Enterprise Founders Upfront No. 2 - Recap


Gaurav Dhillon, Chairman and CEO of SnapLogic

We recently held our second Enterprise Founders Upfront at Work-Bench with Gaurav Dhillon, Chairman and CEO of SnapLogic. SnapLogic is the leader in Elastic Integration, helping companies connect enterprise applications and data in the cloud and on-premise for improved business agility and faster decision-making. Funded by leading investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Ignition Partners, SnapLogic is used by prominent companies in the Global 2000.

In an interview with Jon Lehr, Gaurav touched on topics such as what led to the successful exit of his first company Informatica, the most SaaS friendly industries in today's market, the evolution of enterprise sales in the last two decades, and more.

Below are a few of the major issues he touched upon throughout the night:

1. The early days of Informatica

In talking about the formation of Informatica, Gaurav credited a good portion of his success to hard work, luck, and perseverance. Whether at a startup of a large corporation, everyone works hard in technology - what was clear to Gaurav, however, was that the products he was working on were not seeing the light of day. With the release of Windows 3.1, there was a tipping point in the shift from mainframe to client server computing. As Gaurav said, "It was clear to me that if we wanted to do something, we needed to do it on our own." The timing was right, but before the proliferation of seed funds & accelerators, they had to rely on the small business administration (SBA) for seed funding. With a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance, they were selected for a $75,000 SBA grant. As Gaurav noted, "that was like mom & dad giving you the down payment to buy your first house. You can make the payments, but it's that down payment that's really hard to come up with. That's what incubators do, they give you the down payment."

2. Which industry is leading cloud adoption

Although financial services is typically considered the leader in adopting new startup technologies, Gaurav commented that he was surprised by the retail industry which has proven to be aggressively SaaS savvy. Many retailers are facing huge pressure from online shopping and showrooming, and they have a desire to stay relevant. This has led companies like Target to create mobile apps and get more sophisticated in their understanding of customers. When you include new security challenges too, there are a lot of software solutions that retailers are seeking today.

Gaurav also shared a tip when developing your sales strategy to think: "What verticals and what job titles do we want to clobber with our product?" Once you evaluate things that way, it can help you realize if you need to focus more on your key customers and use cases.

3. The disruption of legacy tech incumbents

Prompted by an audience question, it was interesting to hear Gaurav's thoughts on the future prospects of legacy tech incumbents. Drawing analogies to the mainframe to client-server transition 20 years ago, Gaurav had a dim outlook for the legacy tech incumbents. As he noted, "I think the majority of them will not make it. It's too hard to pick which ones, but if you look at the basket, I would say the basket is in trouble." Given the tension that exists between cloud computing and their existing business units, Gaurav pointed out that in order to survive, "you have to take huge risks and sail your company into harm's way - like Netflix did with the streaming business and Adobe did with the subscription model for the creative suite."

He did note that some companies, like IBM, have transitioned well from mainframe computing to the client-server computing era, and they now have the chance to do the same with cloud computing. But as Gaurav pointed out, "the majority of people from that era were eclipsed by new generations of companies, and I think that will happen again." Gaurav did caution though that we can't just write off the incumbents due to the sheer amount of cash on their balance sheets. After all, "You can handle Windows 1, 2, and 3 when you have DOS"

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