to solve problems. Their job is to convince customers to solve a problem in a better, innovative way. Customers who live in today’s world are far too busy making sure things run smoothly. But an entrepreneur thinks 3-5 years ahead. Even analysts who represent the word on the street cannot guide an entrepreneur from that point of view.

For example, analysts vetoed Apple’s iPad at first. Who needs a bigger iPod, they said. But look at how Apple opened up a new market. Could an analyst have imagined buying a sandwich at a deli from an iPad? Probably not. So the lesson here is to think like an entrepreneur. And that means think different from the crowd.

3. How do you help as an advisor?

My experience in founding, running companies and also advising others in a similar space gives me some unique strengths to advise ElasticBox. I founded and started a company from scratch. We started with personal savings and 1-2 people.  We turned that into a 4000-5000 people venture generating billions of dollars in revenue. That is Netscaler today with 1000s of customers.

Because I’ve experienced so much and borne many scars from mistakes, first-time entrepreneurs or even those who’ve done it don’t have to. If I help them avoid one mistake a month, I consider it a big win for the business. Another thing most startups need help with is scaling. Each company I advise, of course, has different sets of challenges. A lot of the time, I share my learnings with the founders and CEOs personally. You must understand that startup CEOs are very lonely. They can’t share many things with anyone else including close family. As an advisor or mentor, you can help them brainstorm challenges and issues. That greatly helps out the CEO/founder who is lonely at the top.

4.What problem is ElasticBox solving?

The problem ElasticBox is solving interests me; At its core, ElasticBox is a platform for build and CI/CD automation including lifecycle management. It does so in a simplified way in any private or public cloud. That’s a huge benefit. It’s like providing an automatic switch.

As an engineer in the 1980s, I used to program in mainframes and superminis. I’d write a program and then feed a batch to the mainframe or supermini. At the most, I was able to run two or three batches a day. Then the power of a supermini moved to the desktop. Now my engineering creativity was only limited by the computing power of the desktop. Today, engineers develop products that millions around the world use. So it’s vital to test in a fairly complex environment. For most enterprises, to build and maintain infrastructure is an enormous capital and operations burden. Imagine scaling that need to unlimited resources in compute, storage, and more. The costs are mind-boggling.

Many enterprises are held back from innovating because their software development lifecycle takes too long. Why? They have trouble scaling resources or find it hard to manage complex environments to test software quality. As a result, you take longer to release, or you release a poor quality product. Poor quality directly reflects the company’s brand and reputation. But time to market is everything. Even a one to two-month delay can affect market share.

ElasticBox does two things to solve these problems at scale for enterprises. It leverages the enormous compute resources in the cloud. And it allows developers to test their software faster in any complex environment in development, test, staging, and production seamlessly. Because of this automated efficiency and reusability, developers get free time to innovate. ElasticBox solves resource and environment build problems through CI/CD and application lifecycle automation.

5. Can you share your outlook for ElasticBox in the next 2-5 years?

Enterprises have different needs around automation and optimization. The challenge for a startup is to take the best value proposition and apply it to a significant enterprise need.

The same product can satisfy multiple segments of an enterprise. Take VMware for example. Their starting story virtualized development and test environments. Once they built confidence in customers and proved to operations people that they won’t have to worry about losing their jobs, they were able to grow their business to the level it’s at today. They showed that you didn’t need to run an application on a single server. A virtual environment can run 10s or 100s of applications without needing one. Once they proved that in the development, test environment, people started to feel comfortable to use virtual environments for production. ElasticBox is doing something similar.

I see ElasticBox as a simplified platform for rapid environment automation at the push of a button in your datacenter or public or private cloud. I look forward to being part of the ElasticBox journey and in solving challenging problems.

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